I tend to be contrarian in my musical as well as literary tastes, a matter of regular confession, really, because much of this contrarianism is rooted is some sense of pride, or elitism, I think, as much as I hate to admit that. But, a band both as good and as popular with the masses as Jars of Clay helps me overcome it. Like several hundred thousand other fans, I love this band.
Good Monsters, released yesterday, is a fine record. It may not be a radical departure from what Jars does best, but so what? It has lyrical depth, great melodies, good production, and a good title. They do this so well. No one who likes Jars should have a bone to pick with this record.
I think what struck me at the outset is the transparency of these lyrics. No, no, that's not true. It's really the melodies. I'm a sucker for the well-crafted pop tune, and that's certainly here. But, having enjoyed the groove, I usually settle into the words gradually.
When Dan Haseltine sings, "I have no fear of drowning/ it's the breathing that's taking all this work," you pick up on the main theme that runs through the record, the struggle of being both human as well as spiritual beings, our sense of homelessness in the world and yet our deep connection to the world. The best songs are birthed in tensions, and that's why these songs shine.
The other sense I had when listening is of a spontaneity, an almost live feel, though obviously there is production at work as well. What gives? Well, their website points out that many of the tracks were laid down in the studio in near final form, as a live band, after many sessions outside the studio where ideas were honed.
Though extremely successful, these guys have integrity. That's not too common. It gives me hope. So, join the other several hundred thousand of us, forsake contrarian predispositions, and buy a record for the masses. They can't do much better than this.