Christian Artist Says S-Word on New Record

Originally posted on Decapolis


Derek Webb is my kind of guy, and I never would have known it if Conrad hadn’t been looking for someone to review his newest album, Stockholm Syndrome. Up until the point I began listening to the album, the only thing I knew was that he was part of Caedmon’s Call, a band I never cared for (or cared to learn much about for that matter). No, I’m not bashing Caedmon’s Call, or pre-Stockholm Syndrome Derek Webb, I simply had little to no interest… in fact, this is something that happens quite often as an elitist music snob.

Musically, the album is solid and unique, though the music isn’t what most interests me here.
I looked up Webb during my first listen of the album and found that this album was due out in May and didn’t make it out until September. “This is common,” I thought, “Many albums go back for additional mastering or something and delay pressing.” How very wrong I was. There weren’t “technical” difficulties that pushed this album back, in fact it was something altogether different… censorship.

Webb’s record label refused to release the album due its’ controversial nature, specifically in reference to the song “What Matters More”. The lyrics are as follows:

You say you always treat people like you’d like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
About what you believe, make you sound like a freak

‘Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn’t silently consent when the liars speak
Denying all the dying or the remedy

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it’s all about
Yeah, it looks like being hated for all the wrong things
And chasing the wind while the pendulum swings

We can talk and debate it till we’re blue in the face
About the language and tradition that He’s coming to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
About fifty-thousand people who are dying today

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

Powerful, pointed lyrics to a church that sometimes falls prey to condemning their own brethren… I love it. I love this song because it challenges the same Church that drove out all too many believers with their hate (such as several in the Christian music scene including Doug Pinnick and David Bazaan). The hate of the these individual dogmas either directly drive out so-called “sinners” like homosexuals or alienate many who believe the message of Christ was true agape love. Some become so alienated and isolated that distrust for God accompanies the inevitable distrust of the Church.
True Christianity should welcome the dialogue this song creates, but instead record companies get scared and refuse to release what could be the most important work in the CCM realm tackling this type of religious oppression. What else rings true is the line, “Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit about fifty-thousand people who are dying today.” The concept behind this line is likely the well-known Tony Campolo sermon where Tony says:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

The hypocrisy and hatred espoused by some members of the Body becomes the voice of the masses as we consent silently… or worse, as we are so appalled in the use of a “cuss” word sung out of raw emotion and pain that we disallow a fellow Christian brother from releasing a message that is together full of challenge and love. Silencing this man’s message makes the message all the more true, does it not?

Ok, ok, ok… time to step off of the soapbox. While this song and album evoke a lot of emotion out of me (an alienated Believer that often has a hard time calling myself a Christian due to the tags associated with it due to the bigotry and hatred of a vocal minority), it is important to also highlight the art that Webb has produced on this venture, seeing as it’s an album review.

Webb’s total product here is emotive, beautiful, and very catchy. Electronic instrumentation and drum loops set a backdrop, along with keyboards and plethora of other sounds. Some songs have an almost trip-hop feel (“Black Eye” sounds like it could fit right between Massive Attack and Portishead on a compilation), while others are musically reminiscent to the grandiose ballad sound of Coldplay. The sound is radio-friendly, while having an independent NPR feel at the same time. I absolutely love the funk-laden bass line of “Jena & Jimmy”. I could say something about every song, but I get the feeling readers are starting to get tired of me…

Front to back the album is solid. There are 14 worthwhile tracks, and while I am completely unfamiliar with Caedmon’s Call and Webb’s previous material, this album has certainly sparked my interest in finding out what else he has done as a musician… even though I am an elitist snob that once would have written him off as just another CCM artist I have no interest in. Webb obviously has something to say and I sure like the way he’s saying it.

Give Webb a chance to win you over, whether it be by his music, his message, or (like me) a combination of the two. He is obviously a talented songsmith who isn’t afraid to take a chance… even if it means releasing your album several months late as a self-release.

~ by thepaintedman on May 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “Christian Artist Says S-Word on New Record”

  1. have you listened to any of his other stuff since you wrote this? webb is one of the few christian musicians making music today that i can stand to listen to. i still don’t care much for caedmon’s call, but definitely check out his album mocking bird. ringing bell is really good too.

  2. I haven’t actually. I will check out Ringing Bell soon.

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