I owe a debt to “Payable On Death.” They helped lift me out of the miry (and stanky) clay of mid to late ’90s alternative rock and rapcore.
In my early to mid-teens I was a sucker for bands like Soundgarden, Deftones, Beastie Boys, and, I’m afraid to admit: Limp Bizkit. I was a “good” church kid that didn’t miss a Sunday or Wednesday service thanks to my mom, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as much more than a spectator among Christian festivities back then. And though I assimilated much about cultural Christianity into my life during that time, I had a serious aversion to the Christian music industry.
With all due respect to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and dc Talk,* I couldn’t shake the notion that the only thing that Christian music had to offer was, well, cheese.
Then along came P.O.D. Their “Southtown” release helped ignite the beginning of the short lived “rapcore” rage. At the end of my 9th grade year I happened to stumble upon a $1.99 demo that featured their song “Lie Down” (still have it memorized).
I was shocked and hooked at once.
A bold and refreshing new world of Christian music opened up to me. It didn’t include keyboard solos and “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentiments. It had nasty guitar riffs, timely screaming, Rastafarian undertones, and contrarian lyrics like:
They feed us lies, dress up my King in false disguise
Behind those eyes, soul of Savior I recognize
No compromise, while the whole world becomes corrupt
Tonight we break the surface for lives, we comin’ up
There’s probably a lot more that can be said about P.O.D.’s choices for collaborations and album cover art, but not here.
I owe them more than that.
They helped me find my two choices were not limited to Nine Inch Nails or Steven Curtis Chapman in the musical style spectrum. There possibly was a righteous middle ground. If it’s tricky to rock and rhyme (as Run DMC stated so well), it is even trickier to rock and rhyme in a Christ-honoring fashion. Props to the bands who even attempt it.
My passion for P.O.D. has waned significantly in my adulthood (I have a more mellow pallate now) but my appreciation for them has not. The band God used to help spark my formative spiritual years still finds itself caught in a cultural rock and religious hard spot. P.O.D. is still somewhat too hardcore for the Christian music scene and too Christian for the hardcore music scene.
But I remember a time when listening to their heavy handed riffs and Christological lyrics was like a desert traveler drinking from a fire hydrant.
In a CCM land of cookie cutter music styles, cliché chorus lines, spray tans, and self conscious image projections, a gritty movement arose. That movement included a dreadlocked, tatted up, metal cover band with a passion for the youth of a nation.
One misguided youth caught their vision and hasn’t quite been the same.
I couldn’t tell you one song on the latest P.O.D. albums. But for old times sake, and as a tribute to the first “Christian” band I ever liked, I’ll conclude with this:
Tribal Warriors unite!
*I appreciate ALL kinds of music now; I’m not hating on my boy Michael W. Smith, peeps!