“Dulcinea” is a 1994 album by Toad The Wet Sprocket (I like to call them “The Toads” for short). It is not particularly popular within the mainstream media, but is beloved by fans, and holds some of the most famous songs from their career. To me, it is a mix of rock and folk, but it’s also been described as alternative rock and jangle pop.
On a recent drive home from school, while in a dreamy state of mind, (but still paying attention to the road, I promise) I popped “Dulcinea” into my CD player. The melodies of the album are intricate and beautiful, and the vocals are captivating and eloquent. Although I’d listened to the album many times, I listened much more closely than I ever did before on this particular drive.
As I analyzed the lyrics, I realized there are more Biblical themes than I had noticed in the past. I used to think they were just tiny, passing references, but with verses such as “Paul is making me nervous….” (the opening lines in the first song, Fly From Heaven) and “like he’s God’s own messenger,” the presence of the spiritual themes can’t be ignored.
While one could argue lyrics are merely artistic and brush it off as any other art piece using outside sources from literature/ancient texts, we as Christians know the truth and the importance of it. A spiritual message can certainly be communicated from these songs, and the presentation gives itself the opportunity to further explore the reasoning these texts are added to the song, whether they are familiar with it or unfamiliar.
When I first discovered The Toads less than a year ago, I went almost instantly to my local books and records shop to see if they had any CD’s I could buy. When I spotted “Dulcinea,” I didn’t hesitate to make a purchase. Without even knowing most of the songs on it, the album grew on me each time I listened.
The band was recommended to me on YouTube after listening to a bunch of worship music. So my automatic assumption was that they are also a Christian band. It was much to my surprise that I couldn’t find anything on the internet labeling them as “Christian.” That is, until I did a little more digging and indeed found (from Wikipedia of all sources, but hey, it’s better than nothing) that “Dulcinea” is rooted in at least some Christian symbolism. They have other songs outside of the album that are also heavily influenced by Christian imagery.
One of their most famous songs, “Walk On The Ocean,” is full of spiritual references, using lines like “This is the place / where everything’s better, and everything’s safe,” “Walk on the ocean” “Flesh becomes water / wood becomes bone…” to communicate stepping out in faith.
When Glen Phillips, lead singer of the band, was asked about the symbolism in his lyrics, he often answered that they have no meaning, implying that there was no Christian imagery intended behind the story. However, this does not mean that Christians, and even non-Christians, cannot find messages about Jesus in lyrics that the musicians didn’t intend to have a spiritual or religious theme, or really any theme at all. This further just shows how powerful God is in conveying His message of repentance to people who don’t even realize it’s power through their art.
It’s important that everyone, particularly Christians, seek out Christian messages, whether that is through music or any other form of media. While some artists intentionally include themes about God in their music, such as Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, others like The Toads have spiritual references sprinkled throughout their music like Easter eggs waiting to be found by listeners.
The media we consume is essential to our relationship with Jesus and will either strengthen us or cause us to turn away from Him. Learning how to critically analyze music for spiritual references develops discernment, as we sort through good and bad messages. This discernment will help us appreciate music that may not necessarily even have a Christian message, but that is just as clean and still shines a positive light into the world.