The level of my personal religious tolerance is terrifically low, a result of six years (and counting) of Bush leadership that has drawn a line in the sand between myself and anyone ignorant enough to believe in creationism. I know, it's a terrible thing to write, or even think, but since our country has made a noticeable shift in favor of the Religious Right, I've found myself making the jump from casual agnostic to full-fledged "New Atheist," complete with a Richard Dawkins book on the nightstand.
Despite being a Darwinist to the point of ruining dinner party conversation, my music collection is a pleasant mix of artists of various faiths, including plenty of Christian acts. The darkly themed values of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) have always been a favorite, Sufjan can be creepy (yet tender) in his faith, and only a fool would walk away from albums like What's Going On? or Pet Sounds due to their overtly religious content. All this changed when I found myself obsessing over Hello, Dear Wind by Baltimore's Page France, a record that is just so damn Christian that I found myself loving it and hating it with an equal passion. Led by Michael Nau, a charming frontman with a gift for spinning vivid lyrics, Page France lacks the religious struggle of Bazan, or the apocalyptic cool of Christian shoegazers Lift to Experience, instead finding themselves secure in their faith, almost to the point of—dare I say it—preaching.
It's not hard to read between the lines of a Page France song called "Jesus" with its jangling chorus of "Jesus will come through the ground so dirty/with worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy/to call us his magic we call him worthy." I love the song, but where's the conflict? I like my Christians a little bit nasty, perching on the cusp of some deep sins, with a bible in one hand and a bottle in the other. But when it's just straight praise—despite what an amazing track "Jesus" really is—I want to run the opposite direction. It scares me. Sure, I can blame Bush (or Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, etc.), but in the end the problem lies with me. It's really none of my business who Page France worships, or even sings about, since the end result is so stellar. And since they don't sing about picketing abortion clinics or how intelligent design is the one true answer, there is no reason for me to unfairly lump the band alongside those who are smothering the very soul of this country.
So, to Page France, let me apologize for hating you on and off over the past few months. I really do like your band. Jesus or not, Hello, Dear Wind is a fantastic album, the kind of complete record that few bands will ever make in their careers. Onward, you Christian soldiers; go do the Lord's work, and I'll be supporting you all the while—at least I will to the best of my cynical, God-hating, ability.
Page France perform at Berbati's Pan on Wed Nov 8.