The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is live!

It's the 2023 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes! Yay! It’s time to Rooster!


Now That’s Cult Music!

Religious cults tend to get a bad rap for the organized murders, weapon stockpiling, brainwashing, and mass suicide—but nobody focuses on the good they do. For example, nobody ever mentions the musical output. If you’re going to be stuck on the same compound with brainwashed denizens for long periods of time, you’re going to need some entertainment to keep everybody occupied, and it has to be something that’s not from an oppressive outside world that looks down on your leader’s polygamy. So pick up a guitar, bring the young believers over, and get everybody singing the transcendental lyrics of the Allfather before the forced tantric sex begins.

Ya ho wha 13/Father Yod may be the best example of a quality hippie religious sect. Nothing too crazy: a fruit and vegetable diet, only white garments, sex without orgasm, and the resulting extended blues punk jams. There’s lots of lyrics about projected energy flowing though the mind’s eye, and album covers featuring Father Yod posing on Rolls Royces with naked women that were shot when Master P was still in diapers. Way ahead of its time.

» Listen to Ya Ho Wha

* * *

Before his tragic hang-gliding death in 1975, Father Yod was able to put out a reasonable discography, mainly because he pulled in musicians from other groups—like Sky Saxon of ’60s garage band the Seeds. I’d imagine that, with all of the artistic differences that arise in recording, it must be nice to work with agreeable followers focused on the music and not whether the bass player cut into the vocal track.

» Listen to “Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds

* * *

At times I imagine cult life could be quite idyllic. You live on a compound where everybody is your friend and you can forget all about modern troubles and get back to the soil. And at night, you take part in a Stevie Wonder-inflected religious choir. Then the mass murder-suicide happens and you realize the choir wasn’t worth it.

» Listen to the Reverend Jim Jones and People’s Temple Choir at WFMU

* * *

Of course, these are the exceptions to the rule. Lots of cults never put out music. Some have castration ceremony chants but never think about recording them. And not all cults are started by frustrated musicians. Then there’s a few gems out there like Elizabeth Claire Prophet of the Church Universal and Triumphant who reads new-age scripture like a farm auctioneer through a vocoder. She belts a yodel against rock music like a great cantor, but when she predicted a Soviet nuclear strike against the U.S. that never materialized, things fell apart for the group.

» Listen to “ Dedication to the Tackling” by Elizabeth Claire Prophet

But not all is lost. Elizabeth Claire did have children, and those children had children, and those grandchildren went on to make emo grindcore, which is sort of like a cult, but without as much castration.

blog comments powered by Disqus