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Music: Too cool for God

Music | Mission accomplished: King's X most recent work confirms it's no "Christian band"

Issue: "Quayle's presidential bid," June 19, 1999

Christian musicians tend to mistake mainstream acceptance for divine confirmation that they're on the right path. As a result, they often engage in questionable behavior in order to appear "cool," the better to keep those mainstream rewards coming. Few acts have descended this slippery slope like the heavy-metal trio King's X. Since being featured in Rolling Stone eight years ago, the group has wasted considerable energy and credibility insisting that it's a band of Christians and not a "Christian band." Now, in interviews and on record, the group's frontman, Doug Pinnick, has redefined "Christian cool" by renouncing his faith altogether. "A new religion called my own," he sings on "Darker." "It helps relieve the strain. / Yesterday a light blew out. / I've had a change of pain." The song appears on Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music, Mr. Pinnick's solo debut. Recorded under the name Poundhound in King's X trademark arty heavy-metal style, the album includes contributions from King's X's other members and sounds a lot like King's X latest group effort, Tape Head. Together, the two LPs find the band sending mixed messages. Tape Head's "Groove Machine" begins with the spiritually resonant line, "Lay down your burdens by the riverside," but instead of inviting the listener to repent, the song merely invites him to enjoy the band. "Music, oh music, such a funky thing," sings Mr. Pinnick. "The closer you get, the deeper it means." The idea of music as salvation recurs in Massive Grooves's "Jangle" ("Let the funky music take you higher ... something to believe in") and "Music" ("Let your soul come taste the music"). Ironically, Tape Head's "World" finds God himself-from whom all good gifts, including music, come-insufficient to the task of saving either the soul or the day: "Religion, fascism, Armageddon time / Doomsdayin', God savin', everybody dies." That lyrics this sodden and simplistic should accompany music that's crisp and complex is, in a sense, almost as sad as Mr. Pinnick's apostasy. Hope surfaces briefly in Tape Head's "Ocean." Sung by Ty Tabor, the group's guitarist and least publicly disgruntled Christian, the song ends with the image of a flower "standing alone ... in the desert" and Mr. Tabor believing that "faith, hope, and love will carry [him] home." Perhaps it's no surprise that when moonlighting as the singer, guitarist, and lyricist of Platypus--a quartet composed of members of Dixie Dregs, Winger, and Dream Theater-- Mr. Tabor sounds like a child at play. Free of King's X gloom, he performs with a virtuosic abandon that characterizes the group's music as a whole. Platypus's debut album bears a bad title-visually, the "platypus" pun of When Pus Comes to Shove falls flat-but is still an entertaining, well-played example of that most unjustly vilified of genres: progressive rock. Significantly, it's in Platypus's liner notes and not in King's X's that Mr. Tabor thanks God.

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