These are my 25 Best Christian Rock Albums of 1995. This was a monumental year for Christian Music and really the beginning of what was to come over the course of the next 2 decades. Check out my list below along with a playlist featuring some of the songs.
1. Black Eyed Sceva – Way Before The Flood
In a music scene seemingly over run with metal, hardcore, and punk rock, Black Eyed Sceva rose above all the noise to chart a path all their own. Their music transcends all time, space, and stylistic changes of the past 2 1/2 decades to stand as a unifying force of spiritually guided rock n’ roll. Jeremy Post wrote lyrics that connected with a listener on a much deeper, emotional level which the higher schooler in me at the time really embraced. It sparked thought, understanding, and a real focus on getting closer to God through music without finger pointing and worship baiting. What Black Eyed Sceva did on that debut record was nothing short of extraordinary and something that 25 years later should definitely be applauded. Go listen to any song on this record (‘Handshake’, ‘Confirmation Day’, ‘Way Before The Flood’, etc) and tell me you don’t choke up or feel immense pride in knowing that “yeah these guys were thought provoking Christian songwriters”. One of those bands you weren’t afraid to share with your friends and one that would make people turn heads. “Way Before The Flood” was maybe a bit on the simple side musically, much do to the fact that they were just a 3 piece outfit with a modest recording budget. It didn’t matter in the end though because 25 years later, I’m still listening. I’m still listening…..
2. The Prayer Chain – Mercury
One can’t mention The Prayer Chain and not mention this ground breaking, musically defining 2nd full length record by a band most people hadn’t heard of. Oh my gosh was this amazing. An awe inspiring collection of songs that lured you in with lush arrangements, moody yet alluring vocals, and songwriting that was a cut above all the rest in the music scene. I remember being really struck by each of the instruments and especially the percussion on this record. I was a drummer and so this album hit me hard. From the opening track of “Humb” that leads into “Waterdogs”, you just knew you had discovered something entirely original and unlike anything the “Christian” market had heard up until that point. The reason these guys don’t get enough love from websites attempting these sorts of “Lists” is because they are lazy and probably young journalists with no real connection to that scene many of us grew up through. It’s an often forgotten time period for Christian Music and 1995 was year unlike most other in terms of diversity of talent. The Prayer Chain on this “Mercury” record was the band at their peak. It’s a remarkable collection of “alternative rock” (can we still say that?) in a time of budding creativity and freedom to branch out from the Contemporary landscape that permeated the music scene in the 90’s. These songs radiate with intensity and many were super long. A rock band is brave when they venture out beyond the 3-4.5 min radio single limit and produce songs on their own terms. “Creole”, “Sky High”, “Shiver” “Bendy Line”, and “Sun Stoned” are my favorites and for good reason, they are all over 5 minutes in length!. Seriously, click this bandcamp link from the band and give “Mercury” a listen today.
3. Strongarm – Atonement
How great is this record? This band were true pioneers of melodic, heavy, hardcore music. At that time we all had Snapcase, Bold, Mouthpiece, Chain of Strength, Earth Crisis, Eighteen Visions, Strife, and the old school crowd like Sick of it All, Madball, Agnostic Front, etc but Strongarm stood apart from the pack. They had seemingly “Christian” lyrics, heavy but melodic instrumentation, and players who could actually master their instruments. Jason B. was a monstrous vocalist who commanded the stage (and studio) with a sense of righteous anger that was both loving and menacing at the same time. The opener, “Division”, was the perfect introduction to a band most hadn’t heard yet. They had their demos but we had Tooth & Nail and their widespread distribution arrangement and ad campaigns to make us a fan instantly. I was lucky enough to see them a couple of times on their tours out to California and I was blown away. I feel as if they had stuck around maybe a bit longer, they would have been the biggest band in the realm of hardcore and metal. They could have even reinvented themselves a few times in 20 years to become an unstoppable metal force. Sadly, like all good stories, their chapter was stamped as finished in what seemed like just a few years. We had our whirlwind romance with Strongarm and like dust to the wind, it was over. Everybody talks reunions these days but Strongarm with Jason and Chris sharing vocal duties would be absolutely insane. It’ll never happen but one can only wish, right? “Division”, “Trials”, “Count The Cost”, and “Stand Together” are some of my faves off this record. I even own both albums on Vinyl because of my affection for this band and where they took the scene. Legends.
4. The Blamed – Frail
“Feeding The Ignorant” starts this album off with a frenetic burst of unimaginable aggression and passion. “Frail” followed the 1994 debut full length, “21”, with a new lead vocalist by the name of Jeremy Moffat and a more fine tuned punk rock-thrash-metal sound unlike the straight forward punk rock of the past. This album was a defining moment not only for the band but the scene at large. You can’t find a person of that time period who was into heavy music that didn’t appreciate “Frail”. These were fast, heavy songs with Jeremy’s unrelenting screaming that was like a chainsaw that wouldn’t stop cutting long after the chain breaks. It just oozed passion and that influence was felt throughout all 11 tracks. The super group of sorts which also featured Jim Chaffin who was a member of The Crucified for years alongside Blamed founding member, Bryan Gray, just delivered the goods in the most spectacular of ways. Jim’s drumming is unmistakable and some of the best in the scene. The Blamed even covered “Guy in a Suit and the Pope” (The Crucified) on this record and it is beyond fantastic, a perfect nod to the legends of Christian Thrash Punk Metal. “Frail” was and still is a classic by any definition of the word. The fact that the band has been able to carry on their brand of rock music for nearly 3 decades is proof that style and songwriting aren’t age specific. Don’t ever count a good band out. The first half of this record is mind blowing and by the time the 11th track hits, the entirety of songs has been a unifying force of music perfection. Thank you to The Blamed for keeping it real and just being themselves at a time of immense music discovery. Now go listen to their latest record “The Church is Hurting People”.
5. Plankeye – The Spark
“Spill” started it off in 93′ which was re-released by T&N in 1994 as one of their first releases that year. “The Spark” was the band’s official label debut with a bigger sound and more defining elements, exclusive to the Plankeye style that would be developed over the next few records. Songs like “Open House”, “Tonight”, “Dichotomy”, “Three Fold Chord”, “Wings to Fly”, and the closer, “So Far From Home”, rank as my favorites off this album. Plankeye was probably the first underground Christian music band I ever saw live. We were all crammed into the local Jr. High School gymnasium filled wall to wall with merch booths and Scott wandering around meeting everyone. It was mind blowing for a young high school kid like myself. I hadn’t really ventured into the local scene at that point and was left glued to my radio and MTV for music advice. I was probably still going through my flannel obsessed grunge phase up until that point, mullet and all lol. So I saw this Plankeye band and their Bible verse quoting shirts referring to their name. I was enamored with them from day one, thinking Scott Silletta was the ultimate (non)Rock Star who filled me with this certain sense of joy and overwhelming hope. It’s weird how music can connect with us on a deeply personal level, but it does and it did, still does. “The Spark” set the stage for not only Plankeye to blow up but really grew the Tooth & Nail roster, diversifying it from so much of the underground punk rock and hardcore scenes. That’s why so many of us loved T&N back in the day, Brandon Ebel had a penchant for finding quality talent and diversifying the music he released, crossing over into endless genres and styles. What Plankeye did with The Spark was build upon past material while incorporating a more, dare I say, radio friendly and pop-punk leaning sound while staying true to that alt-rock scene of the early to mid-90s. It was like Sponge, Bush, Soul Asylum, meets Farside, Gameface, and Sense Field. Those last 3 were all local underground bands that deserve mention too for pioneering some of that underground So Cal sound. Plankeye checked all the boxes for an extremely likable, intensely passionate and radio friendly band that became local heroes for us here in Southern California. While Commonwealth still remains my favorite of the 4 “Scott Silletta Full Lengths”, this album really started it all and defined a band for years to come. By the way, watching them perform at a Christian Rock night at Knotts Berry Farm in 95′ alongside MxPx and Havalina Rail Co. with thousands of young, impressionable, eager music fans, was just so surreal and mind blowing on a whole other level. God Bless you Plankeye and forever shall your music reign true!
6. Sixpence None The Richer – This Beautiful Mess
“Angeltread” was my introduction to this band. I had seen their previous release at Christian bookstores but it didn’t really interest me for whatever reason. The minute I heard the first song on this record, I became a fan. Leigh’s soft spoken singing style mixed with that classic early 90’s alt rock style was out of this world. There wasn’t and still isn’t a band like Sixpence None The Richer. They were in a league all their own and quite simply, a phenomenon to witness. The band reached big success with their single “Kiss Me” which everyone in the world has heard by now but this album is what started my fascination for them. The band has released a few fantastic covers in the years since that are truly remarkable but the band has kind of fizzled out in recent years. The melancholy, poppy, almost gothic sounding album produced some excellent songs like “Angeltread”, “Bleeding”, “Drifting”, “Within a Room, Somewhere”, “Melting Alone”, “Disconnect”, “Maybe Tomorrow”. Journalists liked to lump this band together with acts like 10,000 Maniacs/Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLaughlin, Jewel, etc but I think they had more in common with The Cranberries, Veruca Salt, and Goo Goo Dolls than that sappy singer/songwriter stuff. This is a great album and one that should be looked up for your music discoverers.
7. Starflyer 59 – Gold
From the opening chords of “A House Wife Love Song” the music immediately dove into this sort of soft spoken, introspective, and entirely moody new sound. They were a Christian artist/band set to conquer the scene with a dose of original music meant to be consumed by music fans who were thirsting for the next big thing. Starflyer 59 blew minds with this record, this sound they helped cultivate. Yes, I am well aware there were other lesser known “shoegaze” acts around in the late 80’s and into the 90’s but Starflyer 59 had a songwriter by the name of Jason Martin and he, well, pretty much creatively explored the highs and lows of music styles for over 30 years without skipping a beat. I don’t mean to idolize Jason Martin but that man was and is still a creative genius that hasn’t stopped sharing his love of music for 3 decades now. How insane is “Gold”? If I hear one more lazy journalist bring up the “shoegaze” term when searching for adjectives to describe this unmistakable sound, I’m gonna throw down. It’s rock n’ roll in the moody spectrum. It is music that puts you in a zone and you can almost feel the padded walls surrounding you in a cocoon of love. Silver, “She’s The Queen Ep”, Le Vainquerer EP, “Gold”, and “Americana” were the perfect early introduction to this band’s work and started them down this path. By the time “Fashion Focus”, “Everyone Makes Mistakes”, and “Leave Here a Stranger” dropped, we were all ready and completely enamored with this band’s skills, Jason Martin in particular. This album is one huge wall of sound and I say that in the best of ways. Every song sort of ties together and weaves throughout, keeping you entertained the entire time. While writing this piece I tried searching for one bad song but there isn’t one. Every song works in a unique way by keeping you buckled into this enormous wave of all consuming sound, dropping you on your head by the last track. It’s like one of those records that both generates goosebumps during an awful scare and raising the hairs on your neck during that moment of discovering your favorite song. So I guess what I am trying to say is that Starflyer 59 elicits both terror and excitement at the same time? Well, if you could live out your dreams, “Gold” would be that scenario.
8. Focused – The Hope That Lies Within
The band surprised all Christian metalheads and fans alike by exploding on to the scene with their debut full length, “Bow”, in 1993/1994. It was the 2nd release on T&N and wowed most heavy music fans who hadn’t heard hardcore at that level as well as general market hardcore fans. This band appealed to people all across the music spectrum and those fans who existed beneath the surface in the underground hardcore scene loved this band for the most part. Sure, there were a select few that took issue with the band’s overt Christian lyrics but that didn’t stop them from loving on the band’s fiery hardcore music. Spirit Filled Hardcore was a term coined by Lead Vocalist and songwriter, Tim Mann, back in the early 90’s and has seemingly stuck in the decades that have followed. This little write up isn’t about “Bow” or even Spirit Filled Hardcore, it’s about that monumental sophomore follow up record, “The Hope That Lies Within”. Released in 1995 on Tooth & Nail Records, the record was a definite change up from past material and demos. A more melodic and dare I say “Emo” influence took shape, guiding the band from the earlier brutal hardcore, in your face, sonic attack. This was still heavy but also very melodic and somber. There were long, extended songs like “Consumer”, and “My Blood”, and even a cover of “Hurts to Ask” by Chain of Strength. The album was as diverse as hardcore could possibly get while maintaining that signature Focused sound. The lineup was also a bit different on this record with just Tim Mann, Dirk Lemmenes (Stavesacre), and Mike Merryman returning from the last album cycle. Andrew R., and Chris Bowden (The Merbabies) were fantastic players and their own unique skills brought in this new sound for Focused. I really believe that had the band continued building upon the sound of this record and even a bit of “Bow”, they would have been the biggest thing in not only “Christian Hardcore” but the entire genre of Hardcore at large. Sadly, the band broke up after their short run and the release of this album. They would go on to reunite briefly in 2000 and release a 3 song demo then call it quits until another reunion in 2009. You’re only as old as you feel and if Descendents, Bad Religion, Social D, Henry Rollins, as well as all those classic hardcore bands like Sick of it All, Madball, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, etc can play shows, then so can Focused. Come on guys, make it happen again. Favorite songs off this record is definitely “My Blood”, “Dead Sky”, “Red”, “Empty”, and “Consumer”. Songs ranged on the broke and spent consumer like culture of America, Abuse of the innocent, loss of innocence, and the redeeming blood of Jesus woven in throughout it all. It’s quite a catalyst of a record and one that shall forever cement this band at the top of Hardcore forever.
9. Spooky Tuesday – It’ll Never Fly Orville!
Spooky Tuesday were one of those bands that definitely flew under the radar for most. Outside of myself, it’s hard to find too many other music fans who still recall this group. It’s really tragic that the Christian Music scene is notorious for signing bands, tossing them out there to see what sticks, consuming, digesting, then spitting them back out and forgetting years later. The worst part is that when a record label goes down, closes up, ceases to exist, the albums and created works go “Out of Print”, a term so many of us love to hate. Spooky Tuesday were on Brainstorm Artists International, a label run by Gene Eugene who was in Adam Again, The Lost Dogs, etc and ran a sweet studio called The Green Room. He tragically passed away in the 00’s and his label releases have been mostly forgotten about. This release and Pspazz (see below) are mostly lost to the sands of time. Spooky Tuesday were a group of young teenagers who had an affection for Pearl Jam, Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, Counting Crows, and all that kick back style, acoustically leaning beachy songs, even a bit of Dakoda Motor Co. The group spawned the career of Jess Penner who has gone on to release a huge amount of solo and band work with her other music projects. I remain a strong fan of this band and especially this debut full length. The band released a couple more full lengths before calling it quits. “I Still Care”, “Spoken”, “Inside”, “Pain To What”, and “Homeless” are all great songs.
10. MxPx – Teenage Politics
The 2nd official full length length by those teenage punks known as MxPx released in 1995 on Tooth & Nail Records. I remember seeing these guys several times both before this record and after. They had improved upon their sound so much after “Pokinatcha” and continue to wow the punk rock crowd of today. They were one of the first “Christian” punk bands to break out and reach huge success in their scene (and beyond). The amazing thing to me is that this band of teenagers released like 3 or 4 records in their teens and loads more songs between 7″s and compilations. It was a huge fete. So on “Teenage Politics” they slowed it down a bit from the rough and raw aspects of Pokinatcha. The band was still a bit juvenile but so were all of the rest of us at that time. “Sugar Coated Poison Apple” started things off and it was really the perfect start to this album. I lost count on how many music videos were filmed for this album cycle. “Punk Rawk Show” was that defining punk rock moment for the band and scene at large. There is a reason this song is still played and closes out some of their shows still 25 years later. It’s a fun, fast, and smile inducing song filled with so much pent up teenage enthusiasm. For us mid-lifers, its that perfect nostalgic battle cry we will belt out on our way to senior homes in the years to come 😉 “Teenage Politics”, “Falling Down”, “Money Tree”, “Studying Humans”, “Something More”, “Different Things”, “Misunderstanding”, “Delores (My Girl Hates The IRA)” and that classic “Punk Rawk Show”, are some fun tracks and prepare you for that huge game changing album, “Life in General” that released the next year. Side note, “Delores (My Girl Hates the IRA)” is a fun song that serves as a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries fame, RIP.
11. Jars of Clay – Self Titled
This album was a definite time stamp of the early 90’s. With it’s dancy-pop, electronic type beats mixed with Dan’s uplifting, smooth voice, you couldn’t help but be intrigued with this record back in the day. While “Much Afraid” is more my favorite of those 90’s albums, this one isn’t without it’s moments. The album begins with “Liquid” and it’s dancey beats, violin, alongside some background chanting-vocals (remember the monks in the 90’s?). “Flood” was a huge breakout hit for the band and was all over radio and video networks back in the day. Most people these days don’t remember that time period or the influence of a “Christian” band making it’s way in a commercial sense. The band even toured with Matchbox Twenty in those early days (wasn’t there some drama?). “Love Song for a Savior”, “Boy on a String”, the massive hit “Flood”, and the very moving “Worlds Apart”, are all great Jars of Clay songs.
12. Dime Store Prophets – Love Is Against The Grain
This alt-rock band who were one of the first on 5 Minute Walk alongside Black Eyed Sceva and later Five Iron Frenzy, was a remarkable talent. It was like U2 crossed with R.E.M., early LIVE, and The Prayer Chain. For you casual listeners you’ll more akin to Matchbox 20, Jars of Clay, and Toad The Wet Sprocket. I was at a weird place when this record released, mostly obsessed with Punk Rock and Hardcore but I was a closet alternative rock fan. In fact, before my dive down the Christian Rock rabbit hole, I had a huge CD collection which I sadly sold to Werehouse Music and used the funds to buy a Sega Genesis. I was giving up the “secular” music for a trip through positive and enlightening Christian music that wouldn’t harm my impressionable brain. This band made music that would appeal to broad audience and Masaki Liu from this band went on to be a prolific music producer. It all started with Dime Store Prophets and 5 Minute Walk which led to Five Iron Frenzy. Thank you Dime Store Prophets.
13. Dryve – Hum
I first was introduced to Dryve at a youth group retreat in 1995. They played alongside Black Eyed Sceva up in the mountains and it was that small intimate, youthful gathering that made me an instant fan. Dryve played alternative rock driven in that time period by piano, mandolin, horn parts, guitar, bass, and a solid percussion section. Roots rock with a strong sense of melody and unforgettable storytelling set to music. In a scene chock full of unrelenting heaviness and punk aesthetics, the band stood out both as pioneers of their craft and as a group struggling to fit in. They were much more in line with the older adult crowd (and older at heart) and brought along a signature style that would have pleased fans of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Counting Crows, Gin Blossoms, Tonic, Live, Train, and The Wallflowers. It’s amazing that Dryve were playing their style even before some of those aforementioned bands hit it big. As much as I dug “Thifty Mr Kickstar” in 1997, “Hum” is where it all started for me. I picked up Hum at that retreat and spun it often in the days that followed. This is the album that got them them signed and caught my attention as well. “Rain” is that classic song that really cemented the album in the hearts of music fans. It was later re-recorded for their 5 Minute Walk debut. “All I Wanted”, “Oklahoma Nights” “Happy Song”, and “Rain” are all solid Dryve songs.
14. Black Cherry Soda – Grin
This was odd little album and band for that matter. Another one of those blink and you’ll miss it, Christian record labels that sprang up with mostly unknown bands. I don’t know what drew me to Black Cherry Soda first. Maybe the advertisement or album cover (a kid holding up a can of ‘black Cherry soda’ is punk rock right?), well whatever it was, the album stuck. It was punk rock with a poppy undercurrent. I sense this was something toned down a bit for the Nashville Christian Music Crowd because they love their watered down aggression lol. This band had a lot more in common with Descendents, Dagnasty, and Offspring than they did with that Green Day faux British accent pop-punk going on at that time period. This album was a lot more tame than their “Back on the Map” album in 1997.
15. Grammatrain – Lonely House
This album burst on the scene in 1995 with thunderous applause and much hype. “Lonely House” had all the best 90’s influences woven throughout their unique take on 90’s hard rock. This was a truly solid piece of work and still stands as a legendary piece of classic rock. This ride the line between the waning Grunge scene at the time and brought to the table a special blend of alternative rock that many in the Christian music scene weren’t familiar with. Pete Stewart was a perfect frontman for a rock band, both then and now. His range went from smooth to snarling and aggressive all in a song. I guess the closes comparisons would be Foo Fighters and Silverchair. The music was just so inspiring and musicianship was as good or better than anything the drug fueled, addicted rock scene of the 90’s could produce. Pent up aggression released in a sweet concoction of rage and beauty.
16. Blenderhead – Muchacho Vivo
While not as straight forward in punk rock as “Prime Candidate…”, it was still an impressive collection of experimental post-punk/post-hardcore songs. The band always straddled the line between Jawbox, Fugazi, Helmet, and even some of that early 90’s alternative rock sound (can I say that?). Maybe even some Pixies, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Nirvana. Bold statements but Blenderhead truly brought an original sound while mixing up their influences and being brave about lyrical content. They didn’t wear a mask or façade and simply wanted to be heard through the music they created. Bill’s vocals were in your face and gritty, while also tossing up some melodies here and there. The band’s cover of “Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads was really well done. One thing that stands out in Blenderhead recordings is the Drumming. Matt Johnson was the ultimate pro and had a unique style that further complimented the abrasive, melodic music of Blenderhead.
17. Bloodshed – Self Titled EP
Holy crap was this EP great or what? These guys were all in Jr High/High School when they recorded the EP but you wouldn’t find anything juvenile about it. It was miles apart from the rest of competition and arrived years, hold that, DECADES, before that style of music really took hold. They combined aspects of ferocious, metallic hardcore alongside gentle, melodic, dare I say “Emo” tendencies for a style much to themselves. Sure there may have been a few other “emocore” bands at that time period and many copping the style but none were as great as Bloodshed. The guys all went on to play in a gazillion other bands after the last Bloodshed EP “Soft Spoken Words of Fallbrook” which further proved their insane talents weren’t just a one time thing. We got Stairwell, Rock Kills Kid, Slingshot David, My Compatriots, Pilot Whale, and all the bands in between from the beginnings of Bloodshed. Teenagers played on this EP, just think about that for a moment. Instead of pursuing teenage pop music and tik tok influencing, these guys were laying it down thick with Hardcore insanity. The energy hasn’t been matched but is felt through groups like Poison the Well, Boysetsfire, From Autumn To Ashes, Senses Fail, Saosin, Underoath, Beloved, Emery, and you name it. So much diversity of songs like The Scarlet Letter and Outside. Heavy and melodic. Too soon guys, too soon.
18. Rasberry Jam – Oceanic
This was an odd duck for that time period. It was like a gothic-shoegaze venture through 80’s new wave. It was alluring and went mostly unheard by everyone, I mean everyone. Most people don’t know this exists. I listened years ago and saw them once with Driver Eight and Bloomsday at the world’s smallest show in Capo Beach (there were probably like 10-20 people in attendance. I loved all those alt-rock bands back in the day and this one is certainly no exception. Quality music and led by haunting female vocals. The album is titled “Oceanic” and was released on Metro One back in 1995. I had almost forgotten about it till I went hunting for the Tape and saw it on Ebay one day. Had to buy it. Imagine the combination of The Prayer Chain, The Cure, Starflyer 59, Mother Love Bone, and Mazzy Star.
19. Clash of Symbols – Begging at the Temple Gate Called Beautiful
Mike Stand who led the legendary Christian punk group, Altar Boys, did some solo material on the side then after the end of his band he went on to form Clash of Symbols and released a couple of albums. This 1995 release marks a huge turn for Mike and the sound he was working on prior during the 80’s/early 90’s. This album had a punk-funk-pop sound that would have appealed to fans of bands like Plankeye, Sponge, Screaming Trees, early Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soul Asylum, and Stone Temple Pilots. This album that released on Brainstorm was a really well done and an appealing album by a band on the rise. It’s too bad they didn’t make very many more albums after this one.
20. DC Talk – Jesus Freak
Without a doubt this was the biggest smash hit album of 1995. The group went from New Kids on the Block, MC Hammer, and Vanilla Ice like pop music to a pop-rock band complete with aggressive guitars (Jesus Freak), sweet bass lines, and a drum set rocking the songs. To top off the music departure from their earlier teen pop sound was an even more socially conscious and loving message about unity, brotherhood, our Faith, and embracing each other’s differences despite color of skin. There was so much said between these songs and it’s the primary reason “Jesus Freak” was so immensely popular among not only Christians but embraced by a worldwide unbelieving audience as well. For me this album was like Nirvana meets Seal meets Jesus Jones meets Matchbox Twenty and Hootie and Blowfish. I’ll be honest, I was not a DC Talk fan in 1995. I was so entrenched in punk and hardcore/metal that I couldn’t see behind that clouded lens. I look back now and I see some redeeming qualities about this album and I can kind of see why it was such a commercial success. There is a reason Toby Mac, Kevin Max, and Michael Tait are so immensely popular as stand alone artists (and in groups) post-DC Talk, it’s because of this album and it’s continued influence.
21. Crux – Failure to Yield
I became familiar with this band right before their debut on T&N in 1995. I had seen them at a huge outdoor festival called “ZOOM 95” with loads of awesome bands from time period with MxPx as one of the headliners. Circle pits and moshing galore, it was pure insanity. This band struck me as something entirely different than the snotty nose teenage pop-punk bands of that age with colored spiked hair (and don’t forget the chokers). Crux had a guy with super long hair and glam like vocals but when meshed with punk rock, came across as aggressive, fast, and in your face. There was just something unique about Crux that most bands of that time period, specifically “Christian Music”, didn’t possess or even come close to. Their talent was undeniable and even though the vocals at times ran together with production issues possibly not bringing to the forefront clarity of words, it didn’t matter because it was pure, unfiltered punk rock. I wasn’t familiar with bands like Youth Brigade, All, Descendants, 7 Seconds, or any of the other “punk” bands that they may have drawn influence from but it didn’t matter because I judged primarily on the presentation and sounds coming from my stereo. For a teenager who was hungry for new music, these guys brought the goods and I consumed them with the biggest smile. Definitely check out “Failure to Yield” then go after Cakewalk. For whatever reason I dug this one the most. I would love more Crux music so push those guys to get to work.
22. MxPx – On The Cover
So many awesome covers were on this first covers collection by the young pop-punk 3 piece known as MxPx. Songs by Altar Boys, Bryan Adams, Keith Green, Aha, Joy Electric, among others. My favorites were actually B-sides like Social Distortion “Sick Boy”, and Richie Valens “Oh Donna” but this collection of “covers” was really well done for punk rock. Sure the production wasn’t my favorite but at that time, sounded great. I loved that Altar Boys and Keith Green cover songs, so great!
23. Pspazz – Missle Toe
This was definitely a weird little pop-punk album. It was goofy and strange but filled with hopeful songs about Faith and youthful trials. The album was released on Brainstorm Artists International in 1995 to little fanfare. I don’t recall a single person who owned this on CD but I sure did. I always dug that this Hawaii band shared members with Spooky Tuesday and was fronted by a pro bodyboarder, Kyle Maligro. I loved Bodyboarding so I remember being super impressed with this group. It was like super old Blink-182 (Cheshire Cat) mixed with Presidents of the United States of America (The band), Supernova, The Aquabats, Weird Al, and maybe a slight MxPx sound. It was weird and fun at the same time. Songs about smelly bandmates “B.O. Juice”, Food groups “French Toast”, Politics “Mayor”, Beauty “Mask”, and “Missle Toe” about well, Pspazz and their mission.
24. Sometime Sunday – Drain
Sometime Sunday were formed in the very early 90’s during the height of the Grunge/Alternative Rock scene of that time period. Their sound was much heavier and more raw than their major label Grunge contemporaries but still fit it comfortably in at that time. Mike’s wailing, screaming, and commanding voice captured everyone’s attention and brought to the forefront a sense of honesty through the lens of Faith. The band released 2 albums on Tooth & Nail Records then called it quits a little after. Sometime Sunday had a rough, raw sound that would have appealed to fans of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden’s harder earlier sounds along with early Alice in Chains and the more metal/hardcore side of Grunge. Members of the band and especially Mikee or Michael Bridges as he is known now, went on to start Tom Fest, established bands like Twin Sister and Tragedy Ann and has been a crucial part of our music since for over 25 years. You can catch what he is doing now in an upcoming docuseries called “Blood, Sweat, and Sin”. “Drain” serves as a proper send off to a band that was primed for big success but ended far too soon.
25. Rich Young Ruler – Storytime
Another super mellow band that came out at the height of the pop-rock-alternative scene of the 90’s. This was a local band for me here in Orange County, CA. and I saw them a few times. I recall them being a fairly large ensemble with a lot of players. Fits somewhere between Matthew Sweet, Gin Blossoms, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Jars of Clay, and Burlap To Cashmere. Songs perfect for the 90’s and those who want to reminisce.
In conclusion, this was an absolutely stunning year of growth for Christian underground music and the scene as a whole. Lots of new artists and smashing success by existing groups. The one take away from 1995 is that through this nostalgia rich connection I have to that time period, there are some truly exceptional albums that deserved so much more press than was given. Some of you might be wondering, “where is so and so”, “why isn’t this 1995 album on your list”, “Spotify says this album is 1995 and it isn’t listed here….”. Well, since 2 decades and a half have passed and some lazy kid is behind the keyboard for big multi national corporations uploading these albums, there is a large chance someone is screwing up. I know for certain that Stavesacre “Friction”, Mxpx “Life in General”, Value Pac “self titled”, and Ghoti Hook “Sumo Surprise” released in 1996 😉 If an album is missing from this list, I apologize. I tried my absolute best to research and try to remember good albums off of my memory which is well, failing at 42. Some of these I haven’t listened to in years which is why I am slowly buying them back on Tape or Vinyl to refresh my mind. What are CDs? Enjoy! -Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music / 12/12/2020
Third Day – Self Titled
Hoi Polloi – Happy Ever After
Mike Knott – Strip Cycle
Deliverance – Camelot In Smithereens
Mortal – Pura
Poor Old Lu – Straight Six EP