We here at Chrindie 95 tried to write about all the Christian indie rock records that were released in 1995, for some reason. Incredibly, we ended up writing about around 25 of them, but there are more that we didn’t have time to get to. Here are some notes on the ones that got away.
A Prayer for Every Hour
I was not sure what to make of this album when a friend familiar with my preference for industrial and noise and drone dropped it like a bomb in my dorm room two years after it was released. I was a new Christian, and I had not figured out a way to integrate my past musical biography with the musically homogenous, culturally normative vibe of 1990’s evangelicalism. But over the metallic Sonic Youth jangle of its first track, “Nice of Me,” I could hear this guy telling me that he was “going to give you something that is already yours,” and that I “already own it.” It took a while for the xylophones, roadside carnival organ progressions, and tinkling bits of whatnot to drive this home, but he was talking in a very strange way about the kind of grace I had recently experienced in my conversion to Christianity. I had been given something I kind of already had… All this revitalization I was experiencing had in some way already been mine for a long time. It sounded like the gospel via a Wax Trax! album. A Prayer… and its topsy-turvy Flannery O’Connor narrative inner-logic rearranged my sense of what I could be looking for in music. The 24 tracks on the album are apparently intended to serve as a kind of liturgy, an hourly call to prayer. Some of the tracks are more decipherable than others, but it had a clearer sense of grace, law, joy, and family than anything I had ever heard before. I got its message; a clanking, gleeful, reckless call to worship through the mind-numbing, monotone static of the Christian pop music which I feared at the time was part of the conversion package deal. As it turns out, weird really can be redemptive. This thought is such a wonderfully freeing gift, which is, apparently, already ours. A Prayer for Every Hour is a point on that ever growing autobiographical map of encounters with God where He is vividly present, the places we least expect. — M. Leary
Johnny Q. Public
For a debut release, you can’t get a much more startlingly strong introduction to a band than Johnny Q. Public’s Extra*Ordinary. JQP combined un-sanitized lyrics with inventive musicianship and filtered it all through a double-barreled guitarsenal, a thundering rhythm section, and a charismatic carnival barker of a frontman. Songs like “Body Be,” “Scream,” and “As I Pray” boasted crushing guitar work while songs like “Women of Zion” and “Reader’s Digest” showed off their whimsically quirky side. Even when they were covering Bob Dylan and Larry Norman (or lovingly lifting a riff from Status Quo/Camper Van Beethoven), their inspirations proved to be more of a starting point than a destination. To top it all off, they even scored the CCM white buffalo, as their music video for “Body Be” hit MTV rotation for a short period. While the 1995 Chrindie release roster was deep with talent, JQP’s Extra*Ordinary stood out from the pack like few others did. — Will Hodge
Extra*Ordinary was a perfect-sounding record for the time…a grunge and modern rock-friendly pop record with loud guitars, catchy hooks, and church-pleasing but not-too-clichéd-Christianese lyrics. Some songs are stronger than others, but my least favorite song on the record — “Scream” — turned out to be a powerful song live. Overall, it holds up about as well as much of the alt-rock of the era, but it’s certainly not an essential classic. — Ed Purcell
I found myself checking out this album after hearing “Body Be” on the Seltzer compilation. I’m glad I did, because that song was just the tip of the iceberg. Grungy guitars and lyrics that aren’t just ear-catching, but in many cases, turned out to be almost word-for-word accounts from Scripture made this an album that was not only fun but spiritually enlightening for me. I was 15 years old when this album came out, and it taught me a lot of things about rock-and-roll and my faith all in one well-crafted package. — Patrick Quin Kermott
You really couldn’t make a direct comparison to a secular band when it came to Johnny Q. Public. Toby McKeehan at Gotee Records knew what he was doing when signing this band from Springfield, MO. I saw them perform at Worlds of Fun in the summer of 1996 — unfortunately, it was after original guitarist Oran Thornton had split to form the band Flick with his brother Trevor. Nonetheless, I was excited to see what they had in store for their next album, which was delayed several times for 5 years because they kept breaking up and getting back together. It’s a shame they weren’t more widely recognized; they called it quits one last time after releasing Welcome to Earth in 2000. JQP was a one of a kind band. — Paul Portell
Knott was always a bit of a conundrum; I now find a lot of his work to be pretty hit-or-miss. But taken by itself, Fluid actually holds up very well as a very solid mid-90s alternative rock concept album. Even though Knott’s signature vocal mega-layering and Lou Reed affectations are still all-too-present, Fluid is actually a really fun listen, and this ended up being one of his more accessible and heartfelt releases. I’d say this era was Mike Knott at his best. — Kirk Bozeman
Fluid was Knott’s second “rock opera,” with a story that starts off strong, but seems to get a little lost toward the end. Apparently, “Jenny“’” lives a kinda crazy life and then finds Jesus. Overall, it’s a solid rocking album in contrast to the two mellower solo records that preceded it… a little catchier than Rocket And A Bomb and Strip Cycle, but the songwriting isn’t quite as strong. — Ed Purcell
The most interesting story I read about Michael Knott’s Strip Cycle album was that his daughter was fiddling around with his acoustic guitar one day, and somehow made the guitar out of tune. Knott decided to make adjustments to where he could write a full album using the tones as is. The result? A truly unique blend of acoustic rock and smooth vocal work from a true legend in the history of indie music. — Paul Portell
I was terrified the first time I heard this album, but as I had never experienced that emotion while listening to music, I was intoxicated by it. Industrial music was very new to me at the time, and Argyle Park I found far more fascinating than the rest of it due to its diversity and the collaborators. According to the liner notes, the band was Buka, Dred, and Deathwish, but credit was given to other musicians, mostly guest vocalists: Jyro, Mark Salomon, Jeff Bellew, Klank, Tommy Victor, and Jim Thirlwell.
Argyle Park has intense lyrics and imagery I spent countless hours exploring with song titles like “Headscrew,” “Agony,” “Scarred for Life,” “Violent,” and “Doomsayer.” The album opens up with a creepy spoken word track over a background of spooky noises such as rainfall, a dog whining, a wolf howling, and these lines:
Open your mind to my greatest fears/For this world has beaten me down, and I’ve shed more than my share of tears/So with that in mind, I greet into a reality of nothingness and bitter dark/And welcome you to my home of escape, my refuge, my Argyle Park.
The album then proceeds into a guitar riff, heavy techno beats, samples, and alternating vocals styles.
It soon became public (not that it wasn’t obvious) that the music on the album was primarily written by Scott Albert, a.k.a. Klayton Scott a.k.a Circle of Dust a.k.a. Celldweller. Turns out he is/was Dred and Deathwish. I didn’t learn Buka’s real name until March of 2015, when Chris “Buka” Martinello appeared on episode 8 of Billy Power’s Urban Achiever podcast. If you want to hear a detailed re-telling of the events surrounding the inspiration and creation of Argyle Park, you can find it all there.
Buka had this to say about Argyle Park in his interview with Billy Power: “Originally it was a joke. Argyle Park is a real place in Babylon, Long Island. Klay and I would go there all the time…I had convinced Klay to do a song, originally under the name Bukadelix, for the Steve Taylor Tribute. We settled on ‘Drive, He Said’ and that song birthed the Argyle Park project… Misguided was about the betrayal we felt from our suffocating, legalistic youth group and an abuse situation with one of the church leaders… There are certain songs on the album that are very much Klay, but others are very much a collaboration between us. Because it was a side project he could have fun with (and not Circle of Dust), he was open to different things.” — Alan Parish
Joe Christmas weren’t trying to be cool, as so many bands were in the 90’s. They weren’t even trying to be successful, from the sound of this record. But they dared to be — in a market flooded with tough guys and try-hards — sweet somehow, and though this record isn’t as good as their next, the slo-core masterpiece North to the Future, it sounds as though they had terrific fun making it. — Mischa Willett
I loved this album as a teenager — it was noisy, catchy, fun, and cool. An art-noise band named after a character in a Faulkner novel singing lyrics copied directly from the dialogue of Rocky 2 were almost mathematically marketing themselves directly to me, a typical disaffected sensitive evangelical thirteen-year-old. As a fully initiated critical adult I now think “this sounds an awful, awful lot like Pavement” — but, hey, so did a lot of bands back then. — Kirk Bozeman
Safe as Milk
I am probably not the only person who owns both the “safe” and “dangerous” versions of this album. And I’m probably not the only person who heard the “dangerous” version and lived to tell the tale. If only Myrrh Records could restore the scrubbed the line on Drowning with Land in Sight that currently sounds like, “This old world has kicked my “OWFFFSSSTHSSS” (or something along those lines). — Chad Thomas Johnston
At the risk of seeming like a poser, I went through a hardcore music phase due in large part to Tooth & Nail’s emphasis on the genre in the label’s early days. Focused, Overcome, The Blamed… But it was Strongarm that always affected me the most. When Jason Berggren bellowed “Though we become weary, it has been granted unto us the ability to remain loyal, unshaken in spirit” on “Strengthened in Faith,” I was ready to take up the banner and charge the gates of hell myself. — Jason Morehead
Tom Tom Blues
Unfortunately one of the weaker 77s album (it followed multiple masterpieces and was a huge disappointment for most), it is highlighted by the great track, “Don’t Leave Me Long.” — Alan Parish
As a very big 77s fan at the time, I was very excited for this release. I don’t recall a bigger disappointment that I’ve ever had with an album. — Greg Hand
Deeper Than Skies
My Brother’s Mother
The best sex-guilt song ever written? My Brother’s Mother featured Andy Prickett from the Prayer Chain. Their only album is laden with super-heavy, ultra-emotional songs about love. “How Do I Say No” is the stand-out track; instead of being triumphant and righteous, it’s broken and sad, a love song about wanting to do the right thing after it’s too late. It is a song that aches, and that is easier to relate to — the deep longing, the regret — than a Rebecca St. James song about not doing it. — JHH
Apparently the only record none of us ever heard. Sorry, Everdown.
20 years later, I only remember one thing about this album, and it is the spectacular opening song “Nice Guy.” Even without listening to it recently, most all the lyrics of the catchy chorus still stay with me:
I’m too blind to see it!
Too black, to believe it!
Goodbye, ’cause you’re leavin’!
This is not what I needed!
The other memorable part of the song is the line “You’re so cool…” being whispered repeatedly on the bridge. The rest of the album is mainly weirdness and a cross between grunge and industrial. — Alan Parish
The Hope That Lies Within
I think I listened to this album right as I was phasing out of my Tooth & Nail-induced hardcore phase. (See my comments elsewhere concerning Strongarm’s Atonement.) That being said, the album’s opening track — “Empty” — definitely stuck with me over the years. Listening to it again, it’s still a solid track, from the interplay of Andrew Reizuch and Mike Merryman’s guitars to Tim Mann’s desperate screams and lyrics (e.g., “My soul’s not empty/Ignited with flame… My flesh I kill” and “Continuing to drown, the time is less/Reaching through the darkness and there is nothing left”). — Jason Morehead
Mortal was easily one of my favorite bands of the 90’s, and they opened their career with the perfect tri-fecta of albums: Lusis, Fathom, and Wake. They then announced they were breaking up. (Of course, three more Mortal albums followed.) This was the first of their “post-breakup” albums, and it is feels like it was made to fulfill the band’s contract and not on the same level as their other work. Pura is primarily atmospheric, relaxing, instrumental techno. However, it does include three fascinating tracks with vocals, the first two of which — “Grip” and “Liquid Gift” — are heavy industrial music in the same vein as Fathom. The final track with vocals, “Nightfall and Splendor,” appears twice on the album; an out-of-place yet enjoyable CCM radio-ready track with a guest female vocalist. — Alan Parish
The G-train definitely suffered from Lame Band Name Syndrome. At first listen, they seemed easy to dismiss at too metal for my tastes, but I just couldn’t dismiss a record produced by Poor Old Lu’s Aaron Sprinkle. The sound of the record revealed the band’s (and producer’s) Seattle roots, falling somewhere between Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, but Pete Stewart’s voice and guitar work, as well as Paul Roraback’s technically powerful drumming, gave the band it’s own unique flavor. This debut was a much rawer and more honest-sounding record than the band’s follow-up, or really just about anything else ever released on Forefront Records. — Ed Purcell
Songs of the Heart
Right up there with Motorcycle (which is their best IMO). One of the best concept albums. A great listen from beginning to end. — Tim Gibson
I used to call this album “Water-Mercury” (it was released the same year as The Prayer Chain’s Mercury) because it had a similar drone-vibe, with long songs and unique guitar textures, but it unfortunately sounded like it had been recorded underwater. Raspberry Jam bass player and songwriter Herb Grimaud would go on to collaborate frequently with members of the Prayer Chain over the next 20 years, from playing in The Violet Burning with Andy Prickett and now Stranger Kings, the current band he is in with Eric Campuzano. — Alan Parish
Bootleg Pre-release EP
Most became aware of Tess Wiley for her guitar playing and background vocals on Sixpence None The Richer’s This Beautiful Mess. She was in that band for less than a year, but she made quite an impact (as my 20th anniversary story on the album details), including writing the song “Disconnect.”
The Splendora EP was Wiley’s first solo release, and the first of a few band names she would use (before Phantasmic and Tess Wiley & Her Orchestra). She got together post-Sixpence with her brother and drummer Gabriel Wiley and bass player Jeremy Gomez, who also happened to be the rhythm section of Mineral. Producer Chris Colbert brought it all together in one big fuzzy, feedback-filled package. (The songs from this EP were later re-released on a full-length album called Fluffy vs. Phantasmic, a collaboration with Colbert and Zachary Gresham of Joe Christmas.)
The four songs she wrote for this album (the fifth track was a mind-boggling cover of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face”) detail her abrupt departure from Sixpence with lyrics such as: “Are you happy now?/Are you better off without the sacrifice I made for you?/Too much acting, I don’t believe you anymore./Too much weakness, and betrayal to the core/…Are you sorry now? Are you sorry for the way you pulled the floor out from my feet?” — Alan Parish
This is one of the few discs that I purchased without hearing a single track beforehand. I had been a fan of Sixpence’s This Beautiful Mess album from first listen, but unlike many who tended to drift toward songs like “Angeltread” or “Within A Room Somewhere” (don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly excellent songs), I was drawn particularly to “Disconnect” for its honesty, clever melody, and because it was just well-written in general. Having heard Tess Wiley’s backing vocals throughout the album, I had an intense desire to hear that voice singing her own words.
The moment I saw her name attached to the Splendora disc, I needed to have it. I can say without hesitation that I wasn’t disappointed. Every single track was written and performed masterfully, and each song spoke to me in a way that I needed to hear. To this day, it’s difficult to hear “Happy Now” without being moved to tears.
The album is a conundrum for me because I’m torn between wanting to share it with everyone I care about and an intense desire to be alone with it, as it reaches me in ways that few records ever have. — Patrick Quin Kermott
12 Before 9
In their early work, The Throes were clear stylistic descendants of REM, which is how I liked them best. Their prior album Fall on Your World is my favorite (I have that cassette somewhere). 12 Before 9 found them experimenting with a more noise-driven guitar rock, still with very good results. I kept this CD on repeat for quite a while that year, and it is highly likely that the guitar riff and first verse of “Reckless Feeling” will never completely leave me. — Kirk Bozeman
This is probably my least favorite Throes album. Not that I don’t like it; I can’t argue with a record produced by Steve Hindalong, who was producing pretty much all my favorite records of that time, but the songs just never seemed as strong as the first two records or the one that followed. — Ed Purcell
Blue Belly Sky (original)
For some of us who didn’t grow up listening to R.E.M., this excellent record was sort of a gateway drug to measured, classy jangle-pop. — Adam P. Newton
“Look at Me” remains one of my favorite ’90s Chrindie singles — and not just because the lyricist dared to use the word “harlot” on an album released via a Christian label. — Chad Thomas Johnston
“Staring at a Bird” is an astoundingly good single. That something so thoughtful was played on Christian radio in 1995 seems impossible, but it was. — JHH
To this day, this remains one of the group’s better albums. Great southern-pop-rock sensibility paired with clever lyrics and heartfelt messages make this a record that still holds a place among my favorites. — Patrick Quin Kermott
Five Stars for Failure
Fittingly, we also didn’t get to this one.