Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back to Earth

By Michael Mayer III on April-27-2009 | Filed under Reviews | Share

Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back to Earth
Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/54
4.0 (2 votes)

Artist: Jars of Clay
Album: The Long Fall Back to Earth
Label: Gray Matters / Essential Records
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. The Long Fall
  2. Weapons
  3. Two Hands
  4. Heaven
  5. Closer
  6. Safe to Land
  7. Headphones
  8. Don’t Stop
  9. Boys (Lesson One)
  10. Hero
  11. Scenic Route
  12. There Might Be a Light
  13. Forgive Me
  14. Heart

One thing I have always loved about Jars of Clay is their willingness to push their sound and constantly evolve it from album to album. It’s probably because of that willingness to think outside the box that I write this review for their latest album, The Long Fall Back to Earth. In order for a band to stand the test of time it needs to adapt to the constantly changing music scene and stay relevant.

With that being said, the more things change the more they stay the same. By that I mean Dan’s trademark vocals are as strong as ever here, a remarkable thing considering vocalists tend to trail off as they get older. His voice is even transformed as in the heavily synth-laden ‘Heaven’ that immediately makes me think of the 80’s era of music (no, not hair metal). He also pushes himself to a new level on one of my favorite tracks, ‘Hero’, as he belts out the chorus with impressive range.

The lyrics are always a bright spot on any Jars album and you almost come to expect it. Whether it’s the regretful tone of ‘Safe to Land’, the gentle instruction of a father to his sons (or God to us) in ‘Boys (Lesson One)’, or a blunt reminder of how easy we distract ourselves from the pain of the world when we could be helping others by putting on some ‘Headphones’, there’s a lot to get from this album. All of those tracks are also strong because of the brooding music that almost demands you to think about what is being said. I think they are the best band at crafting slow songs that hit home. On every album they have a few that are so powerful you may just be left speechless and the beauty of it all is none of them sound the same. Some bands get stuck on a hit single and try to recreate it over and over again but not these guys.

So what’s changed? Well, synths are back in style and so are all those electronic beeps and boops. It’s unlike anything they’ve ever done before unless you count the Closer EP released last year. That has a few tracks that are on this album and would give you a good idea as to where they are headed. The closing track, ‘Heart’, may initially seem like it doesn’t stack up to the other great Jars album closers, but it’s still a highlight after you get used to it.

Overall: I’d put this album about middle of the pack in their discography. It’s not quite on the level of their self-titled or The Eleventh Hour for me but it’s also a lot better than If I Left the Zoo or Good Monsters. The Long Fall Back to Earth would be a classic if they took out a few tracks like ‘There Might Be a Light’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ though. Both songs entirely break up the flow with their lackluster lyrics and typical song structure. Even with those blemishes this is an album worth purchasing for any Jars of Clay fan or anyone who enjoys lyrics with some depth that deal with real life issues.

Gems of this album are: ‘Safe to Land’, ‘Hero’, ‘Boys (Lesson One)’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Scenic Route’

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Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth, 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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6 Responses to 'Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back to Earth'

  1. Luke J says:

    Good Review man. Really effective use of explaining the lyrics in the middle of the review.

    I like this album. Jars gets better with every album. You are right that it may not be their best, but it still does well. The sound never gets dull.

    Cheers,

    Luke.

  2. Thanks Luke. I find Jars have had an up and down career for me. One of the negative things (maybe the only) about constantly changing your sound is sometimes it either just doesn’t work or a band could’ve done it better. They’ve had ups and downs with me in terms of ‘getting better’, though I still love all their albums. As much as I didn’t care for Good Monsters I don’t think I could rate it lower than a 7 since there’s always highlights on every album they make.

  3. Brett says:

    i’m definitely a jars fan, and with the time i’ve spent with this album i believe this is much better than the two previous ones (WhoWeAreInstead + GoodMonsters) and as good as MuchAfraid or even TheEleventhHour…both of which i really love. i think it comes down to as you said, the highlights on all of their albums are what make Jars so great. Their good songs, are REALLY good.

    my opinion of ‘Don’t Stop’ differs from yours though, and even ‘There Might Be A Light’ to a point. I find ‘Don’t Stop’ pure infectious 80’s pop rock with a great hook. It’s one of the songs I’ve gotten stuck in my head most consistently and find myself singing or humming it often. ‘There Might Be A Light’ is one of my least favorite on the album, but i do find it interesting to hear how the ignorance of God’s love can be equated to a high school crush in that song.

    Love the review though, thanks for bringing this solid album to IVM.

    Lastly, a song I had overlooked until recently, but now am really enjoying, is the song ‘Scenic Route’. Not quite sure what the meaning behind the song is yet, but the “anticipation” vibe I get from the music and lyrics really keeps me listening to it.

  4. I know what you mean about ‘Scenic Route’, it’s got a great build-up (even with the intro) and I love the lyrics. The song seems to be about a relationship that is maybe going ‘too fast’ to the point the singer wants to take the ‘scenic route’ and enjoy life more. I think this also could double up as sometimes we go through our day to day lives so fast we don’t stop to enjoy what God has given us. A lot of the songs on this album can double up like that from relationship to life type songs and I love it.

  5. Joel Joslin says:

    I really can’t agree with your ranking of their albums…Good Monsters is easily their best IMO, really a great album. Their self-titled is good but honestly I think some of the songs haven’t aged very well (I should probably add that I didn’t listen to it all the way through until a few months ago, though I had heard some songs from it before).

    Having only listened to Long Fall once, I find it to be a good album and a pleasant enough listen, but not really a great one, maybe it’ll grow on me later…”Headphones” is fantastic though.

  6. Boo says:

    ive read this review in search for most part of the tricksy-kaleidoscope-many-sided meanings that could be given to each one of the songs. personally in watever music i listen to i try to find Christ in it. after reading this interview the band had with this website (link below)… ive come to understand many of the album’s releases’ meanings, after all… its the actual band speaking of the things they wrote.

    http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/Interviews/JarsOfClay2009.asp

    anywho… jars always manages to bring forth something substantial to chew on. i think that if God’s in the middle of all they do.. it’ll last! His Word and His Truth permeated always last. im loving wat they’re doing with Blood:Water Mission.

    indeed… we’re all “jars of clay” [literally]… if we let Him put His treasures in us. :)
    God keep

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