Page France

In praise of the celebratory messiah.

I had no idea Michael Nau of Page France was a Christian. Thus my surprise when I heard these words: "Dance like elephants as he comes to us through a fiery golden rain/With a violin and a song to sing as he brings for us our wings/Now he's one of us, plays the tambourine/Breaks the bread and sings." His record, Hello, Dear Wind, was on for background noise as I was washing dishes at home. It was all simple acoustic strumming, light glockenspiel, organ, and quirky-yet-pleasant vocals, perfect for cleaning the kitchen. But when I realized he was singing an interpretation of the Rapture, my ears perked.

Like any Recovering Catholic, I have a natural aversion to all Jesus freaks, but zero aversion to Christ himself. I'm fascinated by the Christian undertones of Flannery O'Connor's fiction and nurse hangovers to Johnny Cash's gospel records without irony. I'm not a Christian per se, but being raised in "The Church" I find it impossible to dismiss the cat and his teaching's altogether. In short, I'm just like countless other Americans who grew sick of the shit after being forced to sit through Sunday Mass and Sunday school on a weekly basis for 18 years of my life.

But in these times, when truly evil fuckers have hijacked Christianity, it's nice to hear sincerity about a faith without the caustic preaching. On Hello . . . , PF's debut for locals Suicide Squeeze, France seems to be celebrating the Jesus Christ that John Prine imagined in "Jesus: The Missing Years"; the Nazarene carpenter who might have been a sweet dude to chill with. "He will dance while we drink his wine/With soldiers and thieves and a sword in his side," he offers, and elsewhere: "I'm not sure what happens in the end/But I hope it's like they said, and I hope it never ends." Much like his peer Sufjan Stevens, France sings of a guilt-free Christianity, which is a hard nut to swallow for this former Catholic, but if he can believe in it, I say go for it. He's not hurting anybody and he's not knocking on my door to convert me. Either that or I'm just desperate to know there's a believer out there who's not killing Iraqis in Christ's name.

Brian J. Barr

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