The 71's are a band that by all rights Rocks Off should be throwing rocks at instead of embracing warmly in our ear canals. Their rock is poppy, sincere, and inspired by faith in a God we want nothing to do with. So why do we love their new EP Rock and Roll Reaction Part 1 so damned much?
Part of the reason is that buried under the cynicism and unholier-than-thou attitude that makes up the war gear of a Houston goth is a kid in ripped jeans who though Smash by The Offspring was the greatest album ever written. We find ourselves hungry for an unpretentious and sincere jamboree of power chords and youth energy. The 71's have always delivered those things in spades.
RRR Part 1 is the first in a three part series of EPs, and also an experiment in bringing fans closer to the band.
"Our first album, We Are Locomotive, was a very polished record," said vocalist Keeton Coffman in a phone interview as the band sped towards Waco for a concert. "This album was done in-house, and is much rawer. We wanted to trim the fat, and give our fans more of a direct glimpse into what we're doing as we're doing it."
Admittedly, RRR Part 1 lacks the polishing of Locomotive. But the songs themselves shine through even brighter than their previous albums. What comes through most, and most ironically, is a purely rock and roll devil-may-care attitude. We always say The 71's are a Christian Rock band rather than a Christian rock band, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this Foo Fighters-esque, ball-throbbing, hip-hip hooray of a release.
This image of The 71's as God's punk-ass kids is one of the things that sets them apart from the hiveminded mainstream in both rock and Christian music. The band made some interesting headlines earlier this year by invading a local Walmart to shoot a music video, making it all the way through their song "Start Again" before being ejected from the premises. The notoriety of the music video got them a gig playing at a Houston Texans game and on television.
This approach to music is not without its drawbacks, however. Though DJs are frequent attendees at the band's concerts, Coffman says they won't touch their albums with a ten-foot pole because of the band's openness about the role faith plays in their songs. Likewise, Christian music venues shy away from the band because of their openly rock attitude and dislike for the Christian music industry
"When you see the upper-class Christian artists, you can tell by their songs that they have turned their faith into an agenda," said Coffman. "We want nothing to do with that. We think that your faith should be apparent in your songs because that's who you are. What we are is a rock band, and what we want is for people to come together and enjoy themselves. We don't really care about spreading the word of God through music.
"We don't care if you 'get the message' or convert to Christianity by listening to us. What we care about is having a good time with everyone. Partying and loving everyone. What's more Christian than that?"
As the staff Satanist, we see Coffman's point, and we also see why they have fallen through the cracks in the music industry in a sense. Rock doesn't like them because Jesus can't play guitar - the nail holes, y'know? Didn't you see Desperado?
The Christian music people don't like them cause they aren't selling anything. In a way, what The 71's is doing is quite groundbreaking. What exactly is the difference between them drawing musical inspiration from their faith and Rob Zombie drawing inspiration from the Manson murders?
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The album is rock of a poppy sort, though there is darkness there. Coffman's favorite track is "All Tied Up," which he wrote as a way of dealing with sever anxiety attacks.
"I just had this image of being chased by a ghost train, of being dragged to Hell," said Coffman. "I wanted to sing about what got me through that. Rock and God, in that order."
The 71s release their album tonight at 2016 Mainstage.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.