Sound — 8
Jars of Clay truly delivers with their third studio album. Daniel Haseltine's vocals remain present, and fairly strong. The album features a wide range of acoustic and orchestral instruments, but also delivers on the electric and synthesizer end. The sound is clear when it needs to be, and muddled or dirty when that works better. Simply the wide range of styles represented in one album is impressive. The album has the feel of a concept album, and for the '90s alternative genre, this album could be considered a concept album. It certainly goes beyond the comfort levels expressed by the music of the time (it was released in 1999). Very few places will you find funk rock followed by a folk ballad, followed by alt rock, followed by blues. And then back to pop rock. That's really all there is to it.
Lyrics — 7
While the music on this album doesn't disappoint, the lyrics vary. Figurative language is wielded masterfully on several tracks on this album. Many of the songs leave the final interpretation up to the listener. This makes for a very enjoyable listen. The music generally agrees with the lyrics, though this can seem a little forced on some of the single-released tracks. As with most Jars' albums, this one provides yet another change in style and theme. While some would say it is more of a radio-friendly album than it's predecessor "Much Afraid," I beg to differ. It does have some elements of radio-ready rock in it, but this is primarily on the singles off the album ("Unforgetful You," "Collide," "No One Loves Me Like You," "Hand," "I'm Alright," "Can't Erase It"). However, to call all of these pop rock songs is a stretch. While some songs off the album fit this bill, they are contrasted by those which don't. Unfortunately, this attempted radio appeal does hinder the albums feel.
Overall Impression — 8
The album compares well to others of its time for the most part. It is perhaps not quite as great an album as "Much Afraid," or Jars' self-titled album. However, for what it is, it works well. The best songs off the album are most likely "Collide," "Famous Last Words," "Hand," and "River Constantine." The rest of the album is still alright, but rarely stands out. The greatest problem with the album is its conflict in the area of listener accessibility. This varies widely from track to track. Still, as with many of Jars' albums, their is nothing bothersome, or annoying on this album. This is an album I would replace if I lost it. I enjoy it, but its appeal to the masses would certainly be limited. As it may seem that this review contradicts itself, this is merely because of the wide variety on this album. It cannot be grouped as one thing. This has both upsides and downsides. Now, this is also perhaps Jars of Clay's most mainstream accessible album. There is nothing preachy or blatantly Christian about it. This is perhaps its greatest asset. It can simply be taken as an inspirational and occasionally spiritually-contemplative album.