Thursday, October 29, 2009

We're Getting the Band Back Together

I found two bands this year that I absolutely love: Superdrag and Wilco. I'll sidestep the latter in this post: you've heard enough from me regarding them. I'll only say about Superdrag that they should be as well known as Foo Fighters, and that John Davis' second solo (and straight up Jesus) record is the among the best (read: THEE best) records ever put out by someone who loves Jesus. For real, dude. John's not always been in the faith, but a lot of the pre-Jesus Superdrag records reflect that struggle.

Superdrag had one big hit in the mid 90's, the post-grunge anti industry slice of pop called "Sucked Out". I dismissed them, and that album, Regretfully Yours, as some hipster/Beatles wanna be. After that, I didn't have to worry about it. I didn't really hear from them again. Flash forward to 2007, when some of my internet friends (also big music fans and Christians) are raving about John's solo record. I heard it and I was hooked.

During their decline, they had line-up changes, and then they were put on hiatus, which is what bands say when they're breaking up, but don't want to say it. The original line-up then regrouped in 2008. John had said what the Blues Brothers said many years ago: "we're getting the band back together".

I'm thinking that this phrase is kind of like saying "I'm having a mid-life crisis" or "I'm out of royalty money" or some other idea that is spurring you on to revisit something that was successful. Of course, the only correct reason to get the band back together is to create more good art.

Oh man, are Christians really bad about getting the band back together.

Not that they are assembling actual bands and going on reunion tours, but they are really bad (meaning they do it a lot) about dwelling on past glories and behaviors. Being a music guy, I've heard it all: "We used to do _________. Why don't we do ________ any more?" Or: "Back in '52 we did _________, and it was really successful. We should do it again in the exact same way."

But, when the goal is to replicate something that happened before, you've missed the point. With the Gospel, as well as music, your goal is to communicate. And, to do that, you have to communicate what you want to say in a relevant way, which will mean that you'll have to explain the Gospel in a fresh way. You'll have to write new songs, not just put out another greatest hits package and go on tour (I'm looking at you, Styx and Poison). In the words of Jesus, you'll have to reclaim your first love.

Music geeks love Bob Dylan, but regular folk can't figure out why he's still recording and touring. Well, it's because he's the opposite of those artists just cashing in, the opposite of those church people who are living in the past. Of course, he never had to get the band back together. He's been on the never ending tour since the 80's.

I have a personal interest in the idea of "getting the band back together": I want to do it. I still write songs all the time, and I want to play them in a band. I'm a little too old to want to do that, I suppose, but it's not about being young, but having something to express. I also want that for churches, including the church I'm at now, and the churches I've worked at in the past. I want them to regroup (if they need to), and do what bands who reunite should do, which is to get back to why you exist in the first place, and let what you do emanate from that raison d'etre. Jesus addresses this with the church at Ephesus:

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." (Revelation 2:4-5)

I don't have a problem with reunion tours, as long as the artists have something new to say. Then again, I'm the guy that wants the band to play songs off of its new record.