Jars of Clay released their self-titled label debut back in 1995. It included ‘Flood’ which became a mainstream hit. Fast forward to 2006 and they released their seventh full-length studio album GOOD MONSTERS (Essential Records). Band members were: Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason, and Matt Odmark. The album was produced by the band and executive produced by Terry Hemmings. CCM Magazine named it ‘Album of the Year’. It was also Christianity Today’s top album of 2006 and won a Dove Award for ‘Best Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year’. As well, it peaked at #58 on the Billboard 200.
Starting things off is ‘Work’, the album’s second single. It’s one of eight songs written by the four band members. This pounding rocker displays great vulnerability: “Just in case/I will leave my things packed so I can run away/I cannot trust these voices/I don’t have a line of prospects that can give some kind of peace/There is nothing left to cling to that can bring me sweet release/I have no fear of drowning/It’s the breathing that’s taking all this work/Do you know what I mean when I say/’I don’t want to be alone’”. Next up is ‘Dead Man (Carry Me)’ the album’s first single. It’s a catchy pop/rock song about spiritual renewal: “Carry me/I’m just a dead man lying on the carpet/Can’t find a heart beat/Make me breathe/I want to be a new man, tired of the old one, out with the old plan/Can You find a beat inside of me?/Any pulse?”
‘All My Tears’ is a Julie Anne Miller composition. It’s a rootsy rock song anticipating heaven: “When I go don’t cry for me, in my Father’s arms I’ll be/The wounds this world left on my soul will all be healed and I’ll be whole/Sun and moon will be replaced with the light of Jesus’ face/And I will not be ashamed for my Savior knows my name/It don’t matter where you bury me/I’ll be home and I’ll be free”. Kate York contributes vocals on ‘Even Angels Cry’. It’s a ballad of encouragement: “Cold fingers find the curve below your tired eyes/No comfort in familiar places not this time/You hold it deep inside/Oh sister if you wake up in the night, walls have fallen letting in the light/No need to worry/Baby, even angels cry”.
‘There is A River’ is one of three songs penned by the band and Ron Aniello. It’s an adult contemporary song that urges us to lay our burdens down: “On all of those nights spent alone in the darkness of your mind/Give it up, let it go/These are things you were never meant to shoulder/There is a river that washes you clean/There is a tree that marks the places you’ve been/Blood that was spilled, although not your own/For all of your tears/Love will atone”. The title track is a rock song that makes you think: “Not all monsters are bad, but the ones who are good never do what they could, never do what they could.../We are bored of all the things we know/Do you know what you are?/Cause we are, we are so in love with ourselves/And we are forms of all the things we love”.
‘Oh My God’ includes these intriguing lyrics: “Babies underneath their beds, in hospitals that cannot treat them/All the wounds that money causes, all the comforts of cathedrals/All the cities of thirsty children/This is our inheritance/All the rage of watching mothers, this is our greatest offense/Oh my God (3X)”. Ned Henry plays violin on the ballad ‘Surprise’. It’s one of reflection: “We are so beautiful when we sleep/Hearts of gold and eyes so deep, deep, deep/But love won’t cure the chaos and hope won’t hide the loss/And peace is not the heroine that shouts above the cause/And love is wild for reasons/And hope though short in sight might be the only thing that wakes you by surprise”.
Background vocalists on ‘Take Me Higher’ are Rosemary Butler, Ashley Cleveland, and Kim Fleming. This rock song is one of personal testimony: “It took a lot to turn away/Blood and water from one side/It took Your eyes to stare me down/It took the truth to set me free, to set me free/Lookin’ for a place to hide/Waitin’ for the wind to rise/My soul is waiting/Lookin’ for a place to hide/I need a little peace tonight/Take me higher than the sun/Yeah, You are the only one”. Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer fame sings on ‘Mirrors and Smoke’ another rock song. It’s about a male-female relationship: “You will always want me and I’ll always want to leave/Even though I cut your wounds, you still deny they’re real/Rivers flow into the oceans and oceans never fill/I want to lay my life down, but I know you never will/Love’s a strange condition with all the doubts it can invoke/Your love keep me wishing and my heart it keeps me broke”.
‘Light Gives Heat’ makes use of the African Children’s Choir and soloist Elizabeth Panga. These words are addressed to Africans: “Will you teach us how to love?/To see the things you see/Walk the road you walk and feel the pain that you feel/At your feet I kneel/I want to see you shine/See your light not mine/Cause light gives heat/Your light gives heat”. John Catchings plays cello on the ballad ‘Water Under the Bridge’ which is addressed to one’s partner: “I do not love you the way I did when we met/There are secrets and arguments I haven’t finished yet/But it’s only that grace has outlived our regrets we’re still here/Maybe we can stay till the last drop of water flows under the bridge/We can stay till the last drop of water flows under the bridge”.
GOOD MONSTERS is comprised of seven faster paced songs and five slower paced ones. While the main musical genre is rock, there is plenty of adult contemporary influence. There are songs about spiritual renewal and rebirth, heaven, helping the poor and hurting, and about male-female relationships. The lyrics are definitely more obscure than say Petra’s or Newboys’, but different bands have different callings and giftings. I’m rating this one 87% and recommending it to adult fans of Switchfoot and Needtobreathe. For more info visit: www.jarsofclay.com.