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Going Forward By Going Back

June 7, 2013

Ya know, the more time passes the more I realize I was right about many things in my life that for some reason I abandoned early on.  I would listen to doubts – sometimes voiced through my inner dialogue, sometimes through other people.

Music is something that’s vital to me.  During my high school and college years I was really into the Christian punk/ska scene; a little heavier on the ska than the punk.  But in 2000 I heard this new band Relient K.  Their first album was self-titled and a heck of a lot of fun. 

CD Cover

The name’s deliberately misspelled so as not to infringe on the trademark of the automobile.

The cover features a photo of the band in gray sweats jumping hurdles at a high school track (or maybe a college track; whatever).  Clearly they don’t take themselves too seriously – but what about the music?

Hello McFly is the opening track. It’s a high-energy didactic tune espousing the axiom of “actions speak louder than words” without being preachy at all but being very clever and poignant in using the conceit of time travel in the context of Back to the Future

The rest of the album features songs that are just as catchy and clever with the band’s Christian faith worn on their sleeve, but again, never preachy. It’s worn like a shirt, it’s just there, it’s part of who they are. 

There’s a certain vulnerability inherent to the authenticity demonstrated through K’s music. You see it especially at work in the track Softer To Me, a song dealing honestly with the problem of pain; not in a broad context but in a very personal way.  Looking at most mainstream Christian acts and especially mainstream preachers (Senor Osteen (grrrr…)) you get the message that once you’re a believer in Christ life becomes peachy keen grand and if it doesn’t you just need to believe a little harder.  That, of course, is a pile of pretentious poo shat from the bunghole of Satan himself.  The Bible explicitly talks about the life of believers being a life of suffering, using the very life of Jesus as a model!  You telling me that Jesus didn’t have enough faith?  

Agh – but I digress…

What makes Softer especially more poignant is its juxtaposition following the upbeat When You’re Around which is the band singing about how great life is when God’s around.  Of course He’s always around, but there are special moments in each believer’s life when he/she experiences a more intimate feeling of God’s Presence and it really is amazing.  

Following Softer, though, the guys cleanse the palate with a song about Charles In Charge and how cool it’d be to hang out with him and Jesus at his mom’s pizza parlor. They even sing about him hooking them up with the girls of Baywatch and the ones on his show. See?  I mean, what Christians would sing about that? Dudes.  Dudes would sing about that.  And why not?  “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD” – Proverbs 18:22.  

So, anyway, it’s a great album – definitely worth a listen.  I got to see them open for the Supertones once.

And then…I took a leave of absence from the faith not long after.  I pretty much abandoned all the music I had been listening to for the previous six or seven years.  In some ways I can see that as a positive thing.  Over the following years I gradually started getting back into it, band by band, album by album, with much more discriminating tastes.

In 2003 my interest in Five Iron Frenzy was revived just in time to see them perform before they called it quits.  In 2004 I was reintroduced to Steven Curtis Chapman.  In 2006 I was reintroduced to Jars of Clay.  But it wasn’t until 2012 before I got back into Relient K.

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Tom Wilson is best known for his portrayal as Biff Tannen (and his generational variations) in the Back to the Future films.

I enjoy a couple of podcasts; most notably The Nerdist and Big Pop Fun With Tom Wilson. In August of last year Tom interviewed Ethan Luck, drummer (at the time) for Relient K.  I thought that was rather odd – why would a Hollywood character actor now artist (seriously, you should check out his stuff) interview a drummer of a Christian punk band?  Well, it turns out he and his family are fans!

Anyway, that got me thinking; if Relient K was still around and making music, there’s probably something to it.  So I did an iTunes search and lo and behold they’ve been releasing albums regularly over the last several years!

The first track I purchased was off their album Forget and Not Slow Down – the song Therapy.  Seriously? A Christian band singing about therapy??  And you know what? It’s a great song.  That same authenticity and vulnerability has grown and matured in the band and that’s fantastic.  Bands – nay, artists who stick to their roots, who remain true to themselves pretty much always do well.  That’s what people want out of music, right? To know they’re not alone, to know that their feelings and experiences have been expressed in a way they can’t but speaks directly to their souls because it reflects them.

As far as the main story goes, the rest is history.  I’m not splurging and getting all their albums, but about one a month is good.  Gives me time to listen and catch up and really enjoy and savor the musical experience.  And you know what?  So far as I can tell they’ve continued to kick butt all these years.  

Listening to them now a lot of their music resonates with me.  Life is good but by no means is it peachy keen.  Sometimes I need a little bit of Softer; other times I need to feed off their ebullient enthusiasm and be encouraged by their songs of perseverance.

You know what’s even cooler?  They have a new album coming out in a few weeks.  Back in May they started releasing lyric videos for songs off that album.  My favorite is embedded below, but only because they teased it with a number of allusions to Doctor Who – apparently there’s at least one Whovian in the band…  The most notable allusion is…

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                                                   …don’t blink…

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