new series: derek webb’s stockholm syndrome track-by-track

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Friday, July 24th, 2009

new series: derek webb’s stockholm syndrome track-by-track

i suck at blog series.

i mean, i really do. i’ve tried and while some work, most don’t. they usually fizzle out or i get distracted by something else.

BUT, i’m going to right this ship and start a new blog series because it’s something i’m really passionate about and i think could be of interest to my legions thousands hundreds tens of blog readers.

starting with this post, i’m going to be blogging through the entire new derek webb album, stockholm syndrome. track-by-track, i’ll take 10 posts to explore what i consider to be the most prophetic album i’ve ever heard (i know, i know…hyperbole… but seriously…). (the album actually has 14 tracks, but one’s an instrumental intro, two tracks function as one and will be blogged together and the other—freddie, please—i’ve already blogged about.)

i realize that some of you will seemingly have very little interest in this series if you a.) don’t like derek webb, b.) don’t think you like derek webb or c.) have little/no interest in 10 posts about music-driven theology. but, you should give it a try. i think i’ll deal with some overarching theological/political/social themes wherein the music serves as a launching point rather than a strict guide for interpretation.

alright, let’s do this.


it takes less than a measure into the first track, black eye, to realize derek webb is doing something very different here. the electro, 80’s synth influenced album begins with webb laying the theological presupposition for the entire album: the church has become a willing and endeared participant in its captivity.

here’s how webb opens his album:

black eye
from staring through a keyhole at my lover
i swear it’s not from his fist

the stockholm syndrome
comes to where they’re keeping you
you never know what time it is

black eye
is all it’s gonna take for me to love you
it’s written in my constitution

if you go you know
i’m comin’ with you
i’m blind bound by love

time is no friend to the ones who wait
for the daylight to come

time looks the same at the ones who hate
and the ones that do nothing

black eye
is what i’m gonna paint for your protection
to cover the tracks that you’re leavin’

i misplaced my face
so we can be together
and red lips change how you’re perceivin’

time is no friend to the ones who wait
for the daylight to come

time looks the same at the ones who hate
and the ones who do nothing

black eye
black eye

you can listen here: black eye

on black eye, webb paints a picture of a person held captive in a room in which all they can do is press their eye against a keyhole to distantly gaze upon his or her lover. what seems like a hostile kidnapping turns out to be the stockholm syndrome. so, just what is the stockholm syndrome?

i actually blogged about this several months ago on the eikon blog, which you can read here. in essence, stockholm syndrome refers to a psychological phenomenon that describes the behavior of kidnap victims, who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. the name comes from a botched bank robbery in 1973 in which, after 6 days of captivity, several victims resisted rescue attempts, refused to testify against their captors, raised money for their legal defense, and then one actually became engaged to one of her captors. it’s quite the bizarre phenomenon, but has been documented semi-regularly since that time (including, famously, the case of patty hearst in 1974).

in the case of black eye and the album as a whole, webb asserts that this phenomenon is present in the modern, american church. the church, in fact, by and large, has been held captive by a number of captors: the religious right, modernity, denominationalism, ecclesial arrogance, unjust systems, to name a few (and one could certainly make strong arguments for a number of other things). what was meant as a hostile coercion has now become a willing partnership.
one of the most striking lines of the song, though, isn’t just a barrage of charges against the church’s willing participation, but the ones who know it’s wrong and don’t take action. certainly, webb finds great influence in martin luther king, jr. and one of his famous quotes (and one of my favorites) is referenced in the song. dr. king said,

in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

and, similarly,

history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

webb’s line, time looks the same at the ones who hate / and the ones who do nothing follows in line with dr. king in asserting that while we point the finger at those who have become willing and endeared captives, when we see their misguidance and do nothing, we ultimately contribute equally in the problem. that’s a powerful statement and a confrontingly true statement.
so, as you can see, webb begins the album with his thesis: we have become wiling and endeared captives of a captor that on vaguely (at best) resembles the account of the scriptures.
next on the docket: cobra con.