Provincializm by William Bowers: Bodies of Water


Last week, we asked you to guess the name of William Bowers’s weekly SOTC column. Boy, that was a real hoo ha—is The Bower Hour really the best you could do? The correct answer is Provincializm—and in case you missed the gratuitous bio the first time around, a quick refresher: the dude writes for Pitchfork, Paste, Magnet, plus his work’s been in a da Capo anthology. Send him your spiritual healing at Puritan Blister.

DJ Housemate on a mission from God in the Midway Airport.

Provincializm: Hot Wet Faith

By William Bowers

For the last couple weeks either the Los Angeles nu-gospel quartet Bodies Of Water, or Jesus himself, or something witchy that one of them sent, has been haunting me. During this same interval, my heteroxclusive relationship with a very confused goth Christian was ending—let’s call her Freshex. The dear, confounding Freshex actually had me plopped in a church a couple Sundays ago—it was one of the churches in the Vineyard global network, founded in 1974 to give hippies nondemonational places to pretend that pews and altars are amenable to Deadhead dance moves. The service leader made a Red Hot Chili Peppers joke. One dude sporting Tevas just flopped floorwise the whole time in a Jesus Christ pose. The grindy band sounded exactly like those Dutch radio sessions Will Oldham did in 1998, covering krishna chants by Paramahansa Yogananda and the Monks Of The Self-Realization Order. The actual venue’s actual slogan was actually “Casual Atmosphere, Serious Faith, Great Coffee.”

Anyway the Freshex and I were forniculating and substance-abusing within 24 hours. By midweek she and her tortured bisexual other had gotten matching Harry Potter lighting bolt tats, hardly a sign of trad piety, and still the curse of Bodies Of Water’s fault (bandleader David Metcalf proofread Harry Potter trivia during a stint with Warner Brothers’ department of Brand Assurance). Then we went to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago with my deejay housemate—let’s call him DJ Housemate. During the flight, I listened, for the zillionth time, to Bodies Of Water’s thighmasteringly amazing debut (out today via their own Thousand Tongues label). I got stirred up by the album’s Christian oomph. What is a word for the opposite of nostalgia? Trauma? My point is: you folks reared by atheist guardians had it made—you could play in the yard as a tyke and it was just a yard. The yards of those of us raised by fundamentalists were precariously positioned over a hungry hell and under a judging God. I’ve been through a proper hipster apostasy and I don’t need Bodies Of Water’s jubilant asses trying to puncture my carefully constructed Bible-hymen.

The weird priorities of the Chicago weekend totally collided. Freshex wanted to talk about theodicy. I wanted to listen to Bodies Of Water on my iPod. Nights, we lied and told gatekeepers that we were with Vice—another word for sin—to get into the celeb-spinning afterbashes. When the esteemed Yoko Ono did her wailing/grunting thing, I said, “Wow, this is the least commercial and most avant-garde thing ever to appear at Pitchfork.” DJ Housemate said, “How is it avant-garde if she’s been doing it for thirty years?” Freshex cellphoned her missionary mom and said “Yoko Ono is speaking in tongues!” Her mom then yelled to her visionary entourage (no shit, they live on a bus and prophesy things), “Yay, you guys, Yoko Ono got saved!”

DJ Housemate was—I swear to evolution—struck blind right before Klaxons played. The doctors called it photokeratitis but I know that it was God (Acts 13:11 reads “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time. Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.”) We spent a whole night in a hospital emergency room, where two bloody Jewish brothers misquoted Clipse (“Wamp, wamp/ it’s what you do, it’s what you do”) while two black guys debated the significance of King David’s lineage. I pointed out to them that they were kind of wading in each other’s “culture,” and one of them said, “Very interesting.” I put on my headphones and listened to Bodies Of Water’s “Doves Circled The Sky,” with its refrain, “You are my chosen ones.”

My dreams became lame mash-ups of scenester bullhockey and residual superstition. Disembodied voices asked me when rapture’s (not The Rapture) street date was, and if it leaked, and whether there was a guest list, and if Dan Deacon or Girl Talk were going to play the post-tribulation party. I listened to Bodies Of Water all week, feeling as conflicted about their evangelo-rock as I do about my new crush on this girl I keep seeing who looks like Harmony Korine. Then, horror of horrors, the one and only Tammy Faye died; in my youth, I pranced in drag as her cosmeticness at many a church-camp talent show during Mom’s husband-hunting summers. I still don’t know what that was about.

(Only you can help Bodies Of Water defeat those heathens Interpol by landing in Billboard’s holy trinity, above the number four perch of Our Love To Admire.)