Some people think of ApologetiX as little more than a cover band, using parodies as an excuse to play “the devil’s music.” Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge our “covers” by the Book.
Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24) and “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44).
We have almost a quarter-century of fruit by which to judge this ministry – countless cases of God using our parodies to “reach the lost and teach the rest.” Souls saved. Hearts encouraged. Minds enlightened.
The same God who created mankind also created music. People become sinful by what they say and do. Songs become sinful by what they say (lyrics) and do (the feelings/actions they stir up), too.
But God can redeem people and make them new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and He can do the same with songs.
When God changes a person, they may look the same, but their heart is changed. When God changes a song, it may sound the same, but its heart is changed, too.
You should be able tell a Christian by his words and actions. The same criteria should apply to Christian music. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Music is as music does” -- so open this box of chocolates and see what you get.
ApologetiX has been around for 25 years, but there are some who think they are the theological study of the defense of the Christian faith. While that is true, that is spelled “apologetics.” But there is a band who have combined apologetics and popular tunes under the name ApologetiX.
Based in Pittsburg, PA, those who know them know that they spend their time finding hits, mostly from yesteryear, and rewriting the lyrics to turn the glory to God. As the song “Fight For Your Right To Parody” says, “I’ll teach you how to find hope if you don’t cuss and swear.” People have been amazed how well the music is played, how the lyrics are similar to the originals in terms of rhyme and flow, and how the lead singer, J. Jackson, is able to mimic many of the original vocalists. This has rightfully earned them the nickname “That Christian Parody Band.”
In their early years, they would release a 20 song project and tour extensively. Namely in the mid-2000’s, they’d play hundreds of shows per year. But as time went on, they kept encountering problems with the tour buses they traveled in. At some point, they decided to cut back the touring and hit the studio more often, especially that their drummer, Jimmy “Vegas” Tanner, had created his own studio.
Starting in 2014, the band decided to release singles on their website most every other week, usually featuring two brand-new parodies. If you do the math, that amounts to approximately 50 new songs per year. And in 2017, they show no signs of stopping.
Today’s review will focus on one of the compilations of the singles that were released on their website. “Music Is As Music Does” is their second (out of four) album of 2015 and their 28th (out of 36) overall. This album features 12 parodies from the 60s to the 80s. While the range of eras and styles may seem like this may make an odd sounding album, this album flows really well!
This album starts with the booms of a drum and J. Jackson’s voice booms out as a desperate father, calling on Jesus to “Come On, Heal The Boy.” The father describes how his son is being possessed by a demon and asks the Lord to help him with his “puny faith.” If you close your eyes and imagine during the guitar solo, you can practically see Jesus casting the spirit out of the boy. This is one song that will make you wanna sing along with!
The next song takes a U-turn from the previous song stylistically and takes a more acoustic sound. While reading about that may seem shocking, it somehow works. This peaceful, easy song does acknowledge that our “God Of Peace” does save the sinner from sin, God doesn’t go easy on sin. The devil really has no power and “my God of peace will easily beat him.”
“Stone Him Rough” does kick in with a guitar on your left and one on the right appears. As J. sings, a sweet bass and them drums start to rock you. This song is written from the Apostle Paul’s perspective as he looks back in the past of the stoning of Stephen and how he “stood tall and spoke in love.” While I do like the slow tempo of this song, it isn’t really one of my favorites and a go-to track for me.
While not as heavy, “Jesus And Moses” carries along a similar feel as the previous song. (Or maybe I’m just used to the two songs being grouped together as a single, “Journey To Asia.”) Deuteronomy 34:10 talks about how there was no prophet in Israel like Moses, but it said that there would be one greater than Moses who would come. But Jesus was more than a prophet. He was the Savior of the world! Again, this is not one of my favorite tracks. It is a very interesting listen, though!
Then things take a country turn with “Sa-Maria.” J. Jackson said that he originally wrote parodies to help him remember helpful information, and this is actually a parody written in the mid-90s. This song gives the history of why the Jews had a dislike for the Samaritans, but then when Jesus came to the world, he even showed his love to everyone, including the Samaritans, as this song also recounts the encounter with the woman at the well. I don’t listen to a lot of country (just because), but while this is not my favorite country tune, there’s something about it that I just really like.
“Resist Him” starts with a sinister guitar as J.’s daughter, Janna, sings “The enemy like to dwell in the night / and work on you undercover.” This song is a heavy reminder that the devil is a sneaky beast and we should resist him anytime he comes over with his sly temptations. (“Satan’s lies take you by surprise.”) This song is the first ApologetiX song with male vocals that weren’t performed by J. Jackson! All the credit goes to Tom Milnes. (“Jezebel,” which released in 2014, is the first ApologetiX song to not feature any male vocals at all.) While I didn’t like this song right away for some reason, this is a really good song! (I don’t know what was wrong with me.) In my interview with J. Jackson back in 2015, he mentioned that this song is one of his favorites from the album because he was able to work with his daughter on this song. (He really is a family man!)
“Let’s End The Fight Together” takes an oldies turn, with the classic peppy sound that I have been used to hearing. Often times, fights don’t stop because either party is too proud to say sorry or to make an attempt to make things better. “Now I’m seeking your forgiveness,” this song pleads. “I’m mad at myself for gettin’ extreme.” But this song also recognizes the importance of the Lord being at the center of a relationship (“God will redo what was severed”). While not my favorite oldie tune, the lyrics are very encouraging and a reminder to put the pride behind and be considerate of others, even if there is no argument threatening to sever the relationship.
I will tell you, I was very excited when ApologetiX released their improved version of “Addicted To Christ.” This was one of my favorite tracks from their “Rare Not Well Done” rarity downloads and it was great hearing this version (but the original is still a fun listen). This song contains, in my humble opinion, a very beautiful story. While the song is very simple and light, it base story of a girl addicted to sin (and who-knows-what) is a very heavy and well-known tale. But the fact that she turned her life around to dedicate her life to Christ is so beautiful. “She said that livin’ in sin was bringin’ her down, yeah / She could never be free while that had her bound.” It is actually making my eyes water a little bit just writing about this.
“A Source With No Name” is a summary of the book of Hebrews, but in the chorus notes that the author of the book is unknown. J. Jackson said about the song “The letter is silent about [the identity of the author] but harbors no secrets about Jesus’ identity, demonstrating His superiority to the angels, Moses, and Levitical priests.” There is so much packed into this book, as the song describes. This wasn’t a song that got my attention right away, but it’s a fun song to listen to.
Classic rock makes a return in “Be Like David Was.” This was another song from the past featured on “Isn’t Wasn’t Ain’t,” the band’s first official release. Even though David did mess up horribly, God still was faithful to forgive him and David is still known as a man after God’s own heart. What an encouragement! But that’s not the only thing from his life that is encouraging. A popular legacy of his are the Psalms he left behind, full of pleas and praises to the Lord. I’m sure you’ve read the Psalms and they can be brutally honest. But our family has been studying the Psalms and it’s really amazing how much David trusted in the Lord (and had good theology)! Again, I was really happy to hear this song rise from the past and it sounds like amazing! (I will say the only regrettable thing about the re-recording of this song is an alternate parody ApologetiX released around the same time: “Steelers Make It Tough.” Meh. Dallas Cowboys all the way.)
Then things really get heavy with a little Black Sabbath parody, “Pharaoh-noid.” This is the Pharaoh retelling the story of the Ten Plagues. This parody is pretty fun. It still isn’t one that is my absolute favorite, but it’s a fun rockin’ tune.
The guitar strum. “Peach it!” J. yells. Then the whole band kicks in. “Fight For Your Right To Parody” is a great album closer, as this song is a response to the haters of rock and/or parodies in Christian music, or those who hate Christian music in general. The song also invites those who want to find hope, provided that they don’t “cuss and swear.” “We fix crude language with wholesome words,” the song says. Overall, this is just a really great song and a perfect album closer!
I will be very honest. "Music Is As Music Does" does not contain the best ApologetiX songs in the world. There are some really great songs on this album, but there are some songs that are kinda okay.
"But, Christopher," you may be thinking, "four and a half stars is high praise for such an okay album, don't you think?"
You are very correct. I do think I was a bit liberal with my overall rating, but there is one quality of this album that cannot be overlooked: it is an engaging listen from beginning to end. I cannot stress this enough. This is literally one of the few albums that I can listen from start to end without skipping any track or getting bored of it.
Many musicians strive to release a singles-filled album (which this album actually is, ha ha). Yet singles are cool, they aren't everything. Sometimes artists strive to create concept albums to engage the listener with the story to be told, but artists can sometimes struggle maintaining that attention. Artists sometimes will stick with one formula and end up messing things up. But "Music Is As Music Does" is a very simple album at its core. But there is so much packed in it that makes it mind-blowingly amazing. While not every song is a home run, this album does have its fill of thoughtful lyrics and fun songs. But its flow is amazing.
watch these videos!