Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ringing Bell

By Nick
So much of Christian Rock music today dissapoints me. A brief trip to the Music section of your local "Christian Store" (It's not a bookstore anymore.), reveals the culprits: Sappy worship bands, derivative pop acts, vapid rock bands with largely teenage-girl fandbases, and groups that seem more of an excuse to listen to metal than actual art. Fortunately, there are some Christian artists out there who are not musically egregious and/or lyrically jejune.(I love that word.) Derek Webb is one of them.
Derek Webb is a really cool bald guy who started out with the Christian pop/folk/worship-ish band Caedmon's Call (highly recommended), before striking out on his own. His albums have created controversy among listeners-meaning his songs actually say something worth hearing instead of "If you wanna live life loud, throw your hands up" and other tripe like that. Webb's albums are probably the best musical example of applying a Biblical Worldview, at least that I have heard.
The Ringing Bell is Derek Webb's most rockish album to date. Musically, it falls somewhere in the territory of amplified Dylan, the Rubber Soul/Revolver era Beatles, or the early Rolling Stones. What sets it apart from the early 60s rock it emulates is Derek Webb's scratchy voice and his thoughtfull Lyrics. The album kicks off, oddly enough, with a baby's heartbeat, and dives in to it's first song, titled "The End". One line out of that song "We've really got to stop talking and thinking like kids", could sum up the album entirely. "The End" segues into "The Very End", a more mellow love song for Derek's wife. Webb's Christian Worldview comes out in all his songs "A Love That's Stronger Than Our Fears", a more guitar driven song,combines awesome riffs with almost riddle-like lyrics "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again" is one of the few songs I've ever heard that is sexy in a Christian Way. Yes, I really did say that. Listen to it and you'll see what I mean. "I Don't Want To Fight" sounds like it's about Church Politics, of all things, proving that Webb can write a good song about anything. "Name" is another riff driven song, this time about labeling people. "Can't Be Without You" is another love song, this one sounding like it's about dating, sort of, countered by "An I For An I", which is a hate song. "A Savior on Capitol Hill" shows off Webb in his blues jam mode, and the final song "This Too Shall Be Made Right" is a bleak, but ultimately hopeful acoustic track about what's wrong in the world.
Webb's lyrics make the album. His songs deal with hate, conflict, politics, and human behavior. Fortunately, he's no know-it-all humorless singer-songwriter, and he is as witty as he is insightful. Check this line from "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again." "I Wanna buy you a diamond ring/and then we'll run into my ex-girlfriend." Priceless.
Derek Webb also manages the tricky feat of writing political songs without supporting some human political agenda. Instead of openly supporting Democrats (like Green Day) or Republicans (Like Toby Keith), Derek Webbs's political songs are more about the Kingdom of God and the failure of humans to rule biblically than about party politics. Maybe he's a minarchist. Hmmm....
The only major flaw in this album is that it's too short. Several of the songs, especially "Savior", are only about two minutes long, and most lack guitar solos. Also, the 60s vibe might get a little annoying if you're not in the mood for it. But those are simply sins of omission-the record is close to being flawless.
Bottom line-If you want Christian Rock that is actually Biblical, as opposed to just a Christian gloss over pop/emo/metal/whatever, check out Derek Webb, and his album The Ringing Bell.


  1. Ben, don't know this fellow, but I'll surely look around till I find out more about him, and I'll try to get hold of this Ringing Bell album as well. Funny how your comments have some similiarity to my recent post about Wes King on my ABibliognostOnRecord blog. Great minds and all. And ----(You say you did, and I see you did, but I am still trying to register that you wrote "sexy in a Christian way." Wow. And I thought I knew you..!!?) I do like some Christian music albums you'd probably frown on, but I confess, most of pop Christian music makes me wanna go all Exorcist green on my record player.

  2. David,
    Nick and I are going to have to find some way to make clear when he is doing the writing and when I am. He will be meeting with the local inquisition for his comment that you called attention to. I am still trying to find a place in my musical heart for Derek Webb since Nick and George Grant like him.

  3. The lack of authorship has now been corrected. Bada bing wit' a pipe.

  4. Ben. I am so relieved. You've been re-enshrined in the Utterly Without Blog Sin Hall of Near Fame. Welcome back. I'll have a long talk with your son when I come back up to sell books. A 20% discount will go a long way in making him see things my way.

  5. 25% - final offer. And it may be relevant. I am thinking about coming up within 2 weeks.