30 Underground Faith Based Releases of the 90’s I Can’t Live Without
I have been reading quite a few “lists” lately and it has inspired me to create my own for fun. I get tired of reading the same lame ones by some “bigger” websites and this is my chance to expand upon the topic. Enjoy the list below. Also, take that Relevant Magazine 😉 [Update: March 29th – Now featuring music/videos of each artist embedded in post below]
1. Plankeye “Commonwealth” [Tooth & Nail]
This album completely took me by surprise and enlightened me to the power of a good “rock” song. Every track on this release was a golden gem and a really encouraging collection of songs. Although earlier songs like “Open House”, “Wings to Fly”, “Three Fold Chord”, “So Far From Home”, and “Scared” had their moments, nothing quite measured up the greatness found in this record. Songs such as “Beautiful”, “Who Loves You More”, “Push Me Down”, and even the single, “B.C.” showed the exceptional musicianship and songwriting of this band on the rise. They went from a alt-punk band on “Spill” and “The Spark” to a catchy alternative/rock band on this release and for that this release will be forever stamped on my heart.
2. Mxpx “Life in General” [Tooth & Nail]
When Mxpx went from Pokinatcha, On the Cover, and Teenage Politics to this release it just completely blew away our perceptions of what a bunch of “Christian” musicians could create in the realm of punk rock (and Christian Music as a whole). This trio of guys went from playing juvenile and underproduced pop-punk to a band that could rival most stuff being regurgitated by top 40 radio at the time. In 1996 this was unlike any other pop-punk release of the time and transcended above the people harping about Green Day comparisons of which I never believed they sounded like. Some people lumped them in with that major label band simply due to the fact that they were both pop-punk and Christian youth of the time hadn’t heard anything like it before. At first I was torn between this and “Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo” but I realize now that this album set the bar high and really broke through so many barriers most artists of the time were eager to get through. Both this album and “Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo” belong on any list praising the 90’s. Songs like “Middlename”, “Do Your Feet Hurt?”, “The Wonder Years”, “Doing Time”, “Today is in My Way”, and “My Mom Still Cleans My Room” are proof of just how far behind the majority of the Christian market was at the time and are still some favorites of mine.
3. Five Iron Frenzy “Our Newest Album Ever” [5 Minute Walk]
What this simple 8 piece ska-punk did on “Our Newest Album Ever” was nothing short of extraordinary. It came out at just the right time with the scene exploding and people’s fascination with all things “ska”. I remember hearing the first song “Handbook for the Sellout” and immediately falling in love with the band all over again. Sure “Upbeats and Beatdowns” was a fun album but was it really that great musically? It was under-produced and sloppy yet I loved the band so it didn’t matter. The band combined elements of ska and punk into one tasty morsel of music greatness. The songwriting on this record was above the norm. They were underdog champions and accomplished what The OC Supertones couldn’t which was reaching a mainstream audience thirsting for something undoubtedly unique. This album pushed the band into new territories and by reaching a whole new generation of music listeners. Their goofy brand of humor, socially conscious, passive aggressive, tongue in cheek song making truly put them in a league all their own. “Handbook for the Sellout”, “Blue Comb 78”, “Banner Year”, and especially their anthem “Every New Day” (which played at my wedding) serve as favorites of mine and gentle reminder of just how powerful this band was/is.
4. Model Engine “The Lean Years Tradition” [5 Minute Walk]
From the opening chords of “Hang You Upside Down” you just knew you had stumbled upon something truly exceptional. What this band created on both “The Lean Years Tradition” and under their prior moniker “Black Eyed Sceva” was unlike anything else in the Christian music scene. Smart, witty, and intelligent lyrics meant to inspire the casual listener and cause them to think. This wasn’t Top 40 radio drivel (or crap as some of you may refer to much of the 90’s music being created by Christians). Every song on this collection of music was a winner in my book. The production was great, songwriting above par, and vocals by the elusive Jeremy Post was a step above their brethren (I’m looking at you Switchfoot in the 90’s). I still rock this album and appreciate everything Jeremy Post touched. It’s a real shame that he no longer creates music and has seemingly disappeared off the music map. This release like a lot of other great Christian albums of the 90’s is out of print and not available digitally anywhere else. Such a shame because this is music that deserves to be heard.
5. The Prayer Chain “Mercury”
What can I say about this band? Besides being incredible musicians and some of the bravest souls to make the music found on “Mercury”. There was a lot of (unnecessary) drama/controversy surrounding this release, it was clear that this was a band on the rise yet died much too young. “Mercury” is still such a solid album filled with well produced rock gems that were unlike anything else out there at the time. I think that was the goal of this band and their creativity excelled beyond the typical. This album is out of print and not really available at most places (Or online) but you can pick up the alternate version of the record on bandcamp here.
6. Starflyer 59 “The Fashion Focus” [Tooth & Nail]
This was a tough decision seeing as how all S59 releases are wonderful. “Silver” and “Gold” were my first experiences with the band at a young age in High School but this release pushed the band in an all new (brit-pop) direction that is without a doubt, a “Classic”. Moving on from the sounds of “Silver”, “Gold”, and “Americana”, this group of musicians went in a whole new (kick-back) direction on “The Fashion Focus”. This move still inspires many till this day. Jason Martin is a survivor and has continued to pour his heart and soul into his work over two decades later.
7. The OC Supertones “Chase the Sun” [BEC Recordings]
What can be said about Supertones’ music that hasn’t been said before? They were a band for the Church as a whole and that purpose has been clearly documented in past interviews and interactions with the band. That’s not a bad thing because the Church certainly needs/needed a little theological kick in the butt from time to time. While “Adventures…” was the 1st step for the band and “Supertones Strike Back” served as that logical next step up in direction for the band, this release was my definite favorite. It still had that “punk/ska” spirit but incorporated many different elements and songwriting influences. The core sound of The OC Supertones was left in tact by the time this album arrived (except for the switching of a few band members) and a push in a more mainstream sound which was welcomed by me. “Supertones Strikes Back” gets all the love from fans but I believe this album was above the norm for the band and the marketplace at the time. The OC Supertones have always been an original and unique band that pushed the genre of “Ska” in a direction many of their contempories in the general market were to afraid to go.
8. Focused “The Hope That Lies Within” [Tooth & Nail]
This album and band truly impacted my life. Despite the shortcomings of some members, their music was awe inspiring and pushed the band in a whole new direction upon release of this record. “The Hope That Lies Within” dropped some of the more metallic moments found on “Bow” in favor of an emotional brand of hardcore unlike anything else in the scene. “My Blood” is still a song I rock to this day. It’s too bad they broke up after this album and failed to pick up the steam in subsequent reunions to the point of a comeback. It’s a shame that T&N (and Brandon Ebel) have failed to do some sort of commemorative release for any of the Focused music much like other like minded labels have done for their “anniversaries”. Oh well, that’s life.
9. Poor Old Lu “Sin” [Alarma Records]
This alternative rock band exploded on the scene in the early 90’s during the height of Grunge. Their sound was unlike others in the music scene and the sound was not like anything else at the time, including the whole grunge market. Brothers Aaron & Jesse Sprinkle, Nick Barber, and Scott Hunter, created music for the masses but enjoyed by us underground fans. They were and are still underrated/under-appreciated. “My World Falls Down” and “Complain” are still fine tracks. It’s cool to see Aaron Sprinkle still producing music and creating his own songs under his name and the “Fair” moniker. Jesse Sprinkle has been a member of a ton of great bands over the past 2 decades and continues to create music on his own. Scott Hunter is one of those monster vocalists that never quite achieved mainstream success for his band. It’s a real shame that groups like this couldn’t rise above the whole “Christian Market” and ascend to mainstream success.
10. Stavesacre “Speakeasy” [Tooth & Nail]
Holy crap, this album is still so great (as is the band). When Mark jumped from Crucified to this “super group” many were suspicious, curious, and all together skeptical of what it would sound like. We heard the words alternative-metal-rock and many cringed. However when “Friction” came out it completely blew me away. I was a fan from day one and still play their music, ALL OF IT. There isn’t a single misstep in their career except for the production on “Stavesacre”, their self titled 2002 release. I have a feeling that album would have been amazing had they used a different production technique. However, this isn’t about that album this is about my love for “Speakeasy”. “Gold & Silver”!!!! Heck yeah that song was and definitely still is a mainstay on my playlists and a favorite of mine. It still sends chills down my spine upon listening. Stavesacre and Crucified are at opposite ends of the music spectrum yet can be fully enjoyed equally.
11. The Blamed “Frail” [Tooth & Nail]
My love for T&N 90’s releases is well documented and clearly displayed in this list but I don’t care. You can’t deny the talent in these bands. The Blamed moved on from the punk sounds of “21” in favor of a thrashy punk-metal sound on “Frail”. I still remember cruising around town blasting this record from my Camaro like no one’s business 😉 Every song on this album is a winner in my book and still remains under-appreciated as a whole. It sucks because this album is my favorite Blamed album and these guys stumbled upon something great with this release. This 1995 release will never be replicated again and band reunions wont quite be the same without Jeremy Moffatt at lead vocal position.
12. Craig’s Brother “Homecoming” [Tooth & Nail]
This melodic punk band from California came out of nowhere and released one of my favorite punk rock albums back in 1998 called “Homecoming”. Although “Lost at Sea” was the better album of the two T&N releases, this one was released in the 90’s and is still an essential punk rock album. Ted Bond channeled Joey Cape (Lagwagon) a little but they were a league all their own. The band’s socially conscious, heart on the sleeve brand of punk was unlike a lot of stuff out there and especially in Christian music. The band still continues to write awesome tunes as was evidenced on their last album “The Insidious Lie”. Ted Bond is quite the songwriter and his lyrics reflect not only his Faith but also a certain frustration with the world and Christianity at large. When Adam and Andy (Too Bad Eugene) were in the band, it was a tight group of musicians and they as whole created this masterpiece.
13. Living Sacrifice “Reborn” [Solid State Records]
Another T&N associated release but upon listening you’ll know why it was ranked on my list. This band released a few prior albums with DJ on vocals and on REX Records but I feel that it wasn’t until this release that the band reached their stride. They introduced a groove oriented brand of Metalcore that can only be called revolutionary. This and “Hammering Process” are still such incredible releases that continue to impact listeners around the globe. The band’s last two albums “Ghost Thief” and “The Infinite Order” are further proof of this band’s magical songwriting technique and the power in their music delivery.
14. Bloomsday “The Day the Colors Died”
This is another one of those out of print releases that is not available digitally yet made an impact in my life. Bloomsday created moody, melancholy alt-rock with heart. They were ahead of their peers yet totally unheard of outside of a couple of us rabid music fans. I still remember catching them with Rasberry Jam and Driver Eight at a Church here in OC with like 20-30 people in attendance. I was captivated by the band and their sound. Although they released one final ep on Velvet Blue, they just never shared the same success as other bands playing at the time. Maybe it was because they weren’t punk rock and/or hardcore? Who knows but the level of quality on this album is without a doubt superb.
15. Dogwood “More Than Conquerors” [Tooth & Nail]
Dogwood released two albums prior to their signing with T&N: “Good Ol Daze” and “Through Thick and Thin” as well as an independent album (later re-released by Facedown Records). Those three albums laid the ground work for what was to be found on this energetic and explosive label debut titled “More Than Conquerors”. I am a lifelong fan of Dogwood and loved everything they accomplished in the decade they were around. Josh’s (Kemble) rough and raw lead vocals led this band far from their contemporaries of the more “poppy” sound found in the handful of greenday/mxpx clones out there at the same time. This band continued to put out incredible music with subsequent releases like “Building a Better Me” and “Matt Aragon”. Although “Through Thick and Thin” had some really great songs on it, the production was subpar and the songwriting was in the learning phase I think. The band really presented themselves and excelled as far as punk rock goes with this album. Long live Dogwood!
16. No Innocent Victim “Flesh and Blood” [Victory Records]
One can’t have a discussion about “hardcore” and not mention the influence that N.I.V (No Innocent Victim) had on the global audience. The band released two albums on Rescue Records before moving on with new members and reaching their height with “Flesh and Blood”. “Tipping the Scales” and “To Burn Again” were great but this is the album that started it all. Drummer Jason Dunn has gone on to found and create one of the longest lasting, most influential heavy music labels around, Facedown Records. Without him, Facedown, and NIV, the scene probably never would have been the same.
17. P.O.D. “Fundamental Elements of Southtown” [Atlantic Records]
One can’t have a discussion about Christian music and fail to mention the men in Payable on Death (POD). I first saw them at a little Church in San Juan Capistrano with hardly anyone there yet the band played with such talent, ferocity, and pure passion that it would be impossible not to recognize the enduring power this band has had and their longevity as a group. “Fundamental Elements of Southtown” is the album that started them down the path of mainstream success and opened doors for many more musicians to follow in their footsteps.
18. Michael Knott “Fluid” [Brainstorm/Alarma?]
What can be said about influential music maker Michael Knott and his brand of fiery rock n’ roll? From LSU to Aunt Bettys to his solo work, the man had a talent and knack for getting people fired up. I loved this album when it was released and listened to it quite a bit back in the day. One can’t have this scene without Michael Knott and his influential work.
19. Sixpence None the Richer “This Beautiful Mess”
This album released back in 1995 and was an instant classic in my book. They would go on to sign with Squint and release their essential “Self Titled” release that spawned that song “Kiss Me” that was heard all over mainstream radio in the late 90’s but it was this album that started my fascination with the band. You need to find this album and give it a listen.
20. Spooky Tuesday “It’ll Never Fly Orville” [Brainstorm]
This little known/heard album from the mid 90’s was a truly under-appreciated work of art. The band was mostly comprised of teenagers from the state of Hawaii and yet their music transcended the typical youth group fare so many other “Christian” groups were creating. The band would follow this release with a few more albums before calling it quits. Co-singer Jess Penner and her husband Kevin Penner now create music under her name as well with the groups Chandelle and We Cry Diamonds. Such a great album and band that didn’t get their appreciation due to their kickback style that had more in common with Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, Pearl Jam then it did with the likes of Green Day, Offspring, Pennywide, Rancid, and Bad Religion which almost every little Christian group wanted to be like.
21. Mortal “Wake” [Frontline]
This industrial leaning rock band dropped some of the electronics for this album and went full on alt-rock. It was a welcomed change and an album that I think Jyro and Jerome should be proud of still to this day. It’s crazy to think that Jerome has gone on from this group to play with Switchfoot for more than a decade. I’d still like more music from Jyro and Jerome whether it be under Mortal or their Fold Zandura monikers. “Paradigm One” is still a great song.
22. Six Feet Deep “Road Less Traveled”
It’s hard to believe that a few members of this hardcore band would go on to create Brandtson a year after this album was released and put out a consistent discography of music still enjoyed by a global audience of music fans. Six Feet Deep suffered from lame record label politics and inconsistent promotion. It really was the death of this band and probably the reason a few of their members got fed up with much of “Christian” music. I certainly cant blame them for that. This album was a step in the right direction for the band and showcased more dare I say, melodies, that the typical hardcore album of the time period were missing. A great final album from the men in Six Feet Deep. I love Brandtson so it was great to see a few of them continue with music long after this band died.
23. Strongarm “Atonement/Advent of a Miracle” [Tooth & Nail/Solid State]
Both of these records were so great and independent of each other in sound that I couldn’t separate them on this list. Strongarm were ahead of the time period in sound, dynamics, and general songwriting. They were spirit filled and aggressive enough to warrant a listen from the non-believers without chasing them into the deep unknown. “Atonement” had that classic hardcore vibe while “Advent of a Miracle” carried them into a more fast and melodic direction. This band influenced many people and bands out there and I am one of them. The guys would later go on to create Further Seems Forever and introduce the world to the talent that is Chris Carraba (Dashboard Confessional).
24. Ghoti Hook “Sumo Surprise” [Tooth & Nail]
I’ve said it time and again but this is my favorite Ghoti Hook album. It’s rare to be a band and release such a high quality release as your debut but this band did it. They nailed it clear out of the park with “Sumo Surprise”. I really think that the band lost an essential member when Conrad quit after the release of “Banana Man”. This release had flawless production for a punk rock album and the humor element as well as spiritual content raised the bar on what this band accomplished. “Two Years to Never” is a classic for the 00’s but this was a 90’s discussion and one cant have that talk without mentioning Ghoti Hook.
25. Bleach “Self Titled” [Forefront]
This band has inspired so many countless music fans and musicians alike over the years. They started off with a spacey alternative sound and had drifted into a poppy mainstream direction on this self titled album which was a welcomed change. I love Davy’s vocals and it’s funny but I hear echoes of his voice in the music of Saves the Day which I don’t think is intentional but cool nonetheless. “Heartbeat” is still such a great song. I was happy when this band departed their once label home in favor of independent label T&N and put out another bunch of great releases in the years following “Self Titled”.
26. Dakoda Motor Company “Welcome Race Fans” [Word]
This group was revolutionary. They were mostly unheard of outside of California circles but their breezy, warm, So. Cal. sound kept them in a league all their own. I am a fan of the first vocalist who recorded on both “Into the Son” and “Welcome Race Fans” over the second vocalist who was much more akin to Alanis Morrisette. The band had a well produced and catchy sound without relying completely on all the punk/ska sounds permeating from our area. Members of this band have all gone on to do great things and you can now catch former drummer Chuck in the group Altar Billies making fun rockabilly music. Also, “Stand Up” served as the theme/intro music to G-Rock for all those years 😉
27. Value Pac “Jalepeno” [BEC Recordings]
This band and I have a special connection and much of that can be found in an earlier article right here on this blog. The band released a relatively cheesy debut record but “Live” the band was so much more than the debut even showed. It was like they compressed their energy and raw punk spirit into this rough sounding debut record. I was happy when “Jalepeno” released because it truly showcased the band for what they were, a punk band ready for a rollicking good time. Over time my love of Value Pac albums has drifted towards “Incognito” ranking as my favorite. That 2000 release really showed a band being honest and writing from the heart with passion for what they did. Creativity sparks many interesting conversations and “Incognito” clearly did that, probably some of the reasons the band broke up not long after. “Big Dream” played at my wedding because I loved it so much.
28. Stretch Arm Strong “Rituals of Life” [Solid State Records]
Although this band rode the line between being anything “Christian” it didn’t matter once this release came out. They exploded on the scene and kind shocked everyone in the process for their sound was truly original. They were originators of the whole melodic hardcore/punk thing and by 1998 this band was ripe for a breakout. Rituals of Life was the album many in the music scene had been clamoring for and just listening to it now it’s clear why this album has influenced so many.
29. Quayle “Quayle” [Sublime Records]
The band made their debut with a release under the name “Spud Puddle”. It didn’t really make many waves so what does the band do? Change their name and start from scratch with the release of their self titled label debut. I loved the sound on this album. It was kind of like Sunny Day Real Estate, Smashing Pumpkins, Plankeye, and Starflyer 59 had a baby and they named it Quayle. I am still perplexed by the name change and new name choice. The band really didn’t go anywhere with this album and broke up not long after. This release however stands the test of time and is just a great little unheard record. The singer/guitarist went on to write a song under his name and recorded it for the Bounce movie soundtrack before disappearing.
30. Every Day Life “American Standard” [Alarma Records]
Like so many stories from the 90’s, EDL suffered that same loss of promotion, record label politics, and lack of budget to really get their name out there. Rage Against the Machine had just come out when this band were playing shows together. Ted Cookerly was a beast of a vocalist. When you saw them live it was unlike anything out there. They were musicians first and that talent was present by the time of “American Standard”. This album although a bit under-produced, was and is still such a punishing album. Read the lyrics, soak in the music and realize that there were really few bands like them out there. Trendsetters no matter how insignificant their mark may have been, is an understatement.
Huntingtons “Get Lost”
ZAO “Where Blood & Fire Bring Rest”
Driver Eight “Watermelon”
Bloodshed – Both Eps
Rainy Days “Homecoming”
Slick Shoes “Burn Out”
The Insyderz “Fight of My Life”
Blenderhead “Prime Candidate for Burnout”
Focal Point “Suffering of the Masses”
Stairwell “Pacific Standard Time”
Overcome “Blessed Are the Persecuted”
Posted on March 22, 2015, in Articles and tagged 30 Underground Faith Based Releases of the 90's I Can't Live Without, Black Eyed Sceva, Bleach, Blenderhead, Bloodshed, Bloomsday, Christian Music, Christian Rock, Craig's Brother, Dakoda Motor Company, Dogwood, EDL, Every Day Life, Five Iron Frenzy, Ghoti Hook, Huntingtons, Indie, Living Sacrifice, Michael Knott, Model Engine, Mortal, Mxpx, No Innocent Victim, OC Supertones, Overcome, P.O.D., Plankeye, POD, Poor Old Lu, Quayle, Rainy Days, Six Feet Deep, Sixpence None the Richer, Slick shoes, Spooky Tuesday, Starflyer 59, Stavesacre, Stretch Arm Strong, Strongarm, The 90's, The Blamed, The O.C. Supertones, The Prayer Chain, Tooth & Nail, Unashamed, Value Pac. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.