September 4, 2007


“A Chicago-based space rock band.”

“Crypto-Christian new wave oddballs.”

“An atomic meltdown of Devo, David Bowie and Rocky Horror Picture Show theatrics.”

“Like going to Rock Church and getting sanctified.”

“A carnival ride through the universes of pop, punk and new wave. A sonic adventure in literate hystarics, …a head-bopping romp through pop psychologies, fundamentalist ideologies, and motivational seminars, like a good old-fashioned Big Tent Revival.”

What are they up to? Former Wheaton College students, the five members of the Detholz! play an annual Halloween show (that’s also taken the form of an album) called Jukebox of the Dead, in which they take easily dismissed pop songs from earlier decades and twist them up. Greg Kot from the Chicago Tribune says, “This quintet takes on the seemingly irredeemable—Phil Collins ‘Sussudio’, Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’—and reconstructs it into something alluringly strange. They don’t just deconstruct Cher’s ‘Believe’, they make it better; like a hip-hop deejay massaging a break beat until the dance floor freaks, they hone in on a song’s hidden secrets and turn them into hooks.”

Formed in 1996, the Detholz! (pronounced “death holes”) gained recognition as an opening act for Wilco after Jeff Tweedy discovered them in the 2004 documentary Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? The film featured the Detholz! prominently, among other bands from the Cornerstone Festival, discussing the art, industry and purpose of music-making for followers of Christ. But the question remains: what are they up to?

According to a 2005 Chimes article, “Their [The Deatholz!’] show bitingly satirized the members’ evangelical background with purposely cheeky comments, yet they still seemed to take their faith seriously, mocking the messengers rather than the message itself.” And in a recent issue of Paste Magazine, lead singer Jim Cooper explains, “While we’re not a Christian band, I’m trying to humanize, or at least capture, what it’s like to be a recovering evangelical.” Perhaps Detholz! is attempting to extend this recovery to Halloween, a holiday which pop-evangelical culture spurns with grave suspicion by launching “alternative” celebrations in church parking lots around the country. Perhaps their choice of “irredeemable” pop songs is a fitting choice as a way to celebrate the “irredeemable holiday.” Or perhaps they’re just trying to have fun with obscure sounds and subjects, to appeal to all freaks and geeks on the fringes of mainstream anything.
“If Jesus were alive today and saw what the church is doing,” says Cooper, “he’d puke.” Maybe the Detholz! are just trying to make him smile.

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One comment

  1. Christian New Wave? How about Vector? Charlie Peacock could cut a new wave rug. Me. I just do the mod britpop stuff.


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