The ‘Challenge Alex’ experiment continues. This weeks suggestion comes from Kay. I didn’t ask, and was not informed as to what style of music I was about to encounter – so I looked them up beforehand. Skillet is, according to Wikipedia, an American Christian rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1996.
Now, I have to declare a dislike for ‘church music’, by which I mean the ‘happy-clappy-guitar-strumming-we’re-all-one-family’ music, not traditional hymns (I like some of those). So, not sure what’s going to happen here!
So time to genuflect (if my poor old knees allow) and get me some of that ‘old time religion’ with Skillet…
N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding (and challenging) my listening tastes.
What I listened to –
1. Feel Invincible (RD: 2016)– Had a familiar feel to it, was sure I had heard something similar before….. Straight in with the thrash guitar and a good catchy rhythm; and quite dynamic. Introductory verse sounded like lead singer,John Cooper’s voice had been meddled with on one of those nasty electronic vox machines (hated that).
What does it sound like to me? Rock/Pop/Stadium Rock.
Did I like it? Kind of. My feelings about this were quite divided – I hate ‘Stadium Rock’ for it’s crowd pandering blandness, and yet…I didn’t hate this.
2. Back From The Dead (RD: 2017) – Another slappy guitar opening, though not as solid as the previous. Has a rather dated feeling, like something from a 90s American TV teen show. The lyrics are kind of…mainstream, commercial…boring.
What does it sound like to me? Commercial Rock-Pop
Did I like it? No.
3. Gasoline (RD: 1996) – So I decided to head right back to their first album and see what had changed/progressed/improved. This sounds less over-produced, has a less ‘polished’ feel, which actually adds to it, for me; I hate over production in music.
What does it sound like to me? There is a definite rock feel, with a dash of early 90s electronic dance music and a slice of Grunge on the side.
Did I like it? It was okay! Better than previous two.
4. Collide (RD: 2003) – Big strings opening, violins, cellos…then the thrashing guitar belts out (can I hear an electronic keyboard in background? Distracting). The first song that I can hear lyrics about faith; “there’s something deep inside that keeps my faith alive”, religious or otherwise.
What does it sound like to me? Any old Hard Rock band.
Did I like it? Nope!
5. Better Than Drugs (RD: 2010) – Don’t do drugs kids! Oh no, dum-cha-dum-cha drums, whispery, electronic voice – (‘Gag me with a spoon’ as Mr Zappa’s eldest would say).
What does it sound like to me? Any old soft Rock band.
Did I like it? Nope
6. Comatose (RD:2006) – Again with the perky strings intro…generic vocals, generic melody interspersed with a twinkly piano and stop-start guitar and drums.
What does it sound like to me? Yet another Rock Band…
Did I like it? I didn’t hate it!
7. Monster (RD: 2011) – Feel like I’ve gone back in time! What you expect from any old rock band re- rhythm and bass, drums, vocals. I envision a hundred sweaty teens bopping up and down at the chorus.
What does it sound like to me? Stadium Rock
Did I like it? Not really.
8. Stars (RD: 2016) – WTF! Electronic keyboard, synthy voices. What happened here?! This was what I expected from a ‘Christian’ Rock band, what happened there then?!
What does it sound like to me? This feels like the bland, poppy pop music I was subjected to in the 80s.
Did I like it? I had to stop listening to it, made my bowels loose…
9. Watching For Comets (RD: 2016) – Seem to have lost their guitarist! Where’s the rock, the thrash, the vocals?! Let’s all just sway side to side with candles/lighters held aloft and embrace…
What does it sound like to me? Dreary. The worst kind of Pop/Rock! And too long!
Did I like it? Do I need to fill in this space…really!!!
10. We Are The Saviours of The World (RD: 2016) – Well God help us, ‘oh, oh, oh’ etc. Electronics, again, not something I would associate with Rock music.
What does it sound like to me? ‘heavy’ pop.
Did I like it? ‘No sir, I don’t like it.’
To round-up – Phew, glad that’s over. Okay, so maybe I’m being unfair, it wasn’t horrendous music… just awfully bland and uninteresting – at least it wasn’t ‘happy-clappy-guitar-strumming…’, and I’m not sure that Skillet should be classed as a Christian Rock band, more like a Rock band whose members happen to be Christian? Did I get me some of that ‘old time religion’? Nope – and if that’s what you’re expecting when you read Christian Rock – then you’re going to be disappointed. Skillet obviously heard that old saying ‘the Devil has all the best tunes’, and have tried to make amends. So….it that respect…I have to concede that Skillet challenged my preconceptions of what ‘Christian’ music is.
Will I be listening to Skillet again? No. Why? Because, as mentioned in a previous ‘Challenge Alex’, there are better bands from previous decades if I want to listen to Rock (Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones). Did it challenge me musically? Not at all, it left me asking “So what?” Weird thing is, the stuff they were producing back when they began sounded much better to me. I’m no expert, and again, this is not an educated criticism, but I do feel like the genre of Rock music struggles to define itself in modern culture, it doesn’t seem to have moved on like, say, Dance music, so what we end up with when new groups do Rock, is the soup of the soup, (i.e. watered down.).