Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's wrong with a little Angst?

This Christian review on Switchfoot's Nothing is Sound surprised me. They found John Foreman's journey's into despair disturbing and (as far as I could tell) unchristian. I find this surprising, and would like to ask what's wrong with a little angst?
Do not misunderstand: by "angst" I do not mean those singers who cry and screech about death and darkness, and then play the hypocrite by not committing suicide and continue to make more CDs and more money. What I mean by "angst" is what Dr. Barnard was talking about in chapel: being honest.
A friend of mine explained to me that Nothing is Sound was John Foreman's journey through being bi-polar. This explains why his songs seem to rise and fall in being upbeat and minor (1st song, minor; 2nd song, upbeat; 4th song, minor; 5th song, upbeat, etc. The 3rd song, being the title track, is a mix of minor and upbeat). Foreman's journey into despair is him being honest about a condition that can lead him to despair. There is nothing unchristian about journeys through despair; read the Psalms if you disagree.
The review was wrong when it said Switchfoot goes through despair without offering any hope. If you treat each song in isolation, then you can make that assumption. However, the CD is a whole work of a journey. The hope comes from the final upbeat song, which is called (surprise, surprise) "We are One," a song that makes no sense unless you see it as Foreman coming to the end of his journey ("We are One" is perhaps an answer to Foreman's pray in "Twenty-four" from The Beautiful Letdown, "Twenty-four voices, and twenty-four hearts...but I want to be one today, centered in truth...").
There is nothing unchristian about being honest about despair. What we have in Nothing is Sound is a great piece of musical art, a journey through despair, ending in hope (with "We are One"), and going on to offer gentle encouragement to another ("Daisy").
What we also have here is on obvious lack of artistic understanding in mainstream Christianity. Once you understand the theme behind the form, you can see the artistic Christian representation of a journey through humanity. The only purpose the review serves is as another proof of mainstream Christianity's disconnect with any artistic vision or sense (but what can I expect? This is the same review site that said Switchfoot's Oh! Gravity song "Head over Heels (in This Life)" was singing about John Foreman's wife).