With their latest release, Good Monsters , Jars of Clay takes a completely different direction than their previous album, Redemption Songs , a hymn collection. The result is a mix of musical styles that feels like Jars of Clay is emerging to where they should be as a band. Their lyrics focus on the little moments, “community, and reconciling the best of who we are with the truth of our own darkness.”
Good Monsters opens with two powerful rock songs. The first, “Work” jumped instantly to my favorite song on the album, only slightly behind my favorite Jars of Clay song of all time – the ever-popular “Flood.” It captures loneliness in a poignant way, especially in the haunting chorus: “Do you know what I mean when I say, ‘I don’t want to be alone’?” The second, “Dead Man (Carry Me)” shares the struggle of getting rid of the ‘old man.’
“All My Tears” and “Even Angels Cry” slow the pace with a glimpse of the joy of heaven and the difficulty of life. “There is a River” infuses a redemptive hymn with a bit of rock. “Good Monsters” inspires people to take action for good instead of letting evil take control.
“Oh My God” is a unique song with three distinct parts, a cry out to God mingled with those who cry and reasons for crying. “I think there are more lyrics in that one song than there were on our entire last record,” lead vocalist Dan Haseltine says.
The quiet “Surprise” gives a quick view of new experiences, while the discordant “Take Me Higher” celebrates that God is the only one who can bring us peaceful escape. “Mirror & Smoke” is a quirky Western love ballad with Sixpence None the Richer’s Leigh Nash.
“Light Gives Heat” adds African beats to a song about good intentions. The final song, “Water Under the Bridge,” tells of a couple who have gone through difficult times determining to persevere “till the last drop of water flows under the bridge.”
This is an excellent album for anyone who enjoys light rock. My main disappointment with it was that the tempo went down after the first two songs and was never fully regained. But the excellent lyrics and music more than make up for this in an album that shows Jars of Clay is nowhere near done providing great songs for their fans.
Reviewed by Katie Hart