All in the Famile: Two accounts of Christian indie pop eccentrics Danielson

If Christianity’s first embrace of rock music was tragedy (see YaHoWha 13, or any Christian psychedelic comp), farce defines the bowdlerized Top 40 of “Christian Contemporary Music.” It’s only logical, then, that the post-millennial encounter of Christian spirituality and rock music should be tragicomic. Enter Danielson, of Clarksboro, NJ, a mechanically quirky indie-pop consortium espousing somnolently feel-good Christianity. In founder Daniel Smith’s senior year at Rutgers, he re-found the Lord and formed a band with his siblings. Their recording became his final thesis, and Daniel, formerly Dan, became Danielson, because he’s “a brother and a son.” Confused? It probably won’t help to learn that his nubile cohorts wear homemade nurse costumes, because they “promote healing.” Both Marvin Gaye and YaHoWha’s Father Yod would probably agree, in a somewhat different way.

Musically, Danielson never escapes the contemporary indie rock mold, though Smith’s vocals bear an eerie similarity to those of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell. The rest just sounds like Akron/Family-Grizzly Bear-Animal Collective. Philosophically, they’re little more interesting. “Christian” indie rock doesn’t seem to be about much other than polite naiveté. Maybe I just can’t distinguish charming and boring. Let’s leave it at that. (Michael Joyce)

I sometimes try to remember what it was like to see concerts in high school. The indie music scene for kids under eighteen in Philadelphia was comprised mostly of house shows and the First Unitarian Church, where an independent promoter put on concerts. Despite the fact that the shows were in a church (or rather, its basement), they didn’t have a spiritual bent other than the elated enthusiasm and collective effervescence of all-ages crowds. I used to go to see bands there almost weekly.

Once I saw an opener named Danielson Famile (now, after some shifts in line-up, they go just by Danielson.) We were eager for whatever band was coming after the clan, so we stood near the front of the stage…only to be pushed aside by the opener’s parents, all the way from New Jersey, who were proudly wielding cameras to watch their twenty-something children perform pop songs while wearing nurse uniforms with big felt crosses and hearts. In high school especially, I was not too happy to be pushed to the side at shows. And I’ve always believed that New Jersey is only good for beer, bowling, and the Boss. But in this case, both Danielson and their family (extended) totally charmed me.

Yes. I concede. Danielson may sound like a reincarnation of Jane’s Addiction, and Brother Danielson may spew the same Christian ideology that can become convoluted and ineffective when taken up by indie-rockers with acoustic guitars and a knack for musical “inventiveness” that their press releases cite liberally. But here’s the thing: Danielson is still pretty charming. They are adorable, they have a way with felt, and they do make catchy songs, albeit often about things I’m not too interested in. So return to youth, if you dare, and appreciate a band that loves to make and perform their music and an all-ages crowd that should be into the music. Some art-school jokes are soulless, but at least this one has a little bit of heart. Felt heart. (Rose Schapiro)

Danielson with Cryptacize, Birdnames. Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State St. November 5. Wednesday, 6pm. All ages. $12.