Saturday, February 25, 2012

6 years and sneaking cynicism, part 1

The Ringing Bell was on sale, and I liked Derek Webb's work in Caedmon's Call, so I picked it up in 2008 or so.  It was delightful: playful, challenging, and sarcastic.  I heard that his first album (2003) was the one most people considered the best, so I wanted to pick it up, but it seemed to be out of print.  In 2010, I was given his newest album, the one so controversial that it almost didn't get released at all.  This past Christmas, thanks to the rise of the internet and an eventual rising trade in used CDs, I was given his first album.  At work this week, I was doing some repetitive work and feeling exhausted (hasn't been a good sleep week), and I had finally brought the music to work, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I had the odd experience of listening to Derek Webb's solo album Stockholm Syndrome followed immediately by his first solo album She Must and Shall Go Free.  There is something to be said for listening to albums in the order they were created and released.  However, sometimes you can't get a real sense of change when you do that.  Sometimes the change is gradual, and if you listen in order, you don't really notice the gradual shifts.  Looking at Webb's discography, it seems like there were always pretty big shifts in style, tone, or content, but the change between his first and most recent one is huge. 

Sure, the musical style is strikingly different, but it's the different in tone that kind of floored me.  She Must and Shall Go Free is this complicated love song to the church, hopeful in tone but frequently embarrassed by the truth of fallen human behavior and thinking within the church.  It's thought-provoking and true.  It made me ashamed and hopeful.

What made me lose a little hope was the response of some Christians to it.  From Wikipedia:
His first solo album, She Must and Shall Go Free (2003) is notable for causing controversy in Contemporary Christian Music circles; some Christian retailers refused to stock the album for its use of "strong" language.

One of the songs that was the basis for controversy was "Wedding Dress" where Webb compares Christians who seek fulfillment in things outside of Christ to a person committing adultery. An introspective tune, Webb writes that "I am a whore I do confess / I put you on just like a wedding dress".

Another song that generated controversy was "Saint and Sinner" where Webb wrote "I used to be a damned mess but now I look just fine, 'Cause you dressed me up and we drank the finest wine". The word 'damned' was removed from the final version of the album, at the request of two major Christian retailers.

Seriously?  This is biblical language used in appropriate situations.  Sorry it's too strong for you, Christians.

Read more about the newer album Stockholm Syndrome in the next post . . .

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