We have great song writers in Ireland. Christy Moore. John Spillane. Glen Hansard. But listening this morning to the Avett Brothers I realised that there is a kind of tone that Irish songwriters are not able to reach. This is the rarest of Zoomtard blogs: a blog that praises American culture and more than that, American evangelical culture.
The artistic voice of evangelical Christianity today, at its best, puts words to something that is universally experienced but is rarely acknowledged. I call it the cosmic note of bitter disappointment that serves as the soundtrack to our lives. You might prefer to call it the fact that no matter how hard we try we fuck things up and it is our fault. Evangelical Christian artists, or even those artists who have left such an identity behind but are drenched in it in their backgrounds, are able to wrap the narratives of novels and the melodies of songs around this fact with the glorious (and I mean that literally) insight that in spite of all this, there is hope.
Contrary to the way that contemporary Western evangelical Christianity talks about itself (as a self help project), it concurs with the darkest portraits of 20th Century existentialism. But it says that even in this despair there is hope because on the darkest of days, when God died, true hope was born.
This is perhaps best encapsulated in what I personally, as a man utterly unschooled in such things, believe from this angle is the most masterful pop song of our age. John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Sufjan Stevens, where compassion and empathy is extended to a vicious serial killer but that ends with those devastating lines:
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
All this is to introduce you to the Avett Brothers’ “Ill With Want”.
The more I have the more I think: I’m almost where I need to be, If only I could get a little more:
Your Correspondent, His need is for something more than medicine