P.O.D.: Testify

Chris Catania

What went wrong with Testify?



Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2006-01-24
UK Release Date: 2006-02-13

What went wrong with P.O.D.'s Testify (and probably the last album)? Well, you have to wait thirty minutes into the Testify audio commentary to hear it right from the source, but it all eventually makes sense.

As the band explains the creative decisions made on "Let You Down" -- a song responding to two close friends who attempted suicide, with one being tragically successful -- the album's hollow rehash aftertaste makes sense. Along with the rest of the crew, lead singer/screamer Sonny Sandoval explained that the unreleased demo version was recorded with a reversed playback overdub, albeit distinguishable, of him screaming the "f" word in a full out emotional rage.

Sonny explained the choice to trash the demo cut: "We wanted to say was how we felt about this person killing themselves, that it's not worth it, that this f-ing world is not worth it… but then we played it for some of our friends and they were like, 'Dude, you guys dropped the f-bomb!'"

Sonny wraps up his reasoning, "We wanted to cuss all over the song and really tell how we felt about the situation and our friend's decisions… but we are always the center of controversy." He's referring to the band's on-going struggle since their Atlantic debut to both make honest music and please the Warriors -- a title for the faithful following the band since 1992.

Albeit with a fair amount of stylistic redundancy, this desire to please the Warriors is one of the main reasons Testify didn't have the cultural impact or any where near the sales Satellite did. In frustration, P.O.D. has, at times, explained the last record's poor sales by claiming Atlantic didn't promote it enough. Payable on Death, their third release, didn't come with a commentary like Testify did, but after listening to the band's in-studio decisions, I wouldn't point the finger at Atlantic.

Before I listened to the commentary, I enjoyed about a quarter of the record. The lead single and first track, "Roots in Stereo", grabbed me instantly, with Hassidic reggae/hip-hop rapper Matisyahu leading the way. I ended up humming his hook for weeks. "Lights Out" is a galvanizing second track, much like Satellite's "Boom", and if you can believe it, P.O.D. wrote "Lights Out" solely for ESPN highlights (its original title was even "ESPN"; I never saw it used with Chris Berman's boisterous bantering, but I did see it used to advertise a glimmering Nissan Sedan). The I'm-missing-you-down-here-on-Earth see-you-soon-in-Heaven ballad is "Goodbye for Now", which reminded me of "Satellite" from Satellite. Hmm… do you see a pattern here? I do. It stopped, though, with "Let You Down", a possible follow-up to the culturally poignant "Youth of the Nation", also another Satellite track.

Now, at first listen, "Let You Down" was a perfect melodic match. The macabre tone and eerie atmosphere created by John Truby's melancholic meanderings gave me chills as the chords dripped into my ears. Sonny's lyrics were raw and desperate, as if lifted off a scribbled suicide note. Each verse is as close as you can get to the lonely and confused heart of a person contemplating suicide. But when I listened to the track a few times more, I sensed what the audio commentary confirmed. To put it in current cinematic terms, the final version of "Let You Down" would have never survived a Sam Phillips studio try-out, where a (paraphrased here) Sam Phillips told a green Johnny Cash that "you must sing the kind of song that you would sing if you was dying in the gutter… because that's the kind of song that saves people." (And maybe even careers, eh?)

If P.O.D. was really that worried about cussing and upsetting their fans, then they really missed the point of making music. I'm not saying P.O.D. needed to cuss to make a great record, but what saddens me is how Sonny explains and justifies the artistic compromise made in the studio. I am fully aware of P.O.D.'s nasty career conundrum, and I know it's really not that easy to solve. If you're not aware, core fans, mostly Christians, have a peculiar knack and dubious reputation for being judgmental and hypocritical regarding the use of profane language, and when given the choice, often forgoing artistic expression for moral and religious appropriateness. P.O.D., although Christian rock pioneers in their own right, aren't the first to be in this situation. One of their heroes, U2, has successfully weathered a similar storm of fan criticism.

Beyond releasing a greatest hits record November 21st on Rhino Records, what P.O.D. needs to do is to stop the silly easy-button pandering to the Warriors, make the kind music they said they made in the Testify sessions, and release it.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.