Today’s band was the answer in Christian music to R.E.M. back in 1989. That band was the Throes.
I know this comparison frustrates Bill Campbell, lead vocalist of the band (at least, it did in 1990!). But when Era of Condolence was released independently back in 1989, the comparison was impossible to avoid. The jangly pop was there that would have felt at home on any of R.E.M.’s efforts from Murmur through Green. But this was not a bad thing. Honestly, considering most Christian bands appearing at that time seemed to be trying to ape 80’s U2? Seeing a band tap a different vein of music was nice. And this was not some cheap knock-off of Stipe and Company.
Era’s songs were upbeat and college radio ready and could stand out on a stage showing strength as a live act. They also stood out for their diversity. In Christian music, most seemed at the time to be made of white boys. The Throes had an Asian lead singer and a woman on bass (Joy Gelwalt). Along with drummer Harry Evans, the band garnered attention from their base of operations in Northern Virginia for their strong debut. Their songs were heartfelt, exploring faith and hopes. But they also had the courage to expresses harsher emotions. Era of Condolence stands out as a great eighties album to this date.
In late 1989 they caught the attention of R.E.X. Records. Up until that point, R.E.X. had focused on metal, but they were starting to branch (around the same time they released the synth band Code of Ethic’s debut CD). The end result was All the Flowers Growing In Your Mother’s Eyes. This was a solid follow-up in the same vein as Era of Condolence. The album was a strong mixture of dreamy alt pop mixed with aggressive and dance-able alt rock. The lyrics were introspective, often stressing inner battles between faith and selfish desire. “If the soul is in the flesh, the flesh covers the soul, which one has power, which one takes control” questions Campbell in Skin Kings.
In 1992, Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty of the Choir had the opportunity to start up a label. Called Glasshouse, one of the acts they brought along was the Throes. This album showed the band maturing a bit, with a slightly mellower vibe(though also prone to psechedelia.. The opening track of 1992′ Fall On Your World is one of my favorite Throes tunes. Say Hello is a rock and roll song that is a nice introduction to those who were not familiar with the band that speaks of the openness and honesty the band was to offer the listener. “There is nothing, you can’t know about” is bellowed out over a sparse musical bed (the rock’n’roll guitars kick in for the chorus). Harry Evans and Joy Gewalt were no longer in the band, and it shows. The disc lacks some of the pop flavor (‘pop’ meant in the most positive of ways). This album has some stand out tracks (such as the aforementioned Say Hello & Where Is The Fire), but in the end, lacks the vibrancy of the previous two efforts.
Three years later the band found themselves on a new label (Rode Dog Records-along with the Prayer Chain) with a new CD, 12 Before 9. A more focus album than the previous release, the band had moved passed any similarities to R.E.M., yet returning to a more melodic feel. The album opens with the short but effectively sarcastic “So Controversial” (which was about 77’s front man Mike Roe-but was probably descriptive of several Christian acts of the time). It’s a raucous tune full of energy. Some of Campbell’s strongest works occur on this disc. The heartbreak song Mess With Me and Words are two of the Throes’ finest works. Overall a great album, though it trips up a couple times, it comes closer to the memorability of the first two CDs.
The last studio release from the Throes was Ameroafriasiana. Featuring a lush, wall of guitars, this disc slipped past the radar, much of the fan base seemingly gone. Brainstorm released it to little fanfare. Which is unfortunate, as it has some real gems for the band. Satiable, Grieve, Fortune and Understanding are great tracks. All in all, the Throes have a great history and apparently are working on new songs, which is exciting news, since the throes are a band that makes Christian Music That Doesn’t Suck.