Our feature today comes from two brothers who started making music in their teens, first as a new wave/post-punk band called Morella’s Forest (no, not that one), and then an immensely quirky synth-pop group called Dance House Children, before parting ways and forming two of the most legendary, creative, and prolific Chrindie groups ever–Joy Electric and Starflyer 59. Yes, we are talking about none other and Ronnie and Jason Martin.
In the early 1990s an independent label emerged (technically started much earlier but with very limited distribution) called Blonde Vinyl. My friends and I would scoop up literally anything they put out, from punk to goth to alternative, experimental, or whatever. Dance House Children fell firmly into the synth-pop camp, but there wasn’t (and still isn’t) anything quite like it. At times mimicking the rave craze of that era, and at other moments channeling shoegaze and baggy or madchester sounds, DHC simultaneously blazed new trails *and* wore their influences on their sleeves. “Once Upon Your Lips” features much of what was great about both aspects and serves as the perfect precursor to the directions that Ronnie and Jason would go with their respective bands.
Jesus as a whole was a beautifully strange album, not only stylistically but also thematically. Its upfront title might suggest that the songs were fully of theological treatises or sermonic lyrics–neither of which was the case. Instead were songs about romance, flowers, the beauty of the created world, and very often we didn’t really know what the cryptic songs were about.
Was the album title a misnomer? I offer a resounding “no.” The Martin brothers (or The Brothers Martin, per their 2007 creative reunion) have always been about creativity and artistic expression filtered through the eyes of the Christian faith, even when it wasn’t obvious. Jesus as an album is a celebration of all of life, and points to the Creator of all that is good. In my own journey as a young man entering adulthood, confused about a lot of things concerning life and love, hormones flowing, head and heart full of dreams, Dance House Children provided a soundtrack not to my angst (grunge bands were doing that), but to my romantic heart: my hope for a future love that was not yet realized, my eyes to all the beauty in the created world, and my ears to melody and poetry.