Critics' Picks

MxPx

Punk rock is a genre of music in which you can happily espouse the violent overthrow of the government and state (any band descended from Crass), a homosexual lifestyle (Pansy Division), womyn's liberation (Bikini Kill), or any other kind of progressive leftist ideal (Propagandhi), and no one bats an eye. Yet there is still one subject that is so touchy and unpopular that it deserves its own subgenre: That's right, Christianity!

Seemingly, MxPx is the only Christian punk band in America with secular fans, as evidenced by its inclusion in Vans Warped Tour this year and in the past, and the release of its last two albums on A&M Records, including the forthcoming The Ever Passing Moment, which hits stores May 16. But even so, when a friend once told me to listen to their debut album Pokinatcha on Christian punk label Tooth & Nail (back when the group was still called Magnified Plaid), she told me, "The music's pretty good, but don't read the lyrics; they're about Christianity and Jesus and stuff like that." It was true and then some: A few songs even had Bible passages printed at the end to reinforce the religious lyrics.

Though MxPx has a classic punk sound -- a mixture of the Descendents, NOFX, Social Distortion, and every other band out of Southern California -- which has brought them considerable success, it's their lyrics and their practice of praying before playing (long since dropped as they've graduated from playing church basements to rock clubs) that get the political punks in a tizzy. The most infamous incident came from a Seattle show (near their hometown of Bremerton, Washington) with the Queers in 1995 in which an offended member of the audience decided to vent his anger by ripping apart a Bible in front of the band.

Undoubtedly, there will be people who stay away from the Deep Ellum Live show because of MxPx's religious background -- they met as kids, growing up in the same church, and started as a garage band when they were 15 -- and who don't want to listen to songs about Jesus (even though most of the songs are about life in general and girls). In their place will be all the Christian kids who, not allowed by fundamentalist parents to attend secular devil-worshipping concerts, will flock to see MxPx. When the group played Deep Ellum Live in 1996, they headlined with two unknown Tooth & Nail bands and filled the 1,000-capacity venue.

In case anyone is interested, MxPx have gone through a pretty standard musical evolution. Their earliest seven-inch singles and albums sound like inspired imitations of Milo Goes To College and early NOFX. As the years have gone on, the band has gradually dropped the mile-a-minute hardcore for a more harmonic, straight-ahead sound. To boot, anyone going to see MxPx might actually enjoy a show with teenagers who choose not to smoke and put on a super-cool veneer. Then again, you may also be condemned for your sins to an eternal afterlife in the fiery, burning pits of Hell by the same teenagers. Either way, it should be fun. MxPx perform May 6 at Deep Ellum Live. The Hippos and Ghoti Hook open.

Yuval Weber

 
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