100. Donderfliegen – Digital Priests – Being the first and only Nazi industrial Christian band, Donderfliegen makes the list. Okay, they weren’t Nazis (with a name like Donderfliegen…) but they were a band that mimicked the German heavy metal disco sound of those like Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten. Bizarrely unique stuff.
99. Sandi Patty – The Finest Moments – When the CCM community discovered Sandi Patty had been a philanderer, they excommunicated her, but before that Patty released The Finest Moments showcasing her incredible, glossy range. In the 90s, Patty reigned over all female CCM singers, save for perhaps Amy Grant. However, Patty didn’t benefit from her looks like Grant, she did it all with her voice.
98. The Echoing Green – Defend Your Joy – With a name taken from the William Blake poem, The Echoing Green were a mildly successful female fronted – on Defend Your Joy – 90s CCM unit. They went mostly unnoticed, but Joey Belville, their spiritual center and main songwriter, wrote dreamy yet competent synth pop, existing in an ether between Chrindie and mainstream CCM.
97. Danielson Famile – A Prayer for Every Hour – With 24 tracks each denoting, very literally, a prayer for every hour of the day, Prayer is interesting, but not the best Danielson album. That would be a toss up between Tell Another Joke at the Ol’ Chopping Block and Fetch the Compass Kids. But this is Danielson’s most important. Daniel Smith, a preacher’s kid, went to Rutgers, majored in music, and made this as his senior music project. It enabled him to make music full-time. He’s been releasing unorthodox, heartfelt pop ever since.
96. Violet Burning – Violet Burning – I’ve been to a Violet Burning show with maybe 15 other people. It was all youth group kids in a church basement in Sioux Falls. A youth pastor did the sound. That night, Mike Pritzl played my favorite Violet Burning song, “Moon Radio,” on request. I didn’t even have to shout it, he just quietly asked what we wanted to hear. He let a kid in the audience come up and play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as Sam West played drums and Pritzl sang. Violet Burning should’ve been more popular.
95. Chevelle – Point #1 – Produced by Steve Albini, Point #1 was released on Steve Taylor’s Squint, home to other vaguely Christian bands like Sixpence None the Richer and L.A. Symphony. Chevelle was the hard rock ratio and they did it very pretty well, peaking with their next album, Wonder What’s Next.
94. Frodus – Conglomerate International – Frodus were the bad boys of Chrindie rock in the 90s. They drank, smoked, even had sex. They also made some cerebral, guitar-driven math rock albums on Tooth and Nail that are worth checking out. Just don’t forget the sex.
93. Damien Jurado – Waters Ave S. – Folky lo-fi indie pop will never be in shortage. Buy an acoustic guitar and four track recorder and there you have the basic elements. What you may not have is the ability to write good songs. Waters Ave S triumphs in that sense. It is Jurado’s best.
92. Grammatrain – Flying – Back in the early Grammatrain days, Pete Stewart was ahead of his time. He and Grammatrain made driving, radio-ready, power rock records a la Helmet and Smashing Pumpkins. Flying was the more polished of their two releases and would fit nicely into the modern rock radio oeuvre, still today.
91. Sass o Frass Tunic – As Blue as the State Allows – Besides having one of the best bad names in the 90s, Sass o Frass Tunic made a pretty great bluesy gospel album on Mike Knott’s label, Blond Vinyl. The leader of Sass o Frass was Fred T. Friend, the same guy who fronted Breakfast with Amy. This album was more in tune with The Band ala R.L. Burnside than the Breakfast with Amy mood which was more 80s alternative rock a la the Smiths sung by Gordon Gano. Check it out, youngin’.
90. Undercover – Balance of Power – Balance of Power is one of the more name checked punk records in the CCM discography. Really, it just sounds like a hair metal album. But it is important to note Undercover’s place as they were the cooler version of Petra and Stryper, if such a thing is possible.
89. Starflyer 59 – Everybody Makes Mistakes – On this album, Jason Martin’s whispery coos are offset by his distorted Talk Talk/late 80s alterative guitar work. His next album, the one that came right after the turn of the 21st Century, Leave Here a Stranger, would be a gorgeous, hazy take on Surf’s Up era Beach Boys. Mistakes is maybe not be as good as Stranger, but it is an excellent precursor.
88. Velour 100 – Of Colour Bright – Boasting the classic dreamy 4AD sound, Velour 100 released two tremendous pop albums. Produced by Warren Defever, the frontman of His Name Is Alive, Of Colour Bright also contains key contributions from Trey Many of His Name is Alive. As well, the album utilizes some great female vocalists with Tess Wiley of Sixpence, Sdyney Morella of Morella’s Forest, and Karin Oliver of, again, His Name is Alive. This album is quite overlooked.
87. Aunty Bettys – Aunty Bettys – Aunty Bettys is not my favorite Knott side project, though it is important to his discography. This record was Knott’s outlet for his harder side, sounding more like the Foo Fighters meets Jeff Buckley meets Husker Du. It’s the ‘rawkiest’ of any of Knott records but actually accomplished for that genre. In the 90s, it seemed, Knott could do anything.
86. 16 Horsepower – Sackcloth and Ashes – David Eugene Edwards was like a southern gospel preacher, a Nick Cave of the CCM genre, and Sackcloth and Ashes is his best album. Before Steve Taylor joined the band, Edwards and Pascal Edwards made this romping, symbolic, Faulknerian opus. It’s worth listening to today.
85. Mark Heard – Dry Bones Dance – Dry Bones Dance is the first of three albums which comprise a trilogy of sorts. This is an assortment of skeletal, backwoods, folk songs – sounding like a John Darnielle record – about Heard’s relationship with Jesus.
84. Stavesacre – Speakeasy – This is straight up, testicles to the wall, no apologies rock and roll. It works like Yes playing, perhaps, Black Sabbath. Lyrically, as he always did, Mark Solomon wrote ‘big’ soliloquies about his spiritual foibles and the redemptive power he believed to be in the Bible.
83. Brandtson – Fallen Star Collection – Following in the footsteps of Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Promise Ring, Brandtson made a couple of dissonant, emotive records in the late 90s. Fallen Star Collection does not have a great stand out track like “Blindspot” – from their debut album – but it does have a consistent stream of sentimentally melodic songs about God and girls, bridging the gap between emo and spirituality.
82. ZAO – Liberte Ex Inferis – This is ZAO’s best album and also their most experimental, a iconic landmark of the metal-core genre. Liberte Ex Inferis was once, and perhaps still is, a beacon for young Christian metalheads. It is also notorious for Tooth and Nail censoring Jesse Smith’s tattoo (a naked lady on his arm).
81. Joy Electric – Robotrock – If you haven’t heard “Monosynth” you should download it right now. Also, you should probably the video for the song. It features Jeff Cloud – founder of Velvet Blue Music – and Ronnie Martin in all white modulating a synthesizer bigger than them. On the album itself, Ronnie Martin created catchy electronic music, a genre not a lot of CCM artists in that time even dabbled in.
80. Charlie Peacock – Love Life – This record is good, but Charlie Peacock is probably more well-known for songs other bands made successful such as “In the Light” and “Dare You to Move.”
79. Jetenderpaul – Trying Signals: The Histrionics of Suggestion – Emerging at the end of the end of the 90s, Velvet Blue Music, founded by CCM’s one man band Jeff Cloud, released some of most interesting Christian music. Jetenderpaul is one of Velvet Blue’s shining stars, boasting a fluttery indie pop sound, maybe in the vein of Pavement with baroque accouterments a la Of Montreal.
78. Stavesacre – Absolutes – This is Stavesacre second record and while it may not have the more immediate songs like in Speakeasy, wearing perhaps more of the grungy, prog mask like their first album, Friction. But this is still a pivotal record for Stavesacre. Maybe not amazing, but of the first ‘hard’ albums I ever bought.
77. Sincerely Paul – Grieve – Purposeful, plodding, pulsating gothic rock looking to those like Peter Murphy, Robert Smith, and John Lydon, Grieve is a stands alone within the CCM world. A few other Chrindie bands attempted constructing something as dark as this – Savior Machine, Dead Artist Syndrome – but none came as close.
76. Driver 8 – Watermelon – This album makes the list because of the killer, I mean, killer single “Waiting for Godot.” One of the top 20 singles of the 90s, really. The rest of the album is knock-off Gin Blossoms but “Waiting for Godot” should have made these guys millionaires. More Crayon than Better Than Ezra, and it is perfect.
75. Blindside – Blindside – Christian metal from Sweden was in short supply, at least until Blindside came along. They infused their NT worldview into post-hardcore, and it was quite good. This first album is their rawest and gave fodder for Christian Lindskog’s onstage antics, which became a sight at Christian music festivals. Blindside would write better songs, like “King of the Closet,” and better albums, like Silence – their height, an accomplished hard rock record – but none are as important as their first from 1997.
74. Mortal – Fathom – Terry Taylor of Daniel Amos fame produced Fathom along with Jerome and Jyro of Mortal. Mortal would turn into Fold Zandura, an average CCM rock band of the late 90s starring Jerome/Jyro and Frank Lenz. Lenz is a drummer who worked with countless others from Starflyer 59 to Daniel Amos to Cush to the Supertones to Roper. Lenz would also go on to make a couple of solid records, like the funky blues of The Hot Stuff and the more introspective and sincere The Last Temptation of Frank Lenz. But before Mortal hooked up with Lenz in Fold Zandura, they made Fathom, a Faith No More as inspired by the early funky rock of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
73. Pedro the Lion – It’s Hard to Find A Friend – Back in 1997 when Dave Bazan made the Whole EP, it was a revolutionary album. This album and Bazan’s band, Pedro the Lion, was one of the first to illuminate the fissure between being a Christian in a band and having a Christian band.
72. Waterdeep – Everyone’s Beautiful – As an accomplished female fronted poppy rock and roll, crossing between Lisa Loeb and Counting Crows, Everyone’s Beautiful is a deft, intelligent chunk of popular music. Released in 1999 on Steve Taylor’s Squint right before it’s downfall in the early part of the 00s, Everyone’s Beautiful went mostly under the radar, though it holds a commercial sound.
71. Mad at the World – Boomerang – Coming from Terry Taylor’s Alarma Records, Mad at the World is one of more maligned bands in the CCM world as they were comfortable with the prickly aspects of being a Christian. For eg, their song, “Isn’t Sex a Wonderful Thing?” Boomerang is their prettiest love letter, not sounding unlike Blind Melon.
70. The Choir – Circle Slide – The Choir were, for all intents and purposes, the first shoegaze band in CCM. For that, this album makes the list, though several others would go on to do that type of music better than the Choir, mainly Jason Martin on his first couple records, but also Ester Drang.
69. Lost Dogs – Gift Horse – Joined by Mike Roe of the 77s, Gene Eugene of Adam Again, and Derri Daugherty of The Choir, Terry Taylor fronted Lost Dogs, a CCM supergroup throughout the 90s and early part of this millennium. Gift Horse is what the first Daniel Amos record tried to be, a rockist take on country ala The Band or The Eagles or Flying Burrito Brothers.
68. The 77s – Sticks and Stones – This is Mike Roe’s height in the world of CCM. Composed mostly of demos, unreleased singles, and outtakes, Sticks and Stones is a weighty guitar-focused pop rock album in vein of INXS.
67. Strongarm – Atonement – If you were a Christian growing up in the 90s and liked hardcore music, Strongarm was your favorite band. Leaders in the straight edge movement as well as the hardcore Christian music scene, Strongarm stood tall next to other notables like Snapcase, Shai Hulud, Cave-In, and, the granddaddy, Refused. Atonement was their best record.
66. Resurrection Band – Lament – Sometimes in the NBA a player will get the Most Valuable Player award, not because he was the most valuable player in the league, but because of a body of work over a long stretch of time. Innocent Blood is like that. Resurrection Band or Rez (not Raze, the CCM band with the child molester) have been making rock and roll in the tradition of ZZ Top, AC/DC, and The Black Crowes for thirty years. For all intents and purposes, Rez were the first Christian rock band. Started by Glen Kaiser and his wife, they were a part of Jesus People U.S.A., or, as it’s commonly known, JPUSA, in the late 60s. They traveled the country spreading the gospel by playing their music.
65. Roadside Monument – Eight Hours Away from Being a Man – Easily their best album, Roadside’s Eight Hours is a mathy frantic display of guitars and drums with Joan of Arc, or just plain screamed, vocals. Roadside never shied away from controversy, writing songs like “Sperm Ridden Burden” and “OJ Simpson House Auction,” putting the band perpetually in hot water with the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). So much so their records were often pulled from the shelves of Christian bookstores. Eight Hours is their catchiest, best record.
64. Poor Old Lu – Pictures of the 8th Wonder –Taking their name from a line in a C.S. Lewis book, Poor Old Lu was set up for success from the very beginning. And it didn’t hurt that they were fresh faced youngsters tapping in on the grunge of the early 90s. Though Pictures is not really what you would expect. It deviates from the sludge and is punctuated with stonerish tracks like “Hello Sunny Weather.” It’s enjoyable.
63. Havalina Rail Company – Russian Lullabies – Matt Wignall, the lead singer of Havalina, sounded like Jerry Garcia married with Jonathan Richman, constructing jazzy melancholic hodgepodges about Jesus and lost loves. Russian Lullabies found Wignall and Co. scratching another creative itch, making a record meant to have an Eastern European flair. And it does have that horny, polka aesthetic. It’s like, if I might, an early Beirut.
62. Ninety Pound Wuss – Short Hand Operation – Before he went on to flip off the crowd at Tomfest 2001 and play with Damien Jurado in Raft of Dead Monkeys, Jeff ‘Suffering’ Bettger wrote Short Hand Operation as Ninety Pound Wuss. Some of his later work was interesting, like Real Panic Formed under the Suffering alias, but nothing tops Short Hand Operation. A punk album in its purest form, this is a snotty, bratty, chorus heavy opus.
61. Halo Friendlies – Halo Friendlies – Ginger Reyes, forever and ever, amen.
60. Living Sacrifice – Reborn – This probably isn’t Living Sacrifice’s best record. That’d probably be the percussive and tribal Hammering Process. Still, this is a brutally heavy, and technically-sound. A pounding album.
59. Luxury – Amazing and Thank You – Luxury’s Amazing and Thank You is a perfect marriage between the twee pop of Tullycraft and the alt radio rock of Gin Blossoms, an album layered in a stack of distorted guitars and pretty vocals. It’s another largely unheralded CCM record from a band whose members nearly died in a car accident going back to their native Georgia after Cornerstone one year. They recovered and recorded more records, though nothing as unique as this one.
58. Ghoti Hook – Banana Man – Adam Neubauer and Joel Bell were once, for my money, the funniest guys in rock. Apart from their onstage antics, Ghoti Hook made lively pop-punk, and Banana Man was their best, filled with memorable singles like “My Bike,” “Running Away,” and “Love By the Numbers.” Unfortunately, the album is marred with hollow production so it never received attention outside the Chrindie hemisphere.
57. Black and White World – Life Explodes – Black and White World was obviously influenced by R.E.M. and, equal parts, Kings X. Life Explodes, on Blond Vinyl, is drastically out of print, but worth digging as a historical piece of CCM music.
56. Jacob’s Trouble – Knock, Breathe, Shine – With Terry Taylor at the helm, Knock, Breathe, Shine has a certain mastery of musical production and melody. Another Blond Vinyl band, Jacob’s Trouble played on classic pop rock theme: the Zombies, the Hollies. Another tough album to find.
55. Danielson Famile – Alpha/Omega – The follow up to Tell Another Joke at the Ol’ Choppin Block, Alpha/Omega came in at the very end of the 90s, a bookmark of what was to come. At the time, Smith was about to shed the homemade feel of his records for a more professional sound, with even Steve Albini producing the next record, Fetch the Compass Kid. Omega is the better of the two ‘sides’ with singles like “Don’t You Be The Judge” and “Sold! To The Nice Rich Man.”
54. Appleseed Cast – The End of Ring Wars – Appleseed Cast were not exactly a Christian band. They toured with ‘secular’ bands and allegedly, ‘accidentally’ played Cornerstone. Only one member of the band was a practicing Christian, another was a Jew, and the rest were non-believers. And together they made crashing atmospheric pop records in early 00s. The End of Ring Wars is not their best record, though it does show the beginning of what they would accomplish. Starting as an emoish Jawbreaker/Burning Airlines/early Sunny Day thing – a pretty one – The Cast would morph into a confident, subversive Spaceman 3, Mogwai by way of Braid rock band.
53. O.C. Supertones – Supertones Strike Back – Supertones made ska-rap, and so it could be stated this album makes the list because of emotional reasons, but hidden in the novelty, there is craft in singles like “Resolution” “Grace Flood” “Tonight” “Louder Than the Mob” “So Great a Salvation.” I could keep going.
52. Dakoda Motor Co – Welcome Race Fans – Armed with a photogenic guitarist surfer, MTV VJ Peter King, along with a congenial lead singer, Melissa Brewer, Dakoda Motor Co wrote Welcome Race Fans in 1995 after their solid debut a couple years earlier. Race Fans features Brewer on vocals, sounding like a mellowed out Corin Tucker. The music itself, however, is standard 90s alt radio rock, but important for its cross-over appeal. Dakoda Motor Co sang songs directly about God and yet was able to leap over to Atlantic Records for their final album. Somewhere, David Berg must have smiled. I mean, more than he usually did.
51. Arthur – Loneliness Is Bliss – Going by the middle name of somewhat ego-maniacal Mike Herrera, Arthur is a six song collection of slow burn emo tunes. The EP as a whole is not particularly special, in fact, MxPx’s other side project, Let’s Play House, is a stronger album, but Loneliness is Bliss makes it on the list for one reason, “Amazingly True.” That track is the jam. It is the song for your Christian bf/gf breakup. It is the song for making up. It is the “Only in Dreams” of the Chrindie world.
50. Smiley Kids – Don’t Get Bored – Smiley Kids were Chrindie’s one-hit punk wonders, releasing just this album at the very end of the 90s. These guys didn’t hide their faith with songs like “Love Your Enemies,” “Score Goals not Drugs,” and “Imitation Cross,” a song decrying Catholics. The music was a punk stew sharing some of Hot Water Music’s intensity, Dropkick Murphy’s brogue sing-along, and The Specials skanking guitar riffs.
49. Creed – My Own Prison – The first time I heard My Own Prison I was lifting weights, although I’m sure the first time most people heard Creed they were lifting weights. And even at my unfiltered teenage age, I was unsure of the authenticity of My Own Prison. And now, 10 years later, it is a clear harbinger of today’s modern rock sound. I hate all of those bands, but I do love this album. I guess blame it on the weights.
48. Lost Dogs – Little Red Riding Hood – Little Red Riding Hood is a bit more ecumenical than Gift Horse, which is a Terry Taylor solo album. The rest of those in the CCM supergroup here contribute nicely with tracks like the wonderfully titled, “Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson,” by Mike Roe, and the solid “Jimmy,” by Gene Eugene. Another highlight is a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m A Loser.”
47. Joy Electric – CHRISTIANSongs –Ronnie Martin made this in response to the rising tide of bands within Chrindie, and, to an extent, within the whole CCM market, denying their band as being a Christian band. Around the mid to late 90s it became very fashionable to not call yourself a ‘Christian’ band. And while some bands did this for commercial reasons, others did as a genuine heart conviction, believing there was no such thing. But Ronnie Martin was cavalier, if nothing less. And CHRISTIANSongs is rife with overt Christian themes. It’s Martin’s most interesting political statement and his best, musically, of the 90s, save for Melody.
46. Rivulets & Violets – Rivulets & Violets – Taking cues from Sixpence the Richer and Cocteau Twins and Cub, Rivulets & Violets female-led self-titled album is a nice addition to the Five Minute Walk stable. The label would go to release albums from capable, underrated Chrindies like Brave Saint Saturn, Rose Blossom Punch, and Model Engine.
45. Starflyer 59 – Americana – After Silver and Gold, Americana is the last of the albums Jason Martin would make before shifting his sound away from the ubiquitous ‘wall of sound’ approach. My contention is that his next three albums are his strongest, The Fashion Focus, Everybody Makes Mistakes, culminating in the seminal album, Leave Here a Stranger in 2001.
44. Black Eyed Sceva – Way Before the Flood – For religious fans of Gentleman-era Afghan Whigs, Way Before the Flood had lead singer Jeremy Post sounding a bit like a haunted Greg Dulli. Though it’s fair to say Sceva was on the opposite end of the ‘moral’ spectrum. The band got its name from a verse in Acts, and had songs discouraging premarital sex, secularism, as well as the literature of Twain to Comte.
43. Puller – Sugarless – Not to be confused with Lifter Puller, the Minneapolis band which became The Hold Steady, Puller was another post-Nirvana band doing punkish rock and roll. Mike Lewis (lead singer/songwriter) did it confidently and smartly enough, blending Christianity with chops gained from his days in For Love Not Lisa. Puller carved out a small niche within Chrindie circles but never rose to the national fame like Bush, Everclear, and Candlebox as they rode the Cobain wave.
42. MxPx – Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo – Slowly is Magnified Plaid’s most notorious album. In it, Herrera points the finger at Tooth and Nail, insinuating in “What’s Mine is Yours” that Brandon Ebel – CEO of the company – had been leeching of the band from the very beginning. The album indicted Ebel, and said that the contract MxPx signed as 15-year-old kids was dubiously in favor of Tooth and Nail. Musically, Slowly excels, and the most satisfying MxPx album, taking some of the grown up sensibility of their later albums – starting with Ever Passing Moment – and the spry punk energy of their earlier, literally teenage, ones.
41. Dear Ephesus – Absent Sounds of Me – Along with Appleseed Cast, Dear Ephesus stood on the outside of Chrindie music, barely putting their toes in the water. Absent Sounds of Me, and to a point, the rawer Consolation of Pianissimo, is a piece of tight, slightly unusual, chorus-heavy emotive rock as influenced from such disparate artists as Fugazi to The Posies. I read that the lead singer and founder of the band is now a movie director. Maybe he could use some old Dear Ephesus songs in his films. They could use a renaissance.
40. Lassie Foundation – California – Lassie Foundation was always more 14 Iced Bears than Ride, but that didn’t stop them from being tagged a My Bloody Valentine clone. Really, Lassie Foundation, a supergroup of sorts, boasting a line up of Wayne Everett (Starflyer 59), Eric Campuzano (Charity Empressa), Jeff Schroeder (Smashing Pumpkins) made music just a bit sunnier than JAMC/Slowdive although “Walking Spinning Backing Free” on California is pretty heavy-messy. California was their first EP and predicts the sunny magic most other Lassie records would conjure, with “I’m Stealin’ to Be Your One in a Million” being a standout.
39. Mike Knott – Strip Cycle – After blinding followers with his debut solo LPs, Screaming Brittle Siren and A Rocket and A Bomb, Knott released a dud, Fluid, on Alarma. It sounded and acted like a Carman record, which, for Knott, was a serious misstep, so when Strip Cycle appeared on Tooth and Nail, fans were not expecting another masterpiece. Then Knott nearly gave it them. Cycle is an acoustic twister of an album, tumultuous and on point, Knott screams and writhes over his relationship with God as Strip Cycle pours the listener with salve for an aching heart, or, at least a glimpse into a soul even more messed up than their own.
38. Soul Junk – 1956 – There really is an apostasy of good rap music within CCM. LA Symphony, Grits, and Cross Movement, others? Soul Junk, however, is deep and wide. They made weirdo, ambient, inverse rap in the spirit of Clouddead and Why? Honestly, they could still be and all of us would have no idea.
37. Joe Christmas – Upstairs, Overlooking – Named after the Faulkner character from A Light in August, Joe Christmas and their second album, while not as good as their first, has one very memorable single, “Coupleskate,” which would have fit in nicely alongside Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” or Guided by Voices “I am a Scientist” or Sebadoh’s “On Fire” as a classic lo-fi single from the 90s. It’s a shame Joe Christmas never received any college radio play. They deserved it.
36. SS Bountyhunter – SS Bountyhunter – One of the more unusual and avant-garde bands in the Chrindie scene, S.S. Bounyhunter had a penchant for theatrically acting out their albums during their live shows. And while this self-titled debut is not as strong as the more cohesive and electronic, Serpent for Eggs, it’s still an interesting artifact. Worth the effort to track down.
35. Juliana Theory – Understand this is A Dream – Coming straight off of playing with ZAO, Brett Detar joined Juliana Theory and proceeded to record an album of Sensefield-like grandeur, Jimmy Eat World pop, and a little bit of Saves the Day whine. Detar sang in generalities about his life as a Christian which afforded him entrance into mainstream audience. It even got him a deal at Epic records for Juliana Theory’s third album, which was a complete and utter flop. This one is great, though.
34. Plague of Ethyls – Plague of Ethlys – With Steve Hindalong of The Choir on drums, Plaque of Ethyls was beautiful in their music and their, well, looks (Caryn Colbert and La La). It’s a shame they didn’t release more than just this one record. Not only did they cover “What Do I Do When I’m Alone” by Grover, they incorporated Sonic Youth experimentation with a nice pop sensibility.
33. Black Carnation – It Remains the Same – If you look for Jeff Seaver, the one-time leader of Black Carnation, you will find him as the executive director at the Center for Inquiry, an atheistic think tank offering opposing non-theistic ideas and solutions to problems ranging from social issues to evolution to politics. In CCM terms, Jeff Seaver ‘backslid’ from his days on Knott’s Blond Vinyl and his U2ish, post-punk band, Black Carnation.
32. Joy Electric – Melody – Ronnie Martin was known (is known?) as an analog synthesizer nerd. Heck, the man wrote a song about his synth. So it’s pretty interesting where he started with his first solo record after Dance House Children (the band he and his brother first formed) under the Joy Electric nomen. On this, he recorded everything using real instruments.
31. Writ on Water – Sylph – Sylph, the last record to make it off of Blond Vinyl, is one of the best. It shares a lot in common with the 4AD sound – that ambient gothic pop music. Think This Mortal Coil and Mark Hollis. It’s an achievement, and a worthy bookend to a label which basically birthed underground Christian music.
30. Jennifer Knapp – Kansas – About 15 years ago, Jennifer Knapp burst onto the Christian music landscape. Alternating between the tuneful Sarah McLachlan, the histrionic Jewel, and the tough Melissa Etheridge, Knapp was versatile, but always sang about God. And that, not so surprisingly, disallowed her widespread fame. Then, once she came out as a lesbian, the Christian industry disowned her too.
29. Dance House Children – Jesus – Before all the accolades and insular fame the Chrindie circuit allows, there was the Dance House Children for Jason and Ronnie Martin. Elements of what they would later go on to do are on this record. Mostly, it is a more fey Sparks/ Scritti Politi vibe with some cheesy Pet Shop Boys effects. It is a naïve record, but important to any fan of the Martin brothers.
28. Prayer Chain – Mercury – Sounding like a mix between Catherine Wheel, Bauhaus, and The Pop Group, Mercury came out of nowhere. I liken it to what abbots might produce if were into Quaaludes, and early noise records, and Robert Smith.
27. Danielson Famile – Tell Another Joke at the Choppin Block – Whatever your feelings on his precious take on religion, Daniel Smith is a sort of Chrindie svengali, a Tiny Tim mixed with Black Francis. At first, Danielson benefited from the curious fascination the indie scene had with them, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Daniel Smith and crew made quality songs. Choppin block, the Famile’s first great album would be followed by the exceptional Fetch the Compass Kids, which gave way to Ships.
26. Newsboys – Take me to Your Leader – Newsboys were the poor man’s DC Talk, the Australian Audio Adrenaline. Wildly popular, they never achieved the technical or artistic heights the other two heavy-hitters in the male led CCM universe would but all three bands existed in a parallel plane to their secular counterpoints of Goo Goo Dools, Collective Soul, and Gin Blossoms. The Newsboys still made some iconic songs, and all of them are on this album. “Breakfast,” “Take Me to Your Leader,” “Lost the Plot,” “God is Not a Secret” are all deftly crafted pop gems, left for those who will mine into the granite of CCM.
25. Mike Knott – A Rocket and A Bomb – There’s a story that Mike Knott isn’t a Christian at all. There’s a story Mike Knott was high on coke, weed, meth, and drunk while playing Creation Fest. There’s a story Mike Knott once killed a man. Ok, I might have made that one up. But whatever he was, is, Mike Knott was a talented musician. A Rocket and A Bomb was his most mellow record, standing at odds with his screeching Aunt Betty’s output, and even his sometimes raging L.S.U. output.
24. Breakfast With Amy – Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt – Breakfast with Amy was another Chrindie supergroup, like Cush or Lost Dogs, featuring a collection of artists who would go on to work in a variety of Chrindie bands from Fluffy, Plague of Ethels, Sass O’ Frass Tunic, and Duraluxe. Everything was Beautiful itself is a nice album influenced by equal parts Echo and the Bunnymen and Dadaism.
23. Starflyer 59 – The Fashion Focus – As the first album to deviate from the distortion heavy SF59, The Fashion Focus suffered from devoted Chrindie fans who feared SF59’s change to a new, ‘sunnier’ antiseptic sound. Now, I think this album sharpened Martin into a exploratory, poppier persona. It’s a record that holds up very well in retrospect.
22. Audio Adrenaline – Bloom – An unapologetic worship album, Bloom is filled with hooks, one of those albums that should have been on mainstream radio, like a Cracked Rear View or A Boy Named Goo or Yourself or Someone Like You. Lead vocalist Mark Stuart had some amazing chops, alternating between clear tuneful swoons and southern bellows. “Never Going to Be as Big as Jesus” is a disastrously good, a dubby and swinging single. It was almost like Audio Adrenaline saying, “Okay, world, we know you’re never going to hear this, but we are still going to make this perfect pop single anyway.” Kind of amazing.
21. Vigilantes of Love – Killing Floor – If you’re looking for a CCM Michael Stipe, look no further than Bill Mallonee. Hailing from Georgia, Mallonee, along with the Vigilantes of Love, made a ton of music in the 90s for those looking for a Christian alternative to R.E.M. Mallonee’s connections go so far that Peter Buck himself co-produced Killing Floor, Vigilantes best album.
20. Plankeye – Commonwealth – Like a bombastic Collective Soul mediating, even more specifically, on the interplay between God and man, Commonwealth gives its hooks in spades. It has a bunch of radio ready songs, the bouncy “B.C.,” the crumbly head-bobber “Placement,” the hand-clapping and groovy “Commonwealth,” and one of the best singles of the 90s, “Bicycle.” It even has one of the best wedding songs in “Beautiful.”
19. Poor Old Lu – Sin – Sin is not my favorite Poor Old Lu record, that would be Sit and Stare, but Sin is essential in the Chrindie discography.
18. Seven Day Jesus – The Hunger – Equally inspired by early 90s rock like Weezer and Radiohead, Seven Day Jesus made an album in 1996 that is mostly without a match in CCM, a smart collection of songs about man’s relationship with God. It goes basically unheard.
17. Poor Old Lu – Sit and Stare – Before Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk was in Poor Old Lu. That makes sense, Poor Old Lu’s grungy Pac NW spiritual crooning mirrors Enigk’s. And while Enigk went on to get more polished and less Christian, Poor Old Lu stayed firmly within the CCM market and made the really good Sit and Stare. Strangely, it is basically a VHS release, but happens to have the best Poor Old Lu songs.
16. Scatered Few – Sin Disease – Sin Disease, Allan Aguirre’s masterpiece from 1990, is a hallmark for Christian punk music. It nods to the LA punk scene with plenty of cues from Bad Brains. Though the actual music of Sin Disease is not as interesting as the circumstances surrounding its context in CCM. Aguirre would play at non-Christian venues, open for non-Christian bands, and most unforgivably, admit to smoking pot while making this record.
15. Adam Again – Dig – Gene Eugene was a Chrindie all-star producer, working on numerous albums like Motorcycle, Everybody Makes Mistakes, Cush, but Eugene was also a talented songwriter as part of the Lost Dogs and leader of Adam Again, his own band. Vocally, Gene Eugene shared a decent amount in common with Michael Stipe. This album should find a home with any fan of that Athens band. The title track alone is the worth the price of admission.
14. Caedmon’s Call – 40 Acres – 40 Acres is adult rock. It has some bluegrass aspirations and some folk threads, but it’s mostly just ‘normal’ music. But it reminds me of my first love. So, you know, go figure.
13. MxPx – Pokinatcha – If The Monster Who Ate Jesus is the most compelling Chrindie punk record ever made, Pokinatcha is certainly the most influential. A couple of teenagers from the water-soaked bay town of Bremerton, Washington took cues from Stiff Little Fingers through Green Day and made a record of importance to CCM and the general public alike. Aaron Sprinkle of Poor Old Lu produced it, but his production was not as important as the youthful vigor from these Washington boys who wanted to sing about how much they loved God and how girls were always breaking their heart.
12. Amy Grant – Heart in Motion – Amy Grant made a bunch of great pop records in the 80s: Unguarded, Lead Me On, Age to Age, Straight Ahead, all great examples on how to make a memorable CCM record without affectation. Then along came the 90s and a fissure occurred in her career. Picking up more and more of the songwriting slack, Grant, now on A&M records, made her most wide-reaching album with Heart in Motion, containing her most popular single, “Baby, Baby.” Though after she divorced her husband around that time, the CCM industry would banish her, more or less. Still, listen to Heart in Motion. It’s damn good.
11. Fluffy – Go, Fluffy, Go – Released under the Voice of the Youth imprint of Blond Vinyl, used to cover fringe bands, Go is an enigma, but a good one. Many of the songs were either written by Knott himself or by a veritable mile long list of who’s who under a host of aliases: Oxy yum tum Magillicuddy, Gilgamesh Magillicuddy, Beans, Chrissy, along real artists like Joy Electric, SF59, Joe Christmas, The Choir, Duraluxe, Breakfast with Amy. And while the sound was equally hard to pin down, through it all, with Knott’s uniting hand, Go remains a treasured piece of pop music for Chrindie fans. Worth owning, if only for the remake of “Jessie’s Girl.”
10. Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever – I cannot talk about Five Iron Frenzy objectively. If I could, I’d put all the FIF albums on this list. If it were 1999 again, I would say now…”I want to move to Denver. I want to be Reese Roper. I want to marry Leanor Ortega. I want “Beautiful Day” to play out our wedding.” Etc and so on.
9. Royal – My Dear – Royal, a Norwegian pop band signed to Tooth and Nail records in the late 90s, had its roots in black/death metal. But after Emil Nikolaisen, the band’s main songwriter, joined forces with his sister Elvira and put her on vocals, the band took on an almost Kim Gordonesque tone. Produced by Daniel Smith, this record is for people who say they like Sonic Youth, but never actually listen to them.
8. The Julies – Lovelife – An unheard six song EP, this is some of the best jangly Manchester sounding rock to come out of the 90s. Nearly equal parts Television Personalities, Simple Minds and Ride, The Julies made a couple of EPs which are criminally unknown. Lovelife is a gorgeous little record.
7. Joe Christmas – North to the Future – If he ever heard this, I imagine Stephen Malkmus would be proud. Though I doubt he ever has, or will. This is a lo-fi album full of hooks, relentless in its genius. And while it may be not as seminal as III, Slanted and Enchanted, or Bee Thousand, it is good. It really is.
6. L.S.U. – Grape Prophet – There is only one man uniquely qualified to write a concept album meant to criticize a sect of Christians with melodic aplomb. Mike Knott was that man, a prophet, a madman who wrote some of the most insane, beautiful, and, some would say, important music of the last 20 years.
5. Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay – This album basically created the template for what we know as CCM music. Take that as you will.
4. Blaster the RocketMan – The Monster Who Ate Jesus – Not a lot of people are unaware of Christian band who channeled Pere Ubu, Jello Biafra, Gordon Gano, Man or Astro-Man, G.G. Allin, The Sex Pistols, and Devo. But not a lot of people know about Blaster the Rocket Man. A wonderfully absurd punk band from Indiana, they released four records, all on Boot to Head Records, save for The Monster Who Ate Jesus on Matt Wignall’s (of Havalina) Jackson Rubio label. And this is a covetously good record.
3. D.C. Talk – Jesus Freak – I have no doubt this is most undervalued album of the 90s. Brittle Siren and Motorcycle are at least lionized by Chrindies, but Jesus Freak does not even enjoy critical praise from the underground Chrinide movement. Go listen to “Colored People” or “In the Light” or “What if I Stumble” and become a believer…of D.C. Talk
2. Mike Knott – Screaming Brittle Siren – Screaming Brittle Siren is Mike Knott at Knott’s best.
1. Daniel Amos – Motorcycle – I am not using hyperbole when I compare this to Abbey Road or Pet Sounds or Surfer Rosa. Some of the Terry Taylor’s work is mired in the production of the time, but Motorcycle steered clear of those cheesy sounds and traded them in for dizzying, melting, timeless melodies. Buy it today.