Posts Tagged ‘Flobots’

It’s Holy Week. It’s a time where the story of Jesus invites us to engage with it a little more intentionally. There are many opportunities to experience worship services that are like no others during the year (and often include more focus on the story of Jesus and less focus on preachers). Below is a list of songs that perhaps will accompany you through this week. I like them. Maybe you will, too.

1. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – Comedian

The “King of the One Liners”  had us thrilled
Then came the punchline, now we want him killed
And when he’s gone…gone
Who gets the mic…if it’s on?

The Kickstarter-funded album Goliath was just released at the end of 2014 (and on vinyl and cassette on March 31). The more I listen to, the more I’m beginning to realize that it may just be an masterpiece. Highly recommended!

2. The Velvet Underground – Jesus

Help in my weakness,
’cause I’m falling out of grace.

Perhaps the most sincere prayer every put to music. It need not be more complicated than this.

3. U2 – Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday’s alright!

For some reason, this is the U2 song I always come back to as a metaphor for God’s grace. Also fun to watch Bono (inspired by The Screwtape Leters by C .S. Lewis) mocking the devil in front of a stadium crowd.

4. Red Wanting Blue – My Name Is Death

I’ve got a million weapons and ways to use ‘em:
From nuclear power to drugs and boozing.
But my favorite just might be the element of surprise.

There is no getting around it: death is real. At the cross of Calvary the whole Jesus-is-God-made-human thing reaches its climax. God is with us, even though the “grim reaper” is still lurking. Side note: Red Wanting Blue may be the greatest rock band you’re not hearing.

5. Flobots – Stand Up

We shall not be moved
Except By a child with no socks and shoes
Except by a woman dying from the loss of food
Except by a freedom fighter bleeding on a cross for you

We shall not be moved
Except by a system thats rotten through
Neglecting the victims and ordering the cops to shoot
High treason now we need to prosecute

So Stand up

Let’s not forget that the Holy Week story is a story of revolution against persecution, a movement versus an empire. Jesus continues to be publicly executed today in every corner of the world because there is no standing up to evil without paying a dear price.

6. Bill Mallonee – In the New Dark Age (The Only Lamp Burning Bright is You)

All the masks came off and disguises were dropped
The game was declared over
Love was escorted out
There was hardly a shout
I’ll take the crimson & clover

Bill Mallonee‘s songs capture the scandal of Holy Week: the life of faith is not for the faint of heart. True religion is not escapism or self-help; it spends its time in the muck and misery of the world.

7. The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Well I’m so above you, and it’s plain to see,
But I came to love you anyway.
So you pulled my heart out,
And I don’t mind bleeding,
Any old time you keep me waiting (waiting…waiting).

The cross. Plain and simple. Jesus is the lonely boy who won’t stop waiting (waiting…waiting).

 8. Sister Gertrude Morgan – I Am the Living Bread

There is something simply transcendent about the voice of an elderly New Orleans street evangelist armed with only her voice and a tambourine. I recommend Sister Gertrude Morgan‘s entire album.

9. Rez – Rooster Crow

This short bluesy intro to the Innocent Blood LP cuts me to the heart every time I hear it. Peter’s denial is the stuff of blues. My favorite moment from an evangelical Christian rock band that consistently stood against injustice and American feel-good Christianity.

 10. The Swirling Eddies – The Twist

here, touch my side…let doubt be crucified
nailed with your wounded pride to love’s grim altar
here, taste my flesh: my bloody humanness
i am no phantom guest; no skinless martyr

This one’s a pretty straightforward meditation on the Holy Week story from one of the great bands anchored by the songwriting of Terry Scott Taylor (see also Daniel Amos & The Lost Dogs).


That’s my playlist. What would you add?


I’ve listened to the radio more this past year than I have in a long time thanks to the addition of Philly’s Radio 104.5. Among getting to hear new music from Social Distortion or Weezer along with pre-Nickleback alt-rock, they also play exciting new music from bands like Vampire Weekend. It’s surprisingly refreshing (although it comes from the evil of Clear Channels). OK, end of commercial.

They’ve started playing this hypnotic song that begins with plucked violin strings and the words “I can ride my bike with no handlebars…no handlebars…no handlebars”. If you’ve heard this song, I know you’re with me. Turns out the song is performed by Denver natives FLOBOTS.

I found their new CD at Borders for a low price tonight and I was in the mood to hear something new. I was interested by the fact that this band–a multiracial hip-hop group with a viola, trumpet and generally live instruments throughout–had started a non-profit organization committed to organizing people around social change through the arts. But honestly speaking: I was itching for some new music, the CD was cheap, the band was interesting, and there was at least one song I knew I would enjoy.

At the cash register, there was a young guy who told me that he had just bought the CD himself and informed me that it was full of “sick beats”. As I walked to the car, I was a little bit worried. I’m just old and white enough to steer clear of rhythms that might be ill. I’m a guitar guy.

What an interesting CD. I wanted to drive around all night and see how it sounded different after the sun went down. Early in the CD, they describe themselves as “somewhere between prayer and revolution, between Jesus and Huey P. Newton”. Sometimes there’s a little bit of sloganeering going on…but just a little bit.

The first tune that really got me was “Stand Up”, a lament and call to action written in the shadows of Katrina, 9/11, and current wars:

Under God…but we kill like the son of Sam
but if you fell like I feel about the son of Man
we will overcome…we shall not be moved
except by a child with no socks and shoes
except by a woman dying from a loss of food
except by a freedom fighter bleeding on a cross for you

A few tracks later, there’s “Anne Braden“, a tribute to the white Episcopalian woman who raised holy hell in the segregated south. It begins by describing how she came to realize the evil around her as a child:

She knew there was something wrong
because the song said “yellow, red, black, white”
everyone precious in the path of Christ
but what about the daughter of the woman cleaning their house?
Wasn’t she a child they were singing about?
And if Jesus loves us black or white skin
Why didn’t her white mother invite them in?
When did it become a room for no blacks to step in?
How did she already know not to ask the question?

As she grew older and became an activist for equality (even mentioned by name in MLK’s letter from Birmingham Jail), she struggled with not meeting hatred with hatred:

she faced it every day
people she saw on a regular basis
people she loved in several cases
people she knew were incredibly racist
It was painful but she never stopped loving them
Never stopped calling their name
And she never stopped being a southern woman
And she never stopped calling for change

The CD ends with the song “Rise”. The final words of the song (and therefore the whole disc) are:

The answer’s obvious
we switch the consanants
Change the Sword to wordS
and lift continents

And then the refrain repeats off into the sunset “We rise together…we rise together…we rise together” In the end, they add the words “If you believe in redemption coming to you from another dimension”.

I believe in redemption coming from another dimension. Let’s rise together! God is at work in this world trying to move us to action: to love and serve. It falls somewhere between prayer and revolution…or maybe it’s both?

In the end, I’m still hypnotized by “No Handlebars”.

Some of these songs can be heard at the FLOBOTS myspace page.

And for the record…the kid was right: the beats are sick!