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The Arrows

If You’re Satan And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

by Max Barashenkov / Images by Jean Rene Onyangunga / 24.08.2011

She stands before me on the stage, in lines and forms that once I might have found attractive. Behind her face, two mighty Cs, they coil and embrace. Back then, as a freshly immigrated Russian kid, the Church had beckoned with unquestioned camaraderie, so alien in the motherland, and Capitalism dazzled with all the promises of riches. Soon wonderment mutated to distrust, distrust then quickly turned into dislike, and she, the frontman of The Arrows, drives further my disgust at this unholy union by holding up a pair of Raybans shades and bashfully proclaiming: “Who’s worthy of these glasses?” The congregation roars its worth. I guess we’re not all equal as the scripture says.

And Jesus looked around and saith unto his disciples: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:22)

Yet, at seventy rand a head for one band, Christ certainly pays. The new Zula, a venue magnificent enough to play the part, is full tonight, close to five hundred souls await the Durban duo. That clocks the earnings in around thirty-five thousand sacrificial Rands and I can’t help but think how much of this will be given back to God. Sure, there is some hope that The Arrows will fund some ministries with all that cash, but awareness of the human nature begs to differ. The problem with bands that openly bill themselves as ‘christian acts’ is that there isn’t much music there, merely PR for the Church. The organized religious circuit is a bona-fide cash-cow, providing a zealous fan-base almost instantly and a springboard to wider commercial success. The Arrows are a testament to that, having toured the States four times off Jesus’s back and drawing hundreds of impressionable youths, by advertising through the churches, all willing to fork out the extortionist cover charge.

The Arrows

The crowd around me is peculiar until you realize these people don’t go to gigs, they go to church and this show is just an extension of a sermon. The hall is full of awkward men and sheepish-looking women, some way too young, some way too old, but all unanimous in their tasteless dress. They seem a little threatened by this place, which bears the scars of decadence, but this is how The Arrows sell themselves – providing for the churchgoer a safe herd atmosphere with a spicy dash of edge. I smile at how, across a passageway, three coloured girls grind down to dirty hip-hop and at the disapproving looks that are thrown at them. For any ideology or belief to hold its sway, it needs a clearly outlined Other, an enemy of sorts, against which to steel its mettle. The Arrows paint this Other quite clearly in their video for “In The Words Of Satan”, the most offensive Christian propagandist montage I have ever stumbled upon and much revealing of their bigotry. While people interpret things in different ways and it is not the aim of this article to do a semiotic deconstruction of the video, three things can be easily gleaned from this visual manifesto – The Arrows hate money (which is “the root of all evil”), The Arrows hate people who listen to rock ‘n roll (a frame of heroin use is followed by a frame of a festival crowd followed by yet more heroin use), The Arrows hate all other forms of spirituality (imagery from other religions set to the lyrics along the lines of “it’s all lies”). This places me in the highly unwanted category of ‘Satan’ for merely being myself and, coupled with prior exposure to the two-faced nature of some hardcore Christians, forces out a scream: “There is no God in you, you judgmental bitch!”

The scream is sadly drowned out by the approving howls of the crowd, exploding in a thin forest of raised hands the second the Durban girls walk on stage. Not half an hour ago, they were comatose, barely vibrating to actual good music DJ Sideshow was playing, only starting to shake when she dropped some old school rock ‘n roll (perhaps the stuff from the 50s and 60s is pure enough for them). Now there is no escaping their shrieks, and one has to give The Arrows this – they do deliver a half-decent show. The performance is tight, the music an infectious blend of pop and indie rock, sprinkled with hints of jazz. The hooks and riffs are purposefully anthemic – elation is everywhere, yet there is a certain hollowness to both the sound and presence. The use of just the keyboard and the drums leaves a rather large aural gap, that The Arrows fill with exaggerated stage antics. Pam de Menezes beats and kicks her hoof with abandon, her face perpetually mid-orgasm, while Christie Desfontaine is so ferocious in her drum assault that she resembles a crusader knight charging against the heathens (and before the spears are raised – isn’t judgment on face value an intrinsically Christian trope?). Funny enough, they sound best when they enlist the boy-candy from The Dirty Skirts on the drums and another poor dick on acoustic guitar and kick out a spectacular country rendition of “I’m Gonna Find Me A Man”. I’m not sure as to what the message of this choice of cover is, but perhaps they should ditch the duo-pop thing all together and rock out in this vein all the time.

The Arrows

The real question then is – would their music sell without the backing of the Church? Opinions and tastes differ, no doubt, but have we not heard Lilly Allen and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs before? Why would 5fm or any other station playlist a song that, while cute, is nowhere near groundbreaking or catchy enough to be called a hit-single? Is it perhaps a concession nod to the Christian community that has already rallied behind The Arrows on purely ideological grounds? You can’t really play outright gospel music on commercial radio but in the new South Africa you have to appeal to all. This pushes The Arrows to a much wider audience, an audience that will lap up whatever their habitual radio DJ spins, and effectively conceals their Christian agenda. Read most mainstream media articles on them and you will discover that their Church roots are barely touched on, allowing them to operate as cultural shapeshifters–preaching the ‘right’ word of God through their lyrics while actively engaging in brand promotion, advertising whoredom and soul-selling. Cast your eyes to the Adidas armour Christie wears – a sickening combo of light blue tracksuit top and shorts, continue looking past the frequent product give-aways during their set and onto their Facebook page, where every second photo sluts itself with “Taken with our new OLYMPUS BLA-BLA-BLA CAMERA, check it out, you should get one!” The transcription is literal, the camera type – yes there are several Christ-approved models to choose from – is in capitals. The sell is especially effective under the undoubtedly highly spiritual trip to Jerusalem, all that is missing is the tag-line “God looks closer through an Olympus”. Got that in your sights? Now backtrack your gaze to the “In The Words Of Satan” video, particularly the part that condemns money…

Conclusions should be made and I, from the fiery pit that surely awaits me, can only say that Jesus is definitely not listening to The Arrows.

The Arrows

*All images © Jean Rene Onyangunga.

39   3
RESPONSES (66)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Great piece!
    (I think they could have charged more, Christians don’t have to budget for drugs.)

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  2. Rob says:

    Brilliant.

    I wonder what they’re going to think of the debauchery of Rocking the Daisies – will probably leave straight after their set… Great piece Max.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    so much hypocrisy in that video.
    good article max.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    honestly couldn’t finish watching it. Must be the devil.

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  5. Laura says:

    I’ve never liked the band because I find their music repulsive, but this adds a whole new depth and dimension to my dislike for them. Geat piece!

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  6. Shan says:

    Some really good points made well.
    First time I saw them was at the Willovale Hotel in DBN. Without any idea of their Christian leanings, we arrived to find the same oddball church crowd you’ve mentioned- in a venue that is about as dirty rock n roll as you get.
    1st clue that things were a bit off. The next clue was the fact that they were launching the video of ‘In the words of Satan’ . I wondered why they would waste good money creating a video that absolutely NO ONE would play on TV. Maybe it gets airplay on Christian channels?
    I have to admit tho, for a shockingly offensive piece of music, it’s pretty cleverly written and characteristically catchy…
    At some point during the evening Pam actually launched into a sermon of sorts, which had us lurching for the door. When I mentioned this to friends, they said that she used to do this even more before they became more popular.
    I agree with the writer. They put on a decent enough show but, by only using a quarter of a band, there is something hollow about their sound. At least when they had a bassist, they had a bit more substance.
    They should seriously invest in a guitarist at least. The thing is, in this country, there is usually only one good reason to keep your line-up small and simple – to make more money…

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  7. tamara says:

    Great morning piece to wake up to.
    Pictures are not as strong or expressive as I would have liked them.

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  8. Ubuntu Bob says:

    “Winding you up like a little puppet/You’re my favourite robot”

    Such a perfect description of the church.

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  9. old grumpypants says:

    Damn Right! Well said Max. The ONLY South African music journalist who tells it the way that it really is.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Someone should sue them for using copyrighted images in that music video.
    Thats considered theft.
    Baby Jesus is crying right now.

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  11. What would Je$u$ do? says:

    Money is my God. If you think God will help you then quit your job and see how much he cares. (Mike Tyson)

    Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love. (Butch Hancock)

    A delusion held by one person is a mental illness, held by a few is a cult, held by many is a religion. (Robert Todd Carroll)

    If there is a God, atheism must seem to Him as less of an insult than religion. (Edmond de Goncourt)

    All quotes from mentalanarchy.com

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  12. Andy says:

    Where’s the Christian backlash already?

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  13. Anonymous says:

    I must say that I love the Arrows music … but had to leave early from this gig. Sound was SO SO bad. Also feel like although the drummer is talented, she’s being featured way more than their music calls for – drowning out the gems of the songwriting – melodies and lyrics. Pounding drums are never a way forward … and sound engineers, management must be wary of this.

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  14. Bob says:

    I know right? I’ve been refreshing for half an hour just waiting for it.
    It’ll come, that train is never late.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    She’s a boring drummer.

    Also, Zula needs to wake up. You cant spend that much on a new venue and not take into account basic sound requirements. I mean, corrogated iron roof? Genius. Cymbals make the whole room sound like shit, and hey, most bands have cymbals. I wish venues would try harder with sound. Roar, the little hole in the wall in obs, urine drenched and sticky floors aside, still has some of the best sound in this city. I dont see why the bigger more commercial venues cant follow suit.

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  16. altaswanepoel says:

    just know god has a plan for you max, He loves you. the arrows don’t have a ‘christian agenda’. how juju of you. they have faith. there’s a difference. and if companies want to get behind their message in visible ways that’s how the world works in all its fallen glory. that video is kak ja.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Heres some backlash for you Andy: Whats it like knowing you’re relying on Max and his controversy to get a spike of traffic again?

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  18. Roger Young says:

    @Anoz

    Traffic and Comments are two different things entirely.

    As to backlash, the christers won’t lash back, they don’t need to, they have the conviction of their faith.

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  19. praying for sound says:

    the sound at the new zula -now thats worthy of a debate- good sound is god-good god is sound-sound god is good

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  20. Anonymous says:

    oh my fuck that video is disgusting

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  21. old grumpypants says:

    The backlash will come Andy, but not in a way that you expect. One of these days you will get a call from one of your regular advertisers. They will suggest that you should tone down on vindictive remarks about the Christian community, not because they themselves are Christians but because Christians are threatening to boycott their products if they advertise on sites like yours. It worked against Woolworths and it worked against a tiny little CD shop that used to stock Diamanda Galas albums.

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  22. ShlongDong says:

    They must be big in Texas, surprised the Tea Party revival hasn’t asked them to do their theme song. They should go tour with Prussian Blue or something.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Prussian Blue broke up when the twins realised they were being idiots and decided they weren’t racist anymore. Which in itself, is a rather happy story.
    I think they’re pot smoking hipsters now.

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  24. James Bondage says:

    Bahaha. Prussian Blue tour ft the Arrows. Harsh.

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  25. King Mob says:

    shite, i just watched that video against my better judgement, and even for me, that is fucking crass. it does appear that a large percentage of the population IS caught in the grip of a sinister entity bent on trapping them in an egomaniac closed loop consciousness and destroying their perceptual/spiritual agency, so they should stop pointing their fingers at US, and start pointing in their mirrors. ARRRRGH! i must now go cleanse these feelings of war against the heinous crusaders with a gargle of vodka.

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  26. Nancy_Fucken_Drew says:

    Jesus Christ.

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  27. Anonymous says:

    That video made me feel sick

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  28. Brian Green says:

    Would love to put my Spirit in the one on the left. Body of Christ.

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  29. just me. says:

    fuck that video is DISTURBING. i’m extremely offended by it. arg. i’d rather watch fucking Harry Potter. arg. dammit.
    Max.. you little fucking genius. i’m gonna laminate this and keep it for the day you ( satan forbid ) loose your touch.
    Thanks for this – except for that video – that thing destroyed my fucking day.
    i’m sure they are going to hell for making that video.

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  30. Long Tall Sally says:

    Good point Shan…

    The only time I saw them live was at the UKZN Centre for Jazz. They gave Pam a lot of support when she still worked there and she completely insulted them and pandered to her church friends at the gig. A whole other kind of prophetic, that…

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  31. Samuel says:

    the diatribe that these two teen girls spew borders on hatespeech.thank god im an atheist.

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  32. James says:

    Christianity is complete bullshit!

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  33. Delon says:

    Firstly, great piece Max, secondly all this ‘band’ is, is a cheap knock off of The Dresden Dolls, with 2 major differences…1: The Dresden Dolls have talent, and 2: The Arrows probably make more money then TDD because as Max says, there is a built in crowd willing to pay massive amounts of money for anything that mentions God.

    ” would their music sell without the backing of the Church? “, now that is the question. I highly doubt it.

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  34. Anonymousse says:

    Heil Satan!
    And max!

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  35. Slim says:

    Max, love your work bro! You are an arrogant bastard and you wouldn’t be half the writer you are without it!
    Fuck the hypocrysy that this band represents, it makes me sick – they are what is wrong with the world. Why don’t they hire out a hall, make it all ages and sell cokes and Oros – oh wait … too many overheads to cover! Propaganda isn’t very Christian by the way – oh wait, it’s Christianity’s weapon of choice, other than fear, to control their masses, my bad.
    This massive contridicition personified reminds me of the, constantly varying amount of, Catholics who drink themselves stupid, beat their wives and then say a couple “our father”‘s and “hail mary”‘s and then all is forgiven. Money is the root of all evil, Hymmmmmn – R70 a head for a line up consisting of 1 two-piece band. Ja, I think I’m done here…

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  36. Anonymous says:

    kill it with fire

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  37. Kyle says:

    This is an awesome, awesome article. Nice job man 🙂 Who says Mahala is shite?

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  38. Billy P says:

    Uh, didn’t Roger Young write this story in 2009?

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  39. huh! says:

    Has no-one noticed that Pam de Menezes has an extraordinary voice. I’m saddened that no-one here – in the story or comments – has registered this fact. The tragedy is not that the Arrows are talentless but that their talents could be put to so much greater use. In my ideal world Mahala -writers and readers – is a much more intelligent place than this.

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  40. Dan says:

    Ok, so I only managed to last 1:41 into that video, but that was enough to give me the impression that these chicks should be selling their wares to sunday schools. That shit sounded like a fucking nursery rhyme! How do adults fall for this kak? Oh, and nice piece Max. It’s good to be able to read your filth on a semi-regular basis once again.

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  41. Roger Young says:

    No. I didn’t.

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  42. Justme says:

    I consider myself christian…..and I thought the article brilliant

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  43. Slim says:

    @huh!
    Max did mention that they put on a decent show and having read many of his reviews that is the closest thing that they will get to a compliment, which includes her voice.
    I hear you on the “The tragedy is not that the Arrows are talentless but that their talents could be put to so much greater use” comment but please don’t be naïve and forget the fact that when a self proclaimed Christian act comes to a place like Zula bar, attracting their hoards of unsociable awkward church goers and also charge an inexcusable cover – the actual performance – unfortunately – plays second fiddle to the above mentioned. A gig review is reflective of the evening as an experience as a whole and not just if the band played a good set.

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  44. anonymous says:

    this article has nothing to do with their music, its just an outright bashing of Christianity and them personally. DISSAPOINTING

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  45. YsterHart says:

    Their music has nothing to do with music, its just an outright punting of Christianity and them personally. DISAPOINTING

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  46. two minute poodles says:

    i have to say, even though i don’t share the beliefs or condone the creationist agenda, that it’s a pretty well written song.

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  47. Justme says:

    hi YsterHart…..personally what I think they are punting has less to do with Christianity & more to do with them personally

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  48. Justme says:

    btw…the Bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil [money is just a thing it has no moral ethic blah] it says the LOVE of money is the root of all evil….which is ironic because from their pulpit they blatantly COMMAND that you should give them money…..
    the Bible DOES say that many will use the gospel for their own personal gain
    and that’s just my christian perspective……oh yes then there’s all that about not judging….being a friend to sinners….and how the pious will be shocked at who actually does get into heaven…..
    just my own blah blah…..

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  49. Not Bad says:

    Saw them in Durban supporting Tree 63 a couple of years back and they had this big black dude on bass and they sounded killer – seriously pop, but killer. I knew right then what radio friendly was. I also couldn’t believe how a band who no one knew about (then) managed to walk on stage with a full Yamaha sponsorship and of course some big corporates are big christians themselves. Like Mr Price. Bit unfair don’t u think? Perhaps a list of pro-christian companies could be made? I’d like to know if Marshall Music falls into that category..

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  50. What would Je$u$ do? says:

    @ old grumpypants – I don’t meant to argue with you, because I don’t think you were threatening Andy so much as stating a point of view, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s exactly the kind of manipulative behaviour that you mention on the part of christians that has kept them in such a position of power for so long. It’s high time that they got told where to get off instead of – once again – getting their way. They’re a well organised group, but they’re not a majority, and they have no right to behave as if they hold a moral majority. Mahala has far more to lose by pandering to these delusional hippocrates than by standing up to them. Nice work Max & Andy.

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  51. Fnord says:

    Gotta love some good ole propaganda 🙂

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  52. old grumpypants says:

    Have a look at my first comment on this piece and it will be very clear that my second was not threatening anyone, just trying to highlight how manipulative some Christians have been in the recent past. I was trying to offer some background on why none of them have commented overtly here in defence of the band and their lifestyle.

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  53. What would Je$u$ do? says:

    @ old grumpypants – we’re in agreement.

    I did read your first comment, which was why I started my 2nd comment with “I don’t mean(t) to argue with you, because I don’t think you were threatening Andy so much as stating a point of view”.

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  54. Just Saying says:

    good song writers/musicians. Shitty agenda overshadows said good music. Oh and watch Religulous. Go Atheism!

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  55. simon says:

    that video is embarrassing… that animation at the beginning is SO fucking bad… how can you even begin to try take their “message” seriously with such a shit-stream of stock imagery… i dunno if i wanna laugh or get a little bit sick in my mouth

    great piece by the way max

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  56. yousinners says:

    Everyone on this website is going to burn in hell. The Arrows play with Jesus’ blessing and anyone who dares question the purity of their belief will suffer the wrath of God.

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  57. verbalkint says:

    Conclusions should be made and I, from the fiery pit that surely awaits me, can only say that Jesus is definitely not listening to The Arrows.

    Best. Line. Ever.

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  58. Fnord says:

    @yousinners

    I’m sorry but how can you be so certain of that. Really how can people in general be certain of anything in life. We have to little info in life to make any absolute resolution on pretty much anything, never-mind life after death.

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  59. pedro de pacas says:

    yes yes, religion is bullshit, christianity is hypocritical, etcetera etcetera blah blah blah. a message as tired as the arrow’s sermons.

    but you’ve obviously hit on something amongst your fellow little Gandalf trolls, Max. oh, your so anti-establishment, a real bad boy. get over yourself.

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  60. anonymouse says:

    played a gig with them once and they used made their bassist set up and sound check by himself while they got their hair done in preparation for the gig. he was the only thing i liked about the band, black dudes on bass make me man-wet.

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  61. jefferson says:

    that article sucked and you are just a biased close minded sucker fool

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  62. Justme says:

    @ yousinners: Judge much?

    & I quote: “Everyone on this website is going to burn in hell. The Arrows play with Jesus’ blessing and anyone who dares question the purity of their belief will suffer the wrath of God.”

    read your Bible S L O W L Y …… when the Son of God seperates the sheep from the goats (the accepted from the unaccepted) the deciding factor is did you clothe & feed the poor; did you vist those in hospitals or prison…….it does not…..does N O T mention anything about what music you listen to.
    Amazing how you KNOW who will be in heaven or hell when Jesus said that you, yes YOU, will be surprised at who enters the Kingdom of Heaven……ooh ooh….what about that JESUS mentions that say But we cast out demons in your name & He says ‘away from me you EVIL doers, I never knew you”

    the hype of you & your ilk make me sick

    and they wonder why I’ve stopped going to curch

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  63. Satan's little helper says:

    That video is the biggest pile of shit I’ve ever seen, thanks Mahala for allowing me this outlet to vent my complete and utter hatred for that band after seeing that video. FUCK the fundamentalists fools.

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  64. Checkmeonthis says:

    One day all knees will bow.

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  65. Jew from the anti-semite sect says:

    These young girls are great songwriters and the singer is great. I bet if anyone here could do better and both you and the arrows presented a song to a grammy award winning producer, my bet is you would come off 2nd best, secondly the issue hear is not about live sound whoever brought that up… hand to face. I think its amazing. Looks to me as if alot of people have planks in thier eyes and are throwing stones at the same time. They are amazing musos, stop being judgemental or jealous. Such small minded people in dbn, The Arrows should head to New York, where people are a little more hip and open minded. They make a strong point in this video, if you dont like it dont watch it, or dont go to thier concerts, simple as that. Let the rest of us enjoy it in peace. GO ARROWS.

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  66. Americo says:

    You biased arrows little hater , this article sucks and has got NOTHING to do with the arrows, but a bashing to Christianity as was well said above; and to anyone the song is “disturbing”, good medice never tasted good, and the demons that fill and control your mind are really disturbed at hearing such a penetrating truth, thats you couldnt go for the whole vid, its TOO MUCH of a truth to bear,hahaha go Arrows and yes every knee shall bend!

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