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Music / Jars of Clay

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Do you know, what they mean, when they say, they don't want to be alone

But if I can't swim after 40 days,
And my mind is crushed by the crashing waves
Lift me up so high that I cannot fall
Lift me up.
Jars Of Clay, "Flood"

Jars Of Clay is an American Christian rock band from Nashville, Tennessee, originally formed in 1993 at Greenville College in Illinois. It consists of Dan Haseltine as lead singer, Charlie Lowell on keyboards, Stephen Mason on lead guitars and Matthew Odmark on rhythm guitars.

For most people, the band is remembered for the song, "Flood", which was such a huge hit that it gave the group the opportunity to tour with the likes of Sting during the late 90's and caused their debut album to go double platinum in the US.

However after that debut album the group were all but forgotten in the mainstream music circuit while maintaining a very big presence in the Christian Rock industry through most of the 2000's. Even this popularity eventually faded to a degree until the band was left with a relatively small but loyal fanbase that still support them to this day.

To date, the group has released 10 full-length albums:

  • Jars of Clay (1995)
  • Much Afraid (1997)
  • If I Left the Zoo (1999)
  • The Eleventh Hour (2002)
  • Who We Are Instead (2003)
  • Redemption Songs (2005)
  • Good Monsters (2006)
  • Christmas Songs (2007)
  • The Long Fall Back to Earth (2009)
  • The Shelter (2010)
  • Inland (2013)

A non-exhaustive list of other works includes:

  • Frail (independent demo, 1994)
  • Drummer Boy (Christmas EP, 1995)
  • Stringtown (live album, 1999)
  • The White Elephant Sessions (B-sides & demos collection, 2000)
  • Furthermore: From the Studio, from the Stage (acoustic/live double album, 2003)
  • Greatest Hits (2008)
  • Live at Gray Matters, Volumes I-IV (2010)
  • Inlandia (Remix collection, 2014)
  • 20 (New recordings of fan-picked songs, 2014)

Tropes that apply to Jars Of Clay include:

  • Album Title Drop: Although most of their albums (the Self-Titled Album excepting) have title tracks, The Long Fall Back To Earth (even though it has a title track that contains the lyrics and serves as an intro) also drops the title rather beautifully in Safe To Land:
    Is it safe/is it safe to land?
    'cause the long fall back to earth is the hardest part
  • All There in the Manual: Go listen to "Goodbye, Goodnight" (or just look up the lyrics) and try to guess what the song's about.note 
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted in "Good Monsters". "Not all monsters are bad, but the ones that are good never do what they could."
  • BSoD Song: "Dead Man (Carry Me)".
  • Canon Discontinuity: Of a sort with The Shelter. The band hasn't completely disowned the album or even shown signs of being dissatisfied with it per se, but since it began life as more of a "various artists" collaboration that ended up becoming more of a "Jars of Clay with special guests" project somewhere along the way, they seem to put it in a different category than their other studio albums. It was noticeably missing from the 20 compilation and the accompanying series of acoustic webcasts that the band did on StageIt in 2014.
    • 20 and the StageIt series are huge aversions to Canon Discontinuity overall, as the band dusted off old songs for these projects that they hadn't played in ages, devoting themselves to one album from their discography per month. For a long while before that, Much Afraid and If I Left the Zoo were almost completely ignored in a lot of their setlists, with "Crazy Times" being the obligatory exception for a while, and "Frail" making a comeback much later on.
  • Christian Rock
  • Concept/Cover Album: Redemption Songs. The concept under discussion being "redemption", all the songs are hymns, some of them quite obscure.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Mentioned in "He", a song about child abuse: "And they think I fell down again".
  • Cut Song: Aside from the numerous B-sides, there's "Five Candles (You Were There)" which appeared on Much Afraid: it was written for the film Liar Liar and would have played over the credits, but was removed in favor of some Hilarious Outtakes.
    • "Fly Farther" was also an outtake from Much Afraid, played at some shows preceding the album's release. It reportedly didn't fit the flow of the album (which was already heavy on down-tempo material).
  • Distinct Double Album: Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener (and closer): "Frail".
  • Fan Vid: Someone made a video for "Mirrors and Smoke" using scenes from Superfriends and sent it to the band. Jars liked the video so much that they uploaded it to YouTube themselves.
  • Greatest Hits: Several compilations thus far.
    • From the Studio, From the Stage, released in 2003, featured acoustic remakes of songs from their first four albums on disc one, and a live concert from The Eleventh Hour tour on disc two.
    • The Essential Jars of Clay (ironically NOT released by Essential Records), a 2-disc set, came out in 2007.
    • Greatest Hits, compiled by Essential Records in 2008, was more of a traditional best-of collection, focusing mostly on their radio singles, but also including the fan favorite "Worlds Apart" (which was never officially a single) and the new song "Love Is the Protest".
    • 20, self-released by the band in 2014, features remakes of tracks spanning their entire discography. Fans voted to select their two favorite tracks from each album (excluding Christmas Songs and The Shelter), and the collection is rounded out by two new songs, "Ghost in the Moon" and "If You Love Her".
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: "Headphones".
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: In "Good Monsters", but that doesn't mean they are all evil; see Always Chaotic Evil above.
  • Intercourse with You: "Heaven". No, really.
  • In the Style of: While an original song written by the band, "Mirrors & Smoke" featured a duet between Dan Haseltine and Leigh Nash meant to mimic the style of Johnny and June Carter Cash.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The Hidden Track on Jars of Clay. Jars wanted to take advantage of the longer playing time of the CD format, but only had about 40 minutes of music. So the album ends with an unlisted eleventh song "Four Seven", and then a random assortment of rehearsal snippet from the string section heard in "Blind" and studio chatter — 30 minutes' worth.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: The core of the group has been Dan, Steve, Charlie, and Matt (the other Matt, that is) for a decade and a half now. Interestingly, the group has never employed a permanent drummer or bass player - positions that often experience the most turnover in your average rock band.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: Plenty of examples, but "Tea and Sympathy" is perhaps most notable for placing one right after the Lyrical Cold Ending of "Fade to Grey".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "He" from their debut album has a major-key melody, which is normally thought to invoke a more cheerful, Lighter and Softer mood...until you listen to the lyrics and realize the song's about a boy that's being physically and emotionally abused by his parents.
    • Their take on "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love" is quite somber, possibly suggesting that we've failed to live up to the ideals expressed in the song. Being the last track on Redemption Songs, it can come across as a bit of a Downer Ending.
    • Their version of "It Is Well with My Soul" seems awfully upbeat and happy, considering the circumstances under which the hymn was written.
  • Mighty Whitey: "Light Gives Heat" is the rare song from a Christian perspective which acknowledges that sometimes missionaries can hurt more than they help.
  • Musical Squares: Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage has the cover divided into 16 squares. Some of them are photos of the band members, and some are random scenery shots.
  • Must Have Caffeine: The live-show-exclusive "Coffee Song (Hot Coffee, Strong Coffee)".
  • New Sound Album: Every other album, more or less.
  • One-Hit Wonder: Lots of hits on Christian radio, but according to the mainstream, they did next to nothing after "Flood".
  • The Oner: The video for "Work": an uninterrupted shot of the band performing... in a room filling with water.
  • The Pete Best: Matt Bronleewe was on their debut EP, but stayed behind to finish school while the others (adding Matt Odmark) took the record deal and released Jars of Clay. His career hasn't exactly tanked, though—he's still well-known as a producer and even has a couple of books out. He even started a synth pop band, The Hawk In Paris, with Dan Haseltine in 2011.
  • The Pig-Pen: In the Good Monsters album art: the whole band is wearing grimy monster costumes, with their faces and hair completely covered in dirt.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The aforementioned "Light Gives Heat", which excoriates Christians who attempting to westernize the rest of the world in the name of Christian missions.
  • Rearrange the Song: They put the original multi-tracks from "Dead Man" on the web so anyone could make their own remixes.
    • They also released an EP (entitled 'Closer') that served as a preview to The Long Fall Back To Earth and brought back a couple of the well-known singles from their debut album and updated them In the Style of their more recent work.
    • 18 of the tracks on 20 are this as the band reinvents songs from throughout their history, sometimes making subtle changes (several tracks are done in an unplugged/acoustic format with string arrangements), and sometimes making drastic ones (such as the Mood Whiplash-inducing tempo changes in the new version of "God Will Lift Up Your Head").
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension:
    • Their first hit single was "Flood", which uses the imagery as a metaphor for the hardships of life. "But if I can't swim after forty days, / and my mind is crushed by the crashing waves, / lift me up so high that I cannot fall, / lift me up..."
    • The music video for "Work" starts off as a Performance Video, then water spills into the studio where they're performing. The band just keeps playing as the water rises higher. By the end of the song, even the camera is underwater, and the band members appear to drift away with the current. "I have no fear of drowning. / It's the breathing / that's taking all this work..."
  • Sad Clown: "Sad Clown".
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: This.
  • Shout-Out: The song "Scarlet" off their The Eleventh Hour album references The Scarlet Letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Mirrors and Smoke" is somewhere between this and Obsession Song.
  • The Something Song: The album Redemption Songs. Also Christmas Songs.
    • And of course, "The Coffee Song".
  • Stunt Casting: The numerous featured vocalists on The Shelter can appear to be this at first glance. Many are big names in Christian music; others are label-mates.
    • Arguably, getting Adrian Belew to produce two songs on their first album.
  • Unplugged Version: Their "From the Studio" disc consisted of unplugged versions of prior tracks.
    • Their series of StageIt concerts in 2014 does took this up to eleven, as they went through their entire discography and performed nearly every track from every album in a live acoustic setting.
  • While Rome Burns: The aforementioned "Goodbye, Goodnight".
  • You Are Not Alone: "He", from Jars of Clay. (the 'He', of course, referring to God.)
    • "Even Angels Cry" from Good Monsters.