Top Ten in Christian Music: Grunge Rock

Grunge rock was Subgenre of rock that combined sounds of alternative, metal, and punk. It emerged in the mid 80s and peaked in the early 90s – Nirvana being the most well-known example. Much of grunge was angst-filled, its lyrical content centered around social apathy, alienation, and even self-hatred. It was nihilistic in philosophy. As young Christian bands took up the sound of grunge rock they kept the musical angst, but they flipped the philosophical worldview on its head. If traditional grunge moved from hatred to hatred, Christian grunge turned hatred into hope. Many bands from within this Christian sub-genre had a hope-filled angst that drove them from personal despair to God’s grace. While not every song on this list represents that theological movement, the genre as a whole does.

But here are my favorites from the Christian grunge genre:

1. “Wings to Fly” by Plankeye

The Spark, from which this song comes, is one of the greatest Christian rock albums of all time. Period. So, you will see several songs from The Spark on this list. “Wings to Fly,” however, is easily the best song. The song is prayer of longing to be with God, with gritty vocals and great guitar work.

2. “Rocketship” by Grammatrain

Some criticized Grammatrain’s sophomore release Flying as being overly polished, and it is definitely different from their initial release, but there are some great tracks on this record. “Rocketship” is not the best song on the record in terms of production or lyrics, but I’ve always enjoyed its punchy sound and quick-paced drum beat.

3. “She” by Puller

The song starts off with a bang and drives hard all the way through. Soaring guitars add an epic feel to offset the staggered strumming of the verses. Overall Closer Than You Think was a much darker and harder album than the band’s debut release. It had passion and focused on struggles that listeners could readily relate to.

4. “Open House” by Planekey

This is a great example of the Christian theological shift within grunge rock. Here Plankeye sings of that personal despair with the added reminder that God has the “broken man” on His mind.

5. “Gold and Silver” by Stavesacre

Stavesacre is not a pure grunge band, but they border between emo and grunge at times with a sound that can be somewhat hard to nail down. This song, however you categorize it, is great. Speakeasy was a great album from beginning to end. This song’s theme is the struggle to accept that God is in control, sung with grit and passion from band frontman Mark Salomon.

6. “I Believe” by The Prayer Chain

The Prayer Chain was the quintessential underground Christian band of the 90s. Not well-known but much believed by their devoted fans. This song is a statement of conviction zeroed in on the band’s core beliefs about God and the love of Christ.

7. “Where Were All of You” by Poor Old Lu

Regarded by some as the most “accomplished and creative Christian band of the 90s,” Poor Old Lu is known for their diversity and evolution. Over the course of their six-year existence the band experimented with a number of sounds and genres, including grunge, funk, and psychedelic rock. The album from which this song comes, Sin, is the best of their work (most fans agree), and this song is one of their best off that album.

8. “Drive” by Plankeye

Another hit from The Spark, this one has Scott Silletta pleading for God to “take my life” and to steer it in His desired direction. “Get into the car and let’s just drive!” A much cooler version of “Jesus take the wheel,” pre Carrie Underwood.

9. “Keep Waiting” by Stavesacre

Another hit of Speakeasy, and another song centered around the theme of trusting God. This one focuses specifically on waiting on the Lord and not loosing sight of His promises.

10. “Jonah” by Grammatrain

This is arguably Grammatrain’s most popular song. Playing off the story of Jonah from the Old Testament, this grunge rock song wrestles with our own attempts to run from God and the impact that has on our own state and soul. Thankfully the song returns to God’s commitment to rescue us, moving again from personal despair to God’s grace.

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