Jars Of Clay – Good Monsters

Jars Of Clay - Good MonstersAfter some sidesteps into rootsy country music influences, Jars Of Clay resumes their rock ‘n’ roll course with Good Monsters. Some country influences are still on display, but the past two albums’ flirtation with roots music really seemed to obscure what drew such an audience to the Jars in the first place: these guys can flat-out rock. The first single, “Dead Man (Carry Me)”, is one of the rockiest songs on the album, but it gives you a fair idea of what to expect here – decent, guitar-driven rock, maybe without leaning on studio technique as much as the group’s first two albums, strong vocals with great harmony work, and overall just a return to the group’s more familiar, catchy sound.

“Work” and “Dead Man” give things a fast-paced one-two punch of that return, and then things settle into a nice medium between the group’s rock sound and some of that recently-explored country/folk music territory, with “Good Monsters” and “Take Me Higher” being a couple more of the album’s strongest rock numbers. But while the music is good, the lyrics are outstanding. I have to single out “Work” especially, as it’s a very good example of why Jars Of Clay is one of the only Christian bands I listen to. The lyric “I have no fear of drowning / It’s the breathing that’s taking all this work” is emblematic of the group’s ability to lyrically address the fact that there is a struggle involved in being human and a there’s even a struggle involved in being a Christian – there are plenty of lyrics that address the “praise and worship” prerequisites of this genre of 4 out of 4music, but there are also plenty of mature lyrics like that one which acknowledge a struggle to stay on the straight and narrow. “Oh My God”‘s startling lyrical admission that “We all have a chance to murder” is another example of this (and it may in fact be the best song this band has ever done). That’s something that I don’t find nearly enough of in this genre of music – sort of like I can’t get enough Jars Of Clay. Highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. Work (3:53)
  2. Dead Man (Carry Me) (3:19)
  3. All My Tears (3:45)
  4. Even Angels Cry (4:21)
  5. There Is A River (3:51)
  6. Good Monsters (4:05)
  7. Oh My God (6:05)
  8. Surprise (3:50)
  9. Take Me Higher (4:40)
  10. Mirrors & Smoke (3:58)
  11. Light Gives Heat (4:41)
  12. Water Under The Bridge (3:58)

Released by: Essential
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 50:26

Jars Of Clay – The Eleventh Hour

Jars Of Clay - The Eleventh HourStill my favorite Christian rock act, Jars Of Clay’s fourth album sees them returning not only to the studio, but to the producer’s chair. Though I liked the stylistic stretches that it represented, not everyone dug If I Left The Zoo, with its almost Jellyfish-like experimentation with everything from bluegrass banjos to hard rock. That spirit of not sticking to the program, fortunately, survives through The Eleventh Hour with the hard-rocking “Revolution” (a smart song whose message is that if you really want to be a rebel, try being a decent person instead of trying to be a badass), and flirting with a latter-day R.E.M.-ish sound on “Silence”. The more traditional Jars Of Clay sound is still present too, with “Fly” and an alternate rock hit waiting to be discovered, “I Need You”. The band still excels at love songs which are neither sappy nor overly concerned with physical relations; they could be sung to the object of your affections as easily as they could be sung to Jesus – and that’s the beauty of it, because the latter is who the songs are 4 out of 4directed toward, but these songs could hit mainstream secular radio without sounding like Christian music.

Though the entire album is excellent, the cluster of “Fly”, “I Need You” and “Silence” is one of the better three-song runs I’ve heard on anything I’ve listened to recently. But the entire CD is highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. Disappear (3:56)
  2. Something Beautiful (3:46)
  3. Revolution (3:42)
  4. Fly (3:20)
  5. I Need You (3:40)
  6. Silence (5:17)
  7. Scarlet (3:32)
  8. Whatever She Wants (3:43)
  9. The Eleventh Hour (4:27)
  10. These Ordinary Days (3:04)
  11. The Edge Of Water (3:54)

Released by: Silvertone
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 42:21

Jars Of Clay – Much Afraid

Jars Of Clay - Much AfraidIn an excellent follow-up to their debut album, Jars of Clay continue exploring their musical strengths, while moving their lyrics into a more mature and somewhere darker plane. The cutting “Crazy Times”, though it remains within the parameters of the band’s Christian rock obligations, also seems to be a little more judgemental than the first album’s material (“it takes more than your saline eyes / to make things right”). However, these lyrics add just a dash of realism to what could have instead been an increasingly happy and condescending tone that I sometimes find irritating in this particular genre. Jars of 4 out of 4Clay maintain their awesome gift for harmonies with songs such as “Fade To Grey”, “Overjoyed”, and “Truce”, my favorites from this album. The string section embellishments from their previous album can be heard again here, proving that this is one band that can find new approaches within the sound that made them popular. Definitely a good one.

Order this CD

  1. Overjoyed (2:59)
  2. Fade To Grey (3:34)
  3. Tea and Sympathy (4:52)
  4. Crazy Times (3:34)
  5. Frail (6:37)
  6. Five Candles (You Were There) (3:48)
  7. Weighed Down (3:39)
  8. Portrait of an Apology (5:42)
  9. Truce (3:11)
  10. Much Afraid (3:52)
  11. Hymn (3:56)

Released by: Essential
Release date: 1997
Total running time: 46:08

Jars Of Clay – If I Left The Zoo

Jars Of Clay - If I Left The ZooJars of Clay have always impressed me with their sound, and this album sees them venturing even further afield with their always admirable production values. Kicking off with “Goodbye, Goodnight”, If I Left The Zoo almost sounds like Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk in style (if not necessarily in content). The band vastly widens its spectrum of different vocal styles (a black southern gospel choir backing up on “I’m Alright”), instruments (“Goodbye, Goodnight”‘s banjo, among other things), and various effects and filters which can make the band sound 4 out of 4post-modern one second and 70’s-retro the next. If I’m not mistaken, I think the lyrics are growing more complex and mature as well. The better songs include the aforementioned first track, “No One Loves Me Like You”, “Can’t Erase It”, and “Collide”.

Order this CD

  1. Goodbye, Goodnight (2:53)
  2. Unforgetful You (3:21)
  3. Collide (4:46)
  4. No One Loves Me Like You (3:49)
  5. Famous Last Words (3:27)
  6. Sad Clown (4:27)
  7. Hand (3:37)
  8. I’m Alright (3:40)
  9. Grace (4:31)
  10. Can’t Erase It (3:35)
  11. River Constantine (4:50)

Released by: Essential
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 42:58

Jars Of Clay

Jars Of ClaySo, here it is. My first conscious alternative music purchase. I suppose that honor could be bestowed upon the Finn album, but I bought that on the fine reputation of the artists concerned. I heard the single “Flood” from Jars of Clay on a long business trip (the alternative-ish radio station in Fayetteville was the only one that wasn’t driving me up the wall with redneck clichè) without realizing who had done the song. Now I’ve found the CD. And I’m amazed. These guys border on – hang on to your hats – Christian alternative! It wasn’t until I listened to all the words again that it dawned on me. In places, it’s obvious, and in others the references are quite subtle indeed. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this. But that aside, these guys are 4 out of 4great! In a way, their sound reminds me of a very raw incarnation of the Move, the avant-garde 60s band that spawned ELO. A small string section in nearly every number confers a bit of dignity to the otherwise raw, “alternative” atmosphere of acoustic guitars and some excellent vocal harmonies. I very highly recommend this.

Order this CD

  1. Liquid (3:31)
  2. Sinking (3:48)
  3. Love Song for a Savior (4:46)
  4. Like a Child (4:35)
  5. Art In Me (3:58)
  6. He (5:17)
  7. Boy on a String (3:30)
  8. Flood (3:33)
  9. Worlds Apart (5:18)
  10. Blind (3:59)

Released by: Silvertone
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 65:39