Switchfoot — “Stars”

Released: 7.5.05

Peak: #68

“Christian rock” doesn’t have to suck. Really. Christianity has led to no shortage of great art through the centuries, including (though often indirectly) popular music–there’d be no soul music without it, no Jerry Lee either. So chalk up the vapid state of X-pop to the insipid, anti-intellectual nature of much U.S. Christianity, which, in common with the insipid, anti-intellectual nature of much U.S. pop, posits cheerful denial as the best antidote to human doubt and misery. Are you sure Jesus done it this way?

Like any Christian rockers desirous of a long-term career, Switchfoot “don’t want to be pigeonholed,” though they’ve been less disingenuous about their secularity than Creed or Evanescence. Also, Jon Foreman is far less given to messianic bombast than Scott Stapp or goth martyrdom than Amy Lee–if Christ could sing like a humbler John Mayer, he might have recorded “Dare You to Move,” a great anti-stasis song, and “Meant to Live,” a genuine pro-life anthem. And if the non-doctrinal interpretations and uses those songs allow are mere commercial considerations, well thank you-know-who for the moneychangers in the temple.

On “Stars,” a gruffer Forman sings like the younger, “deeper” brother of the dude from Local H, and his band similarly swings that post-grunge, though fitted with a guitar arsenal brawny enough to fight off any Foo. Such was the state of public discourse at the time “Stars” dropped that I initially suspected an argument for intelligent design. Instead, this is what a genuine spiritual experience might sound like when translated into pop, not so much effing the ineffable as accepting it–an easier task artistically than actually, maybe, but still beyond the spiritual grasp of many an arena megalomaniac.

Granted, “Stars” is hardly the counterargument to Descartes that Foreman believes (seriously), and the guy seems a mite confused about entropy (the rules of thermodynamics don’t apply to social situations, last I checked). But more to the point, this explanation: “I love the night sky. It reminds me of how small and insignificant i and my problems are in light of the infinite.” Hardly an original thought, but a sentiment reassuring to those of us who remember when pride used to be a sin, and akin to the key lyric: “Suddenly the infinite and penitent/ Begin to look like home.” Infinite and penitent? That’s the intersection where soul thrives.

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