Back in the 1990’s, contemporary Christian music (CCM) was at its zenith in terms of sales. Some of it was good, but a good bit of it was kind of not. It just wasn’t the kind of music that connected to younger listeners, especially college students.
Enter an off-the-beaten path independent record label called Tooth & Nail. With a shoe-string budget, Brandon Ebel founded the company in 1993 and began signing Christian bands with a more modern sound. It was the kind of sound that the kids were listening to in those days. It was certainly the music that I was listening to back then—bands like MXPX (formerly known as Magnified Plaid), Sometime Sunday, Starflyer 59, just to name a few.
That is why I really appreciate Joel Heng Hartse’s review of a recent documentary about Tooth & Nail. Appearing in Christianity Today, Hartse not only evaluates the documentary (warning: the trailer below has some salty language), but also the reason why Tooth & Nail was a significant force in the evangelical subculture. He writes:
In a nutshell, Tooth & Nail created a safe, subversive space for Christian teenagers who felt torn between youth-group subculture and secular countercultures. The label’s bands have been sonically diverse, exploring various corners of the indie rock, emo, punk, and hardcore genres. But what they have in common, as Ebel and many others have said, is feeling “too Christian for non-Christians, and not Christian enough for Christians.”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 20 years since the heady days of Tooth & Nail’s founding, but it has been. A lot has changed since then. Hartse reports that “Tooth & Nail recently sold its entire back catalog to EMI (one of the ‘big four’ corporate record labels).” I’m guessing that there may be some readers out there who are as interested in this news as I was.
You can see the trailer below. Read the rest of Hartse’s article here.