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by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & K, praise rockers, you want to know what your problem is? I'm gonna tell you. In 240-odd years of trying, you haven't been able to quill a song with nearly the sinner-saving resonance of "Amazing Grace." Those are the facts. Jeremy Camp hasn't done it. Third Day hasn't done it. Al Green failed so bad, he gave up and went back to secular music.


So here are your choices: You can keep plugging along with your insipid, conflict-less narratives and ad infinitum variations on "Jesus Loves Me." Or -- and this is a big "or" -- you can start singing about your actual experiences. Like, for realsies. That is to say, rather than pandering to the mainstream, go indie. If you're worried that you won't reach the wretched without a watered-down message and a major label, 1) you're in this for the wrong reasons and 2) allow me to introduce iTunes and MySpace.


Lately, the best and most thoughtful meditations on God have come from secular labels. Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion, the Headphones and, you know, Kanye, all approach their faith with an honesty that doesn't gloss over human imperfections or the struggles of putting one's faith in an omnipresent Being. The backpack set, we have come to understand, eats this up.


Perhaps most interesting and novel in this clique is Page France. Focusing on front man Michael Nau's childlike, surrealistic visions, the Baltimore quartet crafts layered, diaphanous pop tunes that revel in the mystery of the Creator. That's a new one in our cynical times. And we're not just talking Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? mysterious. I mean mystery like supreme esoterica, like Gnosticism, like pre-Nicene Creed. Mystery to revel in, like when Christianity was organic, accessible, non-dogmatic. When it was, you know, fun.


Case in point: "Chariot," the title track on their debut, Hello, Dear Wind, roils, propelled with imagery that would make William Blake piss himself with envy:


"Come and carry us / Come and marry us / To the blushing circus king / And dance like elephants as he comes to us / Through a fiery golden ring / With a violin and a song to sing / As he brings for us our wings / Now he's one of us / Plays the tambourine / Breaks the bread for us /And sings / Will you wait for us / Will you stay for us / Will you grace us everything?"


That's too real for the steeple. When was the last time you heard salvation described like that? The Gospel of Thomas, that's when. This is the most exciting and vital Christian pop has been in years.





Page France plays at the Hastings on Wellesley and Ash on Wednesday, March 29, at 7 pm. Free. Call 327-6008.
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