I recently rediscovered one of my old CDs: The Prayer Chain‘s Mercury. What an amazing album. Made all the more amazing for the fact that these guys made this record on a Christian label. Chris Colbert, the producer, said, “You can hear the band break up on the record, you can see them extend a warm and heartfelt middle finger to the industry.” And by the industry, he means the Christian music industry.

Who were they? Eric Campuzano, Andrew Prickett, Wayne Everett and Tim Taber. Their first release was the Whirlpool EP, on which they played catchy, albeit very cliche and predictable (read: cheesy) “Christian music”. The EP favorite was a song called Shine. They apparently got sick of the cheese, and put out a much more dark full-length album, titled Shawl. “Shine is dead,” intoned the first song. This album was meant to be different. And it was. But it was still quite derivative in its stylings, being primarily a “grunge” album. The subject matter of the lyrics was still Christian, but much less overt, and reflecting much more on the struggles of life. I remember thinking that they had a window to my soul, so true did their music ring. And yet, listening to it the other day, the lyrics are still quite cheesy. So Christian. So depressed. So real. Not. Shawl has not really stood the test of time.

A couple of years later, they came out with Mercury, which as the previous quote hints at, was there last studio album. The first song is entitled Humb, and pretty much sums up the sound of the album. Drone. Buzz. Feedback. Dissolution. Eastern sounds are breathtakingly melded with beautiful melodies. Below much of the guitar work, you can hear hissing feedback. The lyrics are tired and dry. “So lost. So found. So what.” God has been lost in the mess. And yet the memory of him remains, reminding us of what was (“The old ghosts will let you know just how far gone you are”). And ultimately leading us to hope that, somehow, maybe, he can be found again. The stops and starts of Sky High are a musical embodiment of the Christian life. “Here comes the rust.” Ending in the most glorious of guitar riffs, unfortunately buried in the mix. It comes through nicely in the live version on Antarctica. Bendy Line is a gloriously beautiful tribute to marital bliss, while the album closes on a note of praise, but praise of a different sort. “Sun stoned until it’s drowned down. Everyone dies.”

This album is the only thing I can listen to, with a couple of exceptions (e.g., The Violet Burning), from that phase of my life when Christian music was it. Everything else has faded into a giant pool of cheese and crap, including previous TPC efforts. It’s too bad they disintegrated before our eyes.


~ by Rob on August 9, 2007.

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