In beginning this series, I came to realize that the real question is “What makes a band stick with you for years?” Others come and go, but a few grab your attention and don’t let it go. I’ve heard it said that musical tastes set during one’s teen years, and while that’s certainly true for me in some respects, during the mid-2000s, when I was in my mid-to-late 20s, I discovered several bands — especially Emery, mewithoutYou, and Showbread — that have become among my favorites of all time. While I don’t have a clear answer to the above question, I hope to explore this idea through the catalogs of these bands and others. Even if I don’t find a conclusive answer, at least I can share those bands and their incredible music.
I first heard Showbread soon after the release of their first major album, No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical, much the same way many fans did, through the music video for “Mouth Like a Magazine.” The kinetic energy of their music, combined with a cutting sense of humor, intrigued me from the first, but the depth of that first release kept them in my mind.
No Sir… contains much of what I continue to love about Showbread — commentary on the shallowness of modern culture, references to classic literature and philosophy, criticism that is not high and mighty but acknowledges their own part in the system, and lyrics that inspire thought and self-reflection. Consider, for example, the simile in the title “Mouth Like a Magazine.” Like the best comparisons, the phrase works in more than one way, containing depth not through obscurity but through the variety of applications and images it invokes.
The great thing about No Sir… as an album, and Showbread as a band, is that while that first single is great, they have more to offer than just the one fan-favorite song. For something more on the fun side, there’s “Dead by Dawn,” a tribute to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series: “A chainsaw can remove a limb / Or act as a replacement.” But Showbread’s output on most of their albums spans the gamut from the silly to the serious, sometimes in the same song. An example of this is “Welcome to Plainville, Tobe Hooper,” which hides behind the title a serious contemplation of the terribleness of the world even after the death and resurrection of Jesus using horror-themed language, stating, “I’m sure your hands are beautiful / I’m sure your head is beautiful / But the world is ugly even after you.” Finally, at the serious end is a song that remains not only one of my favorite Showbread songs, but one of my favorites of all time: “Matthias Replaces Judas.” A powerful song that challenges Christians’ tendency to view ourselves as better and more special than others, the song is elevated by passionate vocals in the bridge and conclusion by Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy and Brave Saint Saturn.
No Sir … established the Raw Rock sound that allows Showbread to expand musically while still remaining definitely Showbread: garage/punk rock guitars, great bass lines, synthesizers, and scream-sing vocals. No Sir… also features dual-vocals as Josh Dies trades-off with original member Ivory Mobley. This feature helped make Showbread’s early music truly unique, with one vocalist switching not only verses or lines with the other, but even overlapping and switching in the middle of lines, something you can see clearly in the video for “Mouth Like a Magazine.”
Showbread’s eclectic but still recognizable sound, thoughtful and challenging lyrics, and overall attitude that says “Don’t take us seriously; take faith and life seriously,” combine to create one of the most compelling bands of the last two decades, and No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical is the perfect introduction.