Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I wish there was a real Christian music scene. They would be selling cds for eight dollars, they would be giving full artistic licence, encouraging creativity. They would really be doing the things Christ did, and continues to do.

Ordinary biopic about anything-but-ordinary alternative band will appeal to established fans but may not win many new ones. Founder Daniel Smith pulled together his brothers and sisters to play some primitive-arty music for his art school grad show – think Partridge Family meets Frank Zappa – then took the defiantly weird show on the road, Jesus-saturated lyrics, nurse's uniforms and all. They built up a following, but to an Outsider Music outsider it looks more gimmick than genius, neither as authentically creative as Zappa nor as musical as the Partridges, though there's no questioning the earnestness of intention.

Musical friend Sufjan Stevens sits in for one of the brothers on tour, and when he sings a solo (the haunting "To Be Alone With You"), the gig's up: The Danielson Famile drifts apart, Brother Daniel struggles to find a new solo artistic identity, but donning a Nine Fruit Tree costume ("Those are the fruit of the spirit…") doesn't quite seem to cut it. His lonely struggles to lay down vocal tracks in a homemade recording studio stand in painful contrast to Stevens' easy musicality and soaring acclaim. Writ larger, this would be Herzog territory, the eccentric visionary on a lonely, possibly doomed quest, but DANIELSON is more a study in deflation than tragedy – maybe these folks are just too nice for the whole thing to really kick us in the gut. Nobody schleps a steamship over a mountain, nobody gets eaten by grizzlies: Smith's just a more-or-less talented, possibly self-indulgent but basically decent guy with a guitar who might have to fall back on his carpentry skills.


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