The 100 Best Christian Albums Of The 90s

Monster Who Ate Jesus

100. Donderfliegen – Digital Priests – These guys make the list because they were the first and only Nazi Christian band.  Okay, so they’re weren’t Nazis – with a name like Donderfliegen…- they were just a band that mimicked the German heavy metal disco of Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten. For CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), it was pretty unique.

99. Sandi Patty – The Finest Moments –  Before a philandering controversy which got her, more or less, ex-communicated from CCM, Patty released The Finest Moments, showcasing her incredible range. Really, in the 90s, Patty reigned over every female CCM artist, save for perhaps Amy Grant.

98. The Echoing Green – Defend Your Joy With a band name taken from a William Blake poem, The Echoing Green were a mildly successful female-fronted – on Defend Your Joy – unit. Joey Belville, their spiritual center and main songwriter, always wrote dreamy yet competent synth pop, existing in an ether between “Chrindie” (Christian indie) and mainstream CCM.

97. Danielson Famile – A Prayer for Every Hour – With 24 tracks, each denoting, literally, a prayer for every hour of the day, Prayer is not the best Danielson album. That would probably be  Fetch the Compass Kids. But it is Danielson’s most important. Daniel Smith, a preacher’s kid, went to Rutgers, majored in music, then this was his senior music project. He’s been releasing unorthodox pop albums ever since.

96. Violet Burning – Violet Burning – I’ve been to a Violet Burning show where maybe 15 people showed up. It was in a church basement in Sioux Falls and a youth pastor did the sound. Mike Pritzl played my favorite Violet Burning song, “Moon Radio,” by request. And I didn’t have to shout, he just asked what we wanted to hear. He let a kid in the audience come up and play guitar for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as Sam West played drums and Pritzl sang. The early 00s, man, a different time.

95. Chevelle  Point #1 Produced by Steve Albini, Point #1 was released on Steve Taylor’s Squint, home to Sixpence None the Richer and L.A. Symphony. Chevelle was the hard rock ratio of the label and they did it pretty well, peaking with Wonder What’s Next.

94. Frodus – Conglomerate International – Frodus were the bad boys of the Chrindie rock world. They drank, smoked, had sex, and at the same time made cerebral, guitar-driven math rock albums on Tooth and Nail Records in the mid to late 90s.

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 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’s still Jurado’s best, I think.

92. Grammatrain – Flying –  Grammatrain made driving, radio-ready rock records a la Helmet and Smashing Pumpkins. Flying was the more polished of their two releases and would fit in modern radio, even 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. Frass’ leader was Fred T. Friend, the same guy who fronted Breakfast with Amy. This album was more The Band ala R.L. Burnside than the Smiths sung by Gordon Gano, which was Breakfast with Amy.

90. Undercover  –  Balance of Power  – Balance of Power is one of the more name checked punk records in CCM, though, really, it sounds like a hair metal album, which isn’t a glowing recommendation. But it is important to note. These guys were the cooler version of Petra or Stryper, if such a thing is possible.

89. Starflyer 59 – Everbody Makes Mistakes – On this, Jason Martin’s whispery coos are offset by his distorted Talk Talk/late 80s alt guitar work. His next album, 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’s an excellent precursor.

88. Velour 100 – Of Colour Bright Boasting the classic 4AD sound, Velour 100 released two great 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 and vocalists like Tess Wiley of Sixpence, Sdyney Morella of Morella’s Forest, and Karin Oliver of, again, His Name is Alive. This album is overlooked.

87. Aunty Betty’s – Aunty Betty’s Aunty Betty’s is not my favorite Knott side project but it is important to his discography. This was Knott’s outlet for his harder side, almost sounding like the Foo Fighters meets Jeff Buckley meets Husker Du.  In the 90s, it seemed, Knott could do anything.

86. 16 Horsepower – Sackcloth and Ashes – David Eugene Edwards was like a Nick Cave of the CCM genre, and Sackcloth and Ashes was his best album. Before Steve Taylor joined the band, Edwards and Pascal Edwards made this romping, symbolic, almost literary, album. 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 one is full of skeletal folk songs – not unlike 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 those like Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate, the Promise Ring, et al, Brandtson made dissonant, emotive records in the late 90s. Fallen Star Collection really does not have a great stand out track like “Blindspot” – from their debut album – but it does have a consistent stream of songs that are, at times, cloying, but other times sentimentally melodic.

82. ZAO – Liberte Ex Inferis  – This is ZAO’s best album as well as their most experimental. Liberte Ex Inferis was once, and perhaps still is, a beacon for struggling Christian metalheads. And notorious for when Tooth and Nail censored Jesse Smith’s tattoo – a naked lady on his arm – in the liner notes.

81. Joy Electric – Robotrock   “Mono Synth,” all day all night, “Mono Synth.”

80. Charlie Peacock – Love Life “Kiss Me Like a Woman” was once a scandalous song, though Charlie Peacock is more well-known for songs other bands made successful, like D.C. Talk’s “In the Light” and Switchfoot’s “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 was one of Velvet Blue’s shining stars, boasting a fluttery, hazy indie pop sound, maybe in the vein of Pavement with baroque accouterments a la Of Montreal.

78. Stavesacre – Absolutes –  This is one of the first ‘hard’ albums I ever bought. I am compelled to include it.

77. Sincerely Paul – Grieve Plodding and pulsating gothic rock that looks to men like Peter Murphy, Robert Smith, and John Lydon, Grieve is a singular record within CCM. Other Chrindie artists attempted constructing something as dark as this – Savior Machine, Dead Artist Syndrome – but none came as close as this record.

76. Driver 8 – Watermelon – This album makes the list mainly because of “Waiting for Godot,” one of the top 20 singles of the 90s. The rest of the album is second rate Gin Blossoms fare but “Waiting for Godot” should have made these guys millionaires.  More Crayon than Better Than Ezra, it’s perfect.

75. Blindside – Blindside Swedish metal is not in short supply, but Swedish Christian metal is, or least was, not so well-stocked until Blindside came along. They infused their NT worldview into post-hardcore, and it was pretty damn good. This album is the rawest of their output and gave fodder for Lindskog’s onstage antics, which became a highlight for kids at Christian festivals. Blindside would write better songs – “King of the Closet” – better albums – like Silence – but none are as important within CCM as this.  

74. Mortal – Fathom – Some facts. Terry Taylor of Daniel Amos produced Fathom along with Jerome and Jyro of Mortal.  Mortal would turn into Fold Zandura, an okay CCM band that was almost like a techno Zwan starring Jerome/Jyro and Frank Lenz.  Lenz is a drummer who worked with Starflyer 59 to Daniel Amos to Cush to the Supertones to Roper. Lenz would also go on to make solo records: 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 kind of Faith No More as inspired by the early funky rock of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

73. Pedro the Lion – Whole EP –  Bazan would get much better. But this was so influential to so many alt Christian kids, it is impossible not to mention.

72. Waterdeep –   Everyone’s Beautiful –  Crossing between Lisa Loeb and Counting Crows, Everyone’s Beautiful is a deft chunk of music. Released in 1999 on Squint right before its downfall in the early part of the 00s, Everyone’s Beautiful went 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 human being like, you know, wanting to have sex – “Isn’t Sex a Wonderful Thing?” – and doing drugs. Boomerang is their best love letter, not sounding unlike Blind Melon.

70.  The Choir – Circle Slide –  For all intents and purposes, these guys were 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, Jason Martin on his first 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 kind of supergroup. Gift Horse is what the first Daniel Amos record tried to be, a rockist take on country ala Flying Burrito Brothers.

68. The 77s – Sticks and Stones – This is Mike Roe’s height as a songwriter. 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 you liked hardcore, Strongarm was your favorite band. Leaders in the straight edge movement, Strongarm stood 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 win MVP 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.

65. Roadside Monument –  Eight Hours Away from Being a Man  Roadside never shied away from controversy, writing songs with titles like “Sperm Ridden Burden” and “OJ Simpson House Auction.” So the band was perpetually in hot water with the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and their records were often pulled from the Christian bookstore shelves. This is their best album, a mathy frantic display with Joan of Arc style vocals.

64. Poor Old Lu – Pictures of the 8th WonderTaking their name from a line in a C.S. Lewis book, Poor Old Lu set themselves up for CCM success from the very beginning. It didn’t hurt either that they were fresh faced youngsters in Seattle in the 90s.

63. Havalina Rail Company Russian Lullabies Matt Wignall, the lead singer of Havalina, sounded like Jerry Garcia married with Jonathan Richman and constructed jazzy melancholic hodgepodges about Jesus and lost loves. Russian Lullabies has an Eastern European flair. Almost like an early Beirut, though I would say better.

62. Ninety Pound Wuss – Short Hand Operation – Before he went on to flip off the crowd at Tomfest in 2001 and play with Damien Jurado in the strange side project, Raft of Dead Monkeys, Jeff Bettger wrote Short Hand Operation as Ninety Pound Wuss. Some of his later work was interesting, like Real Panic Formed under the Suffering of Hideous Thieves alias, but nothing tops Short Hand Operation, a snotty, bratty, chorus-laden opus.

61. Halo Friendlies – Halo Friendlies – Ginger Reyes, forever and ever, amen.

60. Living Sacrifice – Reborn This is not Living Sacrifice’s best record. That would be the percussive and tribal Hammering Process. Still, this is brutally heavy, a technically-sound, pounding album.

59. Luxury – Amazing and Thank You   This is sort of the perfect marriage between the twee pop of Tullycraft and the radio rock of Gin Blossoms, an album layered in a stack of distorted guitars and pretty vocals. It’s a 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, though nothing as good as this.

58. Ghoti Hook – Banana Man  – Adam Neubauer and Joel Bell were once, for my money, the funniest guys in rock. Apart from their antics, Ghoti Hook made lively pop-punk, and Banana Man was their best with memorable singles like “My Bike,” “Running Away,” and “Love By the Numbers.” Unfortunately, this was marred with hollow production and never received any attention outside the small CCM hemisphere.

57. Black and White World – Life Explodes Black and White World was obviously influenced by R.E.M. and, it seems, Kings X.  Life Explodes on Blond Vinyl is drastically out of print now, but worth digging up if you’re into CCM history.

56. Jacob’s Trouble – Knock, Breath, Shine With Terry Taylor at the helm, Knock, Breath, Shine has a mastery of musical production and melody. Another Blond Vinyl band, Jacob’s Trouble played on the classic pop rock theme: The Zombies, Hollies, etc. Another tough one 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 for Danielson. At the time, Daniel Smith was about to shed the homemade feel of his records for a more professional sound, with Steve Albini producing the next record, Fetch the Compass Kids.

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. The End of Ring Wars is not their best record, but it does show the beginning of what they would accomplish. Appleseed Cast would morph into a confident Mogwai by way of Braid kind of thing. Always liked them. Probably still would.

53. The O.C. Supertones – Supertones Strike Back – These guys made ska-rap, so it could be said this album makes the list because of emotional reasons, but hidden in the novelty of the rapping ska, 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 photogenic guitarist/surfer MTV VJ Peter King and a lead singer who happened to be a hot Christian, Melissa Brewer, was important for their cross-over appeal. Even while singing directly about God, they were still able to make a leap over to Atlantic for their final album. Somewhere, I think, David Berg is happy.

51. Arthur – Loneliness Is Bliss – Going by the middle name of MxPx’ Mike Herrera, Arthur is a six song collection of slow burn emo tunes by way of some punkish pop. This EP as a whole is not particularly special, in fact, Let’s Play House, is a stronger album, but Loneliness is Bliss makes it on the list for one reason, “Amazingly True.” That song is the jam. It’s the song for your Christian breakup. It’s the song for the chaste (or full of chaste grinding) making up. It’s 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 one album at the very end of the 90s. These guys did not 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. Some of Hot Water Music’s intensity, Dropkick Murphy’s brogue sing-along, and The Specials skanking guitar riffs.

49. Creed – My Own Prison – Can’t help it.

48. Lost Dogs – Little Red Riding Hood – Little Red Riding Hood is a bit more ecumenical than Gift Horse, which was really a Terry Taylor solo album. The rest of the group contributes here with tracks like  “Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson,” by Mike Roe, and the solid “Jimmy,” by Gene Eugene. Another highlight is the cover of the Beatles’ “I’m A Loser.”

47. Joy Electric – CHRISTIANSongs – Around the mid to late 90s it became fashionable to diminish the fact that you were playing in a Christian band. And while some did this for commercial reasons, others did it as a genuine heart conviction, believing there was no such thing as a Christian band, only Christian people. Either way, no one wanted to say they working as a Christian band. But Ronnie Martin was cavalier, if nothing less. And CHRISTIANSongs is rife with overt themes. It’s his most political album and his best of the 90s, save for Melody.

 46. Rivulets & Violets – Rivulets & Violets – Taking cues from Sixpence the Richer and  Cocteau Twins and Cub, Rivulets & Violets is a nice addition to the Five Minute Walk stable. The label would go to release albums from 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. And my contention is that his next three albums are his strongest, The Fashion Focus, Everybody Makes Mistakes, culminating in the seminal, Leave Here a Stranger in 2001.

 44. Black Eyed Sceva – Way Before the Flood For religious fans of Gentleman era Afghan Whigs. Though it’s fair to say Sceva was on the opposite end of the ‘moral’ spectrum as the Whigs. The band got its name from a verse in the book of 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 that became The Hold Steady, Puller was another post-Nirvana unit doing that dirty and punkish rock and roll. Mike Lewis – lead singer/songwriter – did it confidently and smartly enough, blending his 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 bands like Bush, Everclear, and Candlebox would as they rode the Cobain wave.

42. MxPx – Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo –  In this, Mike Herrera points the finger at his Christian record label, 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 the contract that MxPx signed as 15 year old kids as being dubiously in favor of Tooth and Nail. Aside from the politics, Slowly is the most satisfying MxPx album, taking some the grown up sensibility of their later work- starting with Ever Passing Moment – and the spry punk energy of their earlier, literally teenage, stuff.

41. Dear Ephesus – Absent Sounds of Me Along with Appleseed Cast, Dear Ephesus stood on the outside of Chrindie, 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, unusual in a good way, emotive rock music, influenced by Fugazi to The Posies.

40. Lassie Foundation – California Lassie Foundation was always more 14 Iced Bears MBV, though that didn’t stop them from being tagged a clone. Really, though, I think, 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. California predicts the sunny magic 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 his great solo LPs, Screaming Brittle Siren and A Rocket and A Bomb, Knott released a dud, Fluid, on Alarma Records. It sounded and acted like a Carman record, which, for Mike Knott in the 90s, was a serious misstep. So when Strip Cycle appeared on Tooth and Nail, fans were not expecting another masterpiece. Then, Knott almost gave it them. Cycle is an acoustic twister, tumultuous and on point. For fans, Strip Cycle was a glimpse into a soul more messed up than their own.

38. Soul Junk – 1956 – There really is an apostasy of rap music within CCM. LA Symphony, Grits, and Cross Movement… Soul Junk, however, was deep and wide, making Clouddead type stuff. And honestly, they still could be, and we wouldn’t have any 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.” Really, it could be right there with Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” or Guided by Voices “I am a Scientist” or Sebadoh’s “On Fire.” Shame Joe Christmas never received any college radio play. They deserved it.

36. SS Bountyhunter –  SS Bountyhunter – One of the more avant-garde bands in the Chrindie scene, S.S. Bounyhunter had a penchant for acting out their albums during their live shows. And while their 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 off of playing guitar with ZAO, Brett Detar joined Juliana Theory and proceeded to record an album of Sensefield-like grandeur and Jimmy Eat World pop and even a little bit of Saves the Day whine. Detar sang in generalities about his life as a Christian which afforded him a deal at Epic for Juliana’s third album. That one was a complete and utter flop. This one is still great.

34. Plague of Ethyls – Plague of Ethlys With Steve Hindalong of The Choir, Plaque of Ethyls made beautiful music and were beautiful (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,” they incorporated Sonic Youth experimentation with a nice pop sensibility.

33. Black Carnation – It Remains the Same – If you look for Jeff Seaver, one-time leader of Black Carnation, you will find him in Michigan at the Center for Inquiry. In CCM terms, Jeff Seaver ‘backslid’ from his days in the post-punk Black Carnation. I don’t care either way. I just like this album.

32. Joy Electric – Melody – Ronnie Martin is known as a synth nerd. I mean, the man wrote a song about his synth. This album, it’s basically synth porn.

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 – and is a 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. And, while alternating between the tuneful Sarah McLachlan, the histrionic Jewel, or the tough Melissa Etheridge, she always sang about God. Which not so surprisingly disallowed her widespread fame.

29. Dance House Children – Jesus – Before the accolades and insular fame the Chrindie circuit can allow, there was the Dance House Children for Jason and Ronnie Martin. Elements of what the brothers would later go on to do are here, a kind of fey Sparks/ Scritti Politi vibe with some cheesy Pet Shop Boys effects. It is a naive record, in a way, but important to any fan of SF59 or Joy E.

28. Prayer Chain – Mercury –  I liken this to what abbots might produce if they were taking Quaaludes and if they really liked early noise records and the vocals of Robert Smith.

27. Danielson Famile – Tell Another Joke at the Choppin Block –  Daniel Smith is a Chrindie svengali, Tiny Tim mixed with Black Francis. And next to Fetch the Compass Kids or maybe Ships, he hasn’t done anything better.

26. Newsboys – Take Me to Your Leader –  Newsboys made some good tunes, and almost all of them are on this album. “Breakfast,” “Take Me to Your Leader,” “Lost the Plot,” “God is Not a Secret” are all well-crafted pop songs, left for those who wanted to mine into CCM granite.

25. Mike Knott – A Rocket and A Bomb – There’s a story Mike Knott isn’t a Christian at all. There’s a story Mike Knott was high on coke, weed, and meth while playing at Creation. There’s a story Mike Knott once killed a man. Okay, I might have made that one up. Whatever the stories are, Mike Knott was once a talented and active musician. And A Rocket and A Bomb was his most mellow record, standing at odds with his screeching Aunt Betty’s output and his sometimes raging L.S.U. stuff.

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 bands from Fluffy, Plague of Ethels, Sass O’ Frass Tunic, and Duraluxe.  Everything was Beautiful is a great album influenced, I think, by 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 fans who feared Martin’s change to a ‘sunnier’ musician. For me, I think this sharpened Martin into a better one. It’s a great record and holds up well. 

22. Audio Adrenaline – Bloom –  If it hadn’t been an unapologetic worship album, this is one of those albums that could 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 swoons and southern bellows.  “Never Going to Be as Big as Jesus” is disastrously good. Almost like Audio Adrenaline saying, “Okay, world, we know you’re never going to hear this, but we’re still going to make a perfect pop single.”  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 music in the 90s for those looking for a Christian alternative to the indie-Americana of R.E.M.

20. Plankeye – Commonwealth –  Like a bombastic Collective Soul mediating more specifically on the interplay between God and man, Commonwealth gave its hooks in spades. The bouncy “B.C.,” the crumbly head-bobber “Placement”, the hand-clapping “Commonwealth” and one of the best singles of the 90s, period, “Bicycle.”

19. Poor Old Lu – Sin –  It’s weird to me how this wasn’t more popular.

18. Seven Day Jesus – The Hunger  – Equally inspired by early 90s giants like Weezer and Radiohead, Seven Day Jesus made an album mostly without a match in CCM, a smart collection 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.  And while Enigk went on to get more polished and prog and less Christian, Poor Old Lu stayed firmly within CCM and made this. Strangely enough, it is basically a VHS release, containing the best Poor Old Lu songs.

16. Scaterd Few – Sin Disease  The actual music of Sin Disease isn’t as interesting to me as the circumstances surrounding its release and context in CCM.  Allan Aguirre was a CCM rebel, playing at non-Christian venues, opening for non-Christian bands, and, most unforgivably in that world, admitting to smoking pot while making this record.

15. Adam Again – Dig  – Gene Eugene was a Chrindie all-star producer, working on  Motorcycle, Everybody Makes Mistakes, Cush. Though Eugene was also a talented songwriter himself as part of the Lost Dogs and as the leader of this band. The title track here is worth the price of admission.

14. Caedmon’s Call –  This reminds me of my first love. So, you know, it has to be here.

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 town of Bremerton, Washington culled cues from Stiff Little Fingers through Green Day and made a record for both CCM and the general public. These teens just wanted to sing about how much they loved God and how girls were always breaking their heart. And I think they did alright.

12. Amy Grant – Heart in Motion – Amy Grant made some nice records in the 80s: Unguarded, Lead Me On, Age to Age, Straight Ahead. Then along came the 90s and a fissure occurred in Amy Grant’s career. Picking up more of the songwriting slack, Grant, now on A&M, made her most wide-reaching album with Heart in Motion, containing her most popular single, “Baby, Baby.” Listen to this. It’s damn good.

11. Fluffy – Go, Fluffy, Go – Released under the Voice of the Youth imprint of Blond Vinyl used to cover the fringe bands, Go is one of those good enigmas. Many of the songs were either written by Knott himself or with a mile long list of who’s who under a host of aliases. Oxy yum tum Magillicuddy, Gilgamesh Magillicuddy, Beans, Chrissy, along with artists from Joy Electric, Starflyer, Joe Christmas, The Choir, Duraluxe, Breakfast with Amy. Yeah, a cluster. Through it all, though, with Knott’s uniting hand, Go would become an artifact for Chrindie fans.

10. Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever I cannot talk about Five Iron Frenzy objectively. They were my favorite band for quite some time. If I could, I’d put all their albums on this list. If it were 1998 again, I’d 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.”

9. Royal – My Dear – Royal, a Norwegian band, had its roots in black/death metal. But after Emil Nikolaisen, the main songwriter, joined forces with his sister Elvira and put her on vocals, Royal became something else entirely. Produced by Daniel Smith, this is for people who say they like Sonic Youth but never actually listen to them.

8. The Julies Lovelife –  An unheard six song EP from a couple of New Jersey guys is some of the best jangly Manchester sounding rock to come out of the 90s. Like a mix between Television Personalities and Ride, The Julies made a couple of EPs which are, truly, 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. This is a lo-fi album 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 is very good.

6. L.S.U.–Grape Prophet – There is one man uniquely qualified to write a concept pop album meant to criticize a sect of Christians with melodic aplomb. Mike Knott was exactly that man.

5. Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay – This basically created the template for what we know as CCM music.  Take that as you will.

4. Blaster the Rocket Man – The Monster Who Ate Jesus You may not be aware of a Christian band channeling Pere Ubu, Jello Biafra, Gordon Gano, Man or Astro-Man, G.G. Allin, The Sex Pistols, and Devo. Well, if you weren’t, now you are. There will never be another Blaster the Rocket Man (or boy, they switched from boy to man). That’s okay, though, as long this wacko science fiction take on Christianity is out there.

3. D.C. Talk – Jesus Freak – I have no doubt this is most undervalued album of the 90s. I mean, at least Brittle Siren and Motorcycle are lionized by Chrindies. But just go listen to “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 his best. And in that time, that was better than most.

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 was mired in the production of the time, but Motorcycle steered clear of those cheesy sounds and traded them in for dizzying, timeless melodies. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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