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Letter-day Saints

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Catherine Wessel

All the King's Men: Ty Tabor (left), Doug Pinnick (center) and Jerry Gaskill have left Gretchen in Nebraska in favor of some more worldly concerns on "Ear Candy."

King's X gives Christian rock a good name

By Nicky Baxter

WHEN METAL outfit King's X first surfaced close to a decade ago, the band was dissed as a mouthpiece of God merely because it, gulp, gave it up for the Lord in song. Wrong move. As a general rule, "rock" and "God" are viewed as polar opposites. To secular rockists--and yea, their numbers are vast--there's nothing more unrock than "Christian rock," except for maybe disco. Never mind that frontman Doug Pinnick and his mates, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill, repeatedly insisted whenever the issue would pop up that they were Christians who played rock, not "Christian rockers"; the effort seems to have sailed right over the heads of potential fans, it seems.

Too bad, because King's X is a rock & roll outfit made of superior stuff. Parlaying a seamless blend of Led Zeppelin's leviathan guitar riffs and the Fab Four's comely pop harmonies, the band might be considered a benevolent version of Soundgarden, but that'd be doing it a disservice. What's impressive about bassist Pinnick, guitarist/vocalist Tabor and drummer/vocalist Gaskill is that their music transcends the arena-rock dumpsite their musical influences might suggest.

The most significant thing King's X has on its side is great songwriting. Though the trio's inaugural release, Out of the Silent Planet, revealed a band still in search of itself, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, its sophomore try, flirted with perfection. Blessed with choruses second-raters would kill for, industrial-strength grooves and rocking messages of love and redemption, Gretchen's tracks maintain their transportive power even today. Although the lyrics on the group's earlier efforts tended to put Jesus first, in time, the message has become increasingly oblique and more worldly. Compare, for instance, Gretchen's God-centered "Mission" to "Sometime," a track from the band's new release, Ear Candy (Atlantic). In contrast to the song's unearthly harmonies, the latter finds the singer stricken by bouts of uncertainty.

As its title suggests, Ear Candy is stuffed with enough hooky choruses ( "Sometime," "The Train," "67") to make believers out of "anti-Christian" rock-radio programmers, but don't think for one instant that this eminently hummable music has no backbone. Tabor's shrapnel-embedded fretwork, Pinnick's ambling, precision-tuned bass and Gaskill's tight drumming interlock to create bedlam worthy of the nuttiest snake-head chomper. King's X marks the spot where both secular and nonsecular issues are addressed--even as heads are bobbing--and challenges audiences to get with the connection.

King's X performs Friday (Sept. 13) at the Edge, 260 California Ave., Palo Alto. Doors open at 6:30pm. Tickets are $12 advance. (415/324-EDGE)

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From the September 12-18, 1996 issue of Metro

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