Tyler Glenn, the frontman of the band Neon Trees, recently released a full solo album chronicling his process of leaving the Mormon Church, a.k.a. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s titled, very directly, Excommunication. Using variations on the same electro-pop style as his band, Glenn gets pretty blunt about his feelings regarding the church and how it treats gay people, and most importantly what it feels like to lose the thing your entire life is based around.
As a gay former Mormon myself, I can relate to a lot of it. There’s no doubt it’s an intense experience. It’s nice to see someone using that experience to create instead of self-destruct, as some tend to do, and it’s interesting to see how he utilizes LDS imagery and terminology for his purpose.
According to an interview he gave with the podcast Mormon Stories (which you can find in all its five-hour glory here) the impetus for his leaving the church came with its recent ‘policy change’ which prevents the children of gay couples to be baptized until they are over 18 and denounce gay marriage. The policy change also gave guidance on ‘disciplinary’ actions for gay people.
It’s interesting to me that this is what did it for him. It’s hardly breaking news that the church is hostile towards gay people and gay marriage in particular (Prop. 8 anyone?). Why was this the line? It’s a moot point in the end I guess – better late to the party than never at all, right?
Many of the songs deal very explicitly with the issues of gay people in the church, particularly the two singles that have been released so far, “Trash” and “Midnights”. “Trash” is, I think, the most successfully executed song on the album, both musically and thematically. He talks about the feelings of rejection and stigmatization common to gay Mormons (and gay people in plenty of other subcultures). But ultimately it’s a rejection of that rejection. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Part of me wishes he didn’t use some of the more inflammatory imagery in the videos, like spitting on a picture of church founder Joseph Smith in the “Trash” video and showing the temple garments (if you don’t know, don’t ask) in the “Midnights” video. It just makes it easier for Mormons to dismiss him as a heathen and not listen to the earnest points made in his lyrics.
But for anyone who has had a similar experience to Glenn, or anyone who wants to understand people who have had that experience, the album will be about as impactful as any pop music out there.