Category Archives: Music
Back in November I heard a solo EP by Eric Coomer, a vocalist and keyboard player with Knapsackheroes, a Killers-like Christian band originating from Nashville. I’ve wanted to mention it here, but some technical difficulties both with our computer and with the Bandcamp site delayed it until now. Thankfully that’s all resolved now. I’ve managed to download the EP and give it a good listen.
It’s both like and unlike Coomer’s parent band. It’s like Knapsackheroes in that it is Christian but without being part of the CCM world. Coomer is the son of a pastor and leads worship at church, but this is not worship music, nor is it evangelistic. ‘New Vocabulary’ is – appropriately – lyrically deft. It’s unlike Knapsackeroes in that it’s more guitar-driven and – with the exception of ‘Let’s Drive’ – more reflective and less high-energy. There are some interesting chord changes that make this into sophisticated adult rock-pop.
I wanted to post a YouTube video of Coomer doing one of the songs, but his YouTube account mainly has either cover versions of videos of him launching his Kickstarter funding project. But I can do better than that: here is an embed of the EP:
If you like what you hear, go here and exchange a mere five Dead American Presidents for a download.
Taking my iPod for a walk the other morning after dropping the kids off at school, this great old song came on:
For one so young at the time, it was such a mature song, and I began to think about the disappointments that crush our dreams:
- You dreamed of a long and happy retirement, but your spouse was struck down by a terminal cancer
- You thought your work was going to change the world, but instead you clung on for retirement
- Your children’s choices in adulthood broke your heart
- You longed for children, but none came along
- You expected to marry, but either the right person never came along, or they did and they were a disappointment, or they left you for someone else
- You wanted to be a church leader, but the church didn’t share your conviction
- Your heart ached for reconciliation with your family after those dark early years, but it never came and the parent who so let you down died before it could be resolved
Parents, teachers and church leaders all encourage children, teenagers and young converts to dream big dreams. “You can change the world!” Years later, many of those former young people are sat among the shards of shattered hopes. We could live differently.
We could sing the cynical words of ‘Always look on the bright side of life’, – you know, ‘Life’s a pice of sh*t when you look at it’ – as the best an atheist, nihilist world can offer.
But I can’t accept that. Wouldn’t it be better to live with that Christian balance of Cross and Resurrection? The disciples thought their dreams had been destroyed at Calvary. ‘We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel,’ said one on the Emmaus Road. The discovery of an empty tomb and witnessing the One who blessed and broke bread changed everything.
A sermon I preached about three years ago and which you can find here on this blog was built on some personal experience of walking through such dashed dreams and darkened hopes. It was based on the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s great chapter about the Resurrection. His conclusion is not to sit tight and look forward to heaven, but to keep on striving, because ‘in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’ The God who will make all things new – even new heavens and a new earth – will make something good out of broken dreams.
Perhaps we can therefore encourage young people to dream differently. Dream on; dream about God’s kingdom purposes, which cannot be thwarted, even if he takes us on a detour to get there.
Music and entertainment retailer HMV has called in the administrators. The recession, the failure to adapt sufficiently to the digital revolution and so on, after they spent years raking in cash on over-priced CDs, have made this inevitable. Over four thousand jobs are at risk, thanks to what one analyst in the BBC coverage to which I linked calls a ‘structural failure’. They made little tweaks, giving more prominence to DVDs, computer games and MP3 accessories, but tweaks weren’t enough. A revolution was needed, and it never came. The parallels for the Christian Church are obvious. Many a time have I quoted the Seven Last Words Of A Dying Church: “But we’ve always done it this way.”
But I watch the collapse of HMV with genuine sadness. A part of my youth and young adulthood is disappearing. As a teenager, I used to take the bus up to central London, to their huge store in Oxford Street. I would go there with my best friend during the school holidays. We would go up to the singles counter and think of all sorts of old records to request. In those long-before-the-Internet days, it was one place where I could buy something relatively obscure. So when I was first stunned by hearing the long version of ‘She’s Gone’ by an unheard-of American duo called Daryl Hall and John Oates, it was to HMV Oxford Street that I went to buy the album which contained it, ‘Abandoned Luncheonette‘ (still a great album, BTW). But as supermarkets have invaded the space and only sold high volume titles at big discounts, the joy of rummaging around the back catalogue disappeared from HMV shops. When they were available – such as when I started buying CDs by new country artists such as Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Lyle Lovett in the early 1990s – the prices were so high as to need a mortgage. It was a good job I was a single man way back then.
Now, at least part of the Internet supports the ‘long tail’ theory and I can get old titles on Amazon or iTunes. But the rise of digital and the idea that ‘there is no real future for physical retail in the music sector’, as that analyst puts it, leaves me sad. Yes, I do sometimes download, but another part of my youth was as a hi-fi fan, and you can’t tell me that compressed, lossy files match up to what you can hear on a high quality sound system.
I don’t suppose anything more than an Oxford Street rump will survive the attentions of Deloitte, if anything. I will miss you, HMV.
So often different parties in the church are at war with each other. Just like Jesus wanted. Not.
But here is a music project that links Catholics, Evangelicals and more Liberal/middle of the road Christians. It’s The Martyrs Project. The Catholic website Salt And Light Radio is featuring the video for their song about Oscar Romero. You can read more there about who is involved. It includes some of my favourite Christian musicians.
Alternatively, below is (just) the Romero video:
Stephen Altrogge has Seven ways to write an awful worship song. It’s funny in places, but also rather too close to the truth. Principle #1 put me in mind of all the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ songs. #2 made me think about ‘the dove from above‘ in Reeves and Mortimer‘s ‘Shooting Stars‘. The ‘poetry’ of #5 reminded me of that strange mixed metaphor in ‘I could sing of your love for ever‘ – ‘Over the mountains and the sea, your river runs with love for me.’ (Ever seen a river run over the sea?) As for #7, I thought about the old story Murray Watts used to tell about people saying to him, ‘The Lord has given me a poem.’ It was usually turgid. Watts would tear up the poem, saying, ‘The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’
Can you add to Altrogge’s list?
What would you nominate as an awful worship song, and why? (Don’t be nasty.)
How can we improve?
Co-operative Funeralcare have released another survey of the most popular music chosen at funerals they conducted – although like the old ‘chart return’ shops for the Top 40, they only surveyed 250 of their 900 branches. Aside from the headlines about the dreadful ‘My Way’, the banning of ‘Imagine’ (quite right, too!) and ‘Abide With Me’ now being the most popular hymn, I just want to know this:
Who chose the clock from Countdown to be played at the committal?
I came across this TED Talk by Benjamin Zander via Nancy Duarte‘s book ‘Resonate‘. Zander, an orchestral conductor, has a big vision for leadership that he doesn’t doubt. He wants everyone to love classical music. And he knows he is doing his job when the eyes of his people are shining. Quite a challenge for any leader.
Enjoy the video.
This isn’t my usual style of blog post, but I think this is an amazing cover version. What a difference from the explosion of energy I remember this song as having been when it first came out forty years (aargh!) ago:
So I flitted between repeats of Have I Got News For You on the Dave Channel and whatever was happening at the Diamond Jubilee Concert. It was altogether too ‘mainstream’ in its musical tastes for me (as I would expect). But here’s what struck me: you have the extraordinary visuals for Madness‘ wonderfully cheeky rendition of Our House:
Stevie Wonder got a bit confused between the notion of birthday and Jubilee:
And Paul McCartney certainly gave the gig a spectacular ending, not least with Live And Let Die (no, HRH, don’t take that literally about your mother):
But, but, but. What an embarrassment Elton John was. And I say that as someone who liked his early music. Well, the Seventies stuff, up to about the Blue Moves album. While I’ve posted the full performances above of Madness, Wonder and McCartney, I can’t bear to do that for Elt. The nadir, which epitomised the whole sorry performance, was Crocodile Rock, and it’s telling there are no decent quality clips of that track on YouTube this morning. I have a fondness for that shallow little song, because it brings back certain teenage memories. I used to co-edit a satirical school magazine in Sixth Form, and when our Physics teacher turned up one day in glasses for the first time, we ran posters around the school about Elton Vine and rewrote this song as Crocodile Clip. (I’ll pass on our deeply unChristian rewrite of Your Song as My Song.)
Crocodile Rock last night showed what has been obvious for years whenever Sir E H John has sung in public (at least, going on TV performances). He can’t reach the high notes any more. He tacitly admitted it by delegating the falsetto part not even to backing vocalists but to the crowd. McCartney and Wonder hit some bum notes, but they still had some decent range.
At the end of the set, the compère said Elton was someone who certainly knew how to put on a show.
He does. He just can’t sing anymore. Which is inconvenient but doesn’t get in the way. He’s living on past glories.
And we got something similar with the video montage of the Queen’s reign, set to the orchestral version of U2′s Beautiful Day. It all reinforced the ridiculous ‘Sixty Glorious Years’ slogan that has been repurposed from a 1930s film about Queen Victoria. Not that you’d expect an event like this to highlight Princess Margaret’s wild life, Randy Andy’s supposedly secret trysts with Koo Stark, the annus horribilis or the effect of Diana’s death on the royal family. There, too, like Reginald Dwight Esquire, we can live on past glories.
Not that we’d know anything about putting on a good show and living on past glories in the church. Oh, no.