20
May
08

A Guide to Modern Gospel Music: “God Says” by The Konks

It is probably a safe bet that you haven’t either heard or heard of The Konks. They are a Boston rock trio little known beyond the clubs the play in. Their sound is a furious and conscious homage to the proto-punk band Iggy Pop & The Stooges.

So far they have released one eponymous CD with brief songs (only one is longer than three minutes) that blessedly refuse to take anything seriously. In 29 Fingers (the band has a total of that many digits), they describe themselves thus “29 fingers and boy are we having fun … we play cheap guitars and only two lousy drums.” The CD also features a cover of the Soupy Sales* song King Kong (yeah, you read that right) which opens with someone, probably drummer/lead singer Kurt Konk, doing a very credible imitation of monkey howls. (Finicky readers might complain that Kong was an ape not a monkey. Even more finicky readers would point out that he was also fictitious.)

In short they are not a band that would ever be voted “most likely to describe meeting the ultimate ineffable.” But God shows up where God wants to and that is what happens in this song. Over a maelstrom of raw sound Kurt Konk lets out impassioned screams between repetitions of the song’s entire lyric: “God says whoa motherfucker.” I cannot think of another work of art that better encapsulates the moment of giddy terror when you come close to peering into God’s face or suspect He/She/It/They may be peering into yours.

It is a moment frequently described as ecstatic, but usage has added connotations of joy and delight to that word and dropped the terror of being overwhelmed by sensing something so far beyond our mundane lives. This is an experience common to all religions in one form or another. I believe many Christians are describing this when they say they have been “born again.” The manifestation that I have witnessed most is when charismatic or Pentecostal Christians speak in tongues. Although I have never done this myself it is a wonderful moment to observe, especially en masse. It begins among a few and then spreads to many – but not all – in the gathering. It sounds like an orchestra tuning up but instead of stopping once the correct note has been found it grows and continues into an amazing but not discordant cacophony until the participants are spent.

Personally I have had a few such moments where I felt “a tune beyond us, yet ourselves,” as Wallace Stevens wrote. The first time was in eighth grade when I tried to conceive of the idea of an entity (which I call God) that existed before time existed. For a few seconds I was overwhelmed by this contradiction and had no doubt of its truth and existence. Although the overwhelming feeling did not last, the belief has. God Says describes this perfectly for me. It is the distillation of that incoherent speech of the heart.

“Today we separate the religious from the secular. This would have been incomprehensible to the Palaeolithic hunters, for whom nothing was profane. Everything they saw or experienced was transparent to its counterpart in the divine world. Anything, however lowly, could embody the sacred. Everything they did was a sacrament that put them in touch with the gods.”

Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth

*Notes on the eternal circle of coincidence: Sales’ sons, Hunt and Tony, played guitar and drums on Iggy Pop’s album Lust For Life.

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1 Response to “A Guide to Modern Gospel Music: “God Says” by The Konks”



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The Ministry of Culture is a blog (duh!) about whatever interests me, a professional journalist. It looks at current events, culture -- rock & roll, literature, roller derby, opera, comedy -- military history and whatever else crosses my path. All opinions are my own.

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