As a Reformed Calvinistic Indie-Rock kid who is incredibly stuck up about music, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the Page CXVI project a group of people who’ve decided to make good, solid, glorious hymns accessible and modern and for a while release them free on the internet. People seem to be describing it as indie-rock, which is fine, but a bit broad. For reference these things are hitting somewhere between Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, it’s the North West USA indie that didn’t embrace grunge. Couple of points:
First of all, it is very well done. As said, I’m a music snob, I like to not like things, yet this is very very good. I’ve been listening to it all day and am more impressed as it goes on. So much of it could be absolutely awful, as so much of Christian music re-hashing old songs is. But they seem to have understood that these songs are good because their depth of theology should move people to tears and so that’s what the songs try to do. And they’re good.
Second of all, I’m not sure it always works for corporate worship. The problem with having a sing-a-long to popular music is that it’s not very sing-a-long-able to. Lots of modern music has made an art out of subsuming the lyrics into the rest of the music, which is often very technical. Singing along to their version of In Christ Alone is nigh on impossible and other ones often don’t fair better. This isn’t a criticism of the music, it’s just a point, the further you go towards an ease of singing the plainer you make the vocal part which often destroys the fun of the song. But that’s also a strength of this music, you can’t sing along at church, but it means you will sing along on your iPod. And the words will sink into your heart and stay there and that’s a good thing. Better than having “You can’t mistake my biology (the way that we talk, the way that we walk)” in your head all day. Not that that has happened to me.
So, if you’re thinking “oh more worship music” then you’re wrong. If you’re thinking “I’d like some more good Christian music to listen to on my iPod every now and again” then you’re in luck.
Also, ten points for impossibly obscure The Magicians Nephew reference in the band title (though, I can’t for a minute imagine that any editions used Roman Numerals, or that anyone would get it without it being subtly pointed out on the website).