I must admit that I didn't know much about the band Neon Trees until reading an article about the lead singer, Tyler Glenn, how he came out as a proud gay man two years ago and continued to try and make his religion work.
And it didn't work with him.
The article broke my heart. Having been through a faith crisis, I found myself nodding along with the things he said. Whereas I wrote The Telling as my therapy during that troubled time, Mr. Glenn poured his soul into music, creating the album Excommunication as a solo project. A very personal, heart-rending solo project.
Anyone I've ever betaed for has heard those four cringe-worthy words that I use a lot when critiquing stories: Make. Me. Feel. It.
Tyler Glenn makes you feel the pain, the uncertainty, the feeling of being ripped raw and totally exposed. And then he offers a glimpse of hope.
I'm not really sure how many times I've listened to Excommunication, but I have it in my home, car, and at work. I'm very close to knowing every word of every song by heart, and I can belt them out, reliving and exorcising pain.
With most albums, there are songs I love, songs I like, and some I skip over. Not here. I'll play one, think, "This is my favorite," and think the same of the next. But the overriding theme is not just about losing faith, it's about discovering yourself, not hiding who you are, and staying true to yourself.
There are words in those lyrics that speak to, not only people of various stages of faith, but LGBTQ, and anyone who's ever felt marginalized.
The first song is Sudden Death, and the words capture the feeling of being questioned, of having others turn their backs.
Next up is G.D.M.M.L. Grls - God Didn't Make Me Like Girls, a coming out anthem, and one of my favorites on an album full of favorites.
Trash - If I could only capture this type of raw emotion for a book. Laid bare, feeling betrayed by something you put so much of yourself into. There's also an awesome video for this one that has offended some in the faith community, but the feeling I get is someone trusting you enough, or has been pushed far enough, to tell you how they really feel. The agony of rejection. Raw, gritty, and with a driving beat like a human heart.
Gods + Monsters - This is a song I wish I'd had during my last horrible breakup. It says so much that I couldn't put into words at the time, and woulda gone well with the booze and cigar. (Long story).
Gates - That moment when you decide "I'm gonna stop listening to everybody and just live my life and be happy" is well summed up in this work.
Shameless - What I said about "Gates", to the tenth power, and an awesome song to belt out wholeheartedly in the car on your way home after a crappy day at work.
Waiting Around - Been there.
One More - One of the more hopeful songs on the album, and a nice respite while you recover from the "cut and bleed" aspects of Trash and Shameless.
Black Light - That glass of wine you've waited for all day. Okay, I'll be honest, I'm more of a beer girl, but still.
John, Give 'Em Hell - I want to play this for all my fellow PFLAG folks and others who stand against social injustice. Keep doing what you do.
Devil - Yes! This! That feeling of being in church and cringing, fearing how some people would treat you if they knew your mind. Been there so many times. Very powerful lyrics about finding yourself in the aftermath.
I've watched interviews with the artist on how this work came to be, and the real life inspirations. I want to find this guy and hug him.
I'll leave you with the video for Shameless (that I've seen... okay, A LOT of times).
I bought my copy of Excommunication from Amazon: Nicely done, Mr. Glenn, and may you find peace, as I did. Highly recommended.