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Monday, November 18, 2013

Jars of Clay -- Good Monsters

 photo 220px-Good_Monsters_zpsf5d62436.jpg

If you want to skip the decade of experimentation Jars of Clay went through between releasing their first album, and absolutely perfecting their craft, you can go straight to Good Monsters. You shouldn't do that, because you would be missing out on several very good albums, but Good Monsterssees the band reaching the rare mountaintop of "great band."
Where to start describing it, though?
Good Monsters mixes together every sound Jars of Clay have ever explored with a wash of something new. The result is something the band had to refer to as "our first rock record" simply because they couldn't say, "Our first record that blows everything else our peers are recording out of the water." All this to say, you could tag this with a genre, "rock,"indie-rock," "rock with a sometimes gospel flavor," but you wouldn't be doing the album justice. Good Monsters is something altogether new, and this is Jars of Clay.
The album begins with "Work," perhaps the most conventional song, and a great jumping off point. The song combines a driving beat and fun sense of urgency with the power the band has wielded since its infancy. Also, the video.

"Work"'s chorus line, "I don't want to be alone," nicely sums up the themes of the album. This is the human condition in a nutshell. These first songs show a bit of a Police influence (the band did tour with Sting in the late 90's), which is kind of ironic, as track seven, "Oh My God," works as a direct response to that band's song of the same name. Also, "Oh My God" is one of the best songs any band have ever recorded, if not just simply the best song ever recorded. Yes, I just typed that, and considering it's been a long time since I first heard the song, and I still feel that way, I have to be correct, and you have to agree. If that line I highlighted from the first song is the human condition in a nutshell, "Oh My God" is the human condition in six soul-wrenching minutes.

The final line, "this is our greatest offense," has a double-meaning that opens up a million possibilities, and the fact that this song makes even early favorites like "World's Apart" nearly seem pedestrian is a miracle. The song is incredible, and as a centerpiece to an album, you can't ask for better. The following song, "Surprise," begins with the opening line "Shoot a dream in your arm, and sleep away," which only serves to make "Oh My God," even more powerful. That's how an album is supposed to work, and Good Monsters is an incredible achievement. It takes the band's exploration of their Christian faith to a depth and complexity no other band is even touching upon, and places it atop the most creative and enjoyable mix of music the band have composed to date. This album and this band should be consistently going platinum instead of just being spoken of with awe and hushed tones by dorky bloggers. It's time for Jars of Clay to get their due.

2006 Essential Records
1. Work 3:53
2. Dead Man (Carry Me) 3:20
3. All My Tears 3:45
4. Even Angels Cry 4:22
5. There Is a River 3:51
6. Good Monsters 4:05
7. Oh My God 6:06
8. Surprise 3:50
9. Take Me Higher 4:40
10. Mirrors & Smoke 3:58
11. Light Gives Heat 4:42
12. Water Under The Bridge 3:58

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