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SealOfServants

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Reply with quote  #1 

Coming off the Spring leg of the Bubblemaker’s Dream tour in 1998, things were looking positive for Jars. Although many casual fans were put off by the new direction of Much Afraid, it had mostly been received extremely positively. Much Afraid sold 1.5 million records worldwide, the tour had sold out, they had won a grammy and a dove award for Christian album of the year, their music video for Crazy Times aired on MTV, and they had five singles that all charted at #1 on CCM radio. Amidst all of this success, one thing they never got was a break. On top of special projects and promoting, they had been relentlessly touring since Jars of Clay’s inception. They were worn out and needed space to recenter themselves and figure out what they would to do next.

Unfortunately, they never got that break. Their partnering distributor, Jive Records, was griping about the sales of Much Afraid. Used to bestselling acts like Backstreet Boys and Nsync, the management at Jive was tremendously disappointed with Jars and ordered them back into the studio before the band felt they really had something to say. I’m going off of memory, what info I can find, and a little conjecturing to interpret what was happening during this next period, so bear that in mind.

Jars initial intention for their third album was to make a record more in the style of Glow by the Innocence Mission, which Dan called “the most important record to [the band] in that season.” The producer for that album was Dennis Herring, and Jars believed he would be the right choice to help them cultivate their creative vision. Herring, however, had many misgivings about what Jars set out to accomplish. He believed that they needed to expand their musical horizons and convinced them that they were trying to create “Much Afraid 2” (a common expression thrown around by the band in interviews at this period).

With Herring behind the creative wheel, the album suffered tremendously from his production choices. He pushed Jars out of their comfort zones to listen to some new music (e.g. Rolling Stones) and experiment, which is something they did need to do. You can hear that experimental spirit on songs like “New Math” on the White Elephant Sessions, as well as the final mixed version “Headstrong,” which was discarded from the album but released on the Roaring Lambs compilation. But from the opening notes of the banjo on “Goodbye, Goodnight,” there's something plastic-sounding about this record.

A reviewer once summed up this album as “acoustic chaff.” I wouldn’t go that far, though I understand what he meant. It’s like the guitars have been stripped of everything organic and polished to such pristine clarity that they sound artificial. Many of the album's blemishes arise from this one basic fault. It’s far more stripped down than Much Afraid, but distilled of the rawness that makes stripped-down songs so appealing. It sounds close, boxed-in, and far too clear. Have ever had the experience of watching high-def television and everything looked more real than real? That’s what this album sounds like.

Other strange production choices crop up: the semi-techno, high-pitched screeching synth toward the end of “Unforgetful You,” the rocking chair, yawning and humming at the beginning of “Collide,” and the alarm clock on “Famous Last Words.” The band was trying to be fun and quirky, but it just sounds awkward or downright annoying. There are a few places where it works, such as the background chorus on “Goodbye, Goodnight.” Zoo also gave Jars a chance to experiment with pop songwriting which they hadn’t showcased up to that point. There are some great beats on “Unforgetful You” and “Can’t Erase It.” And even though it’s not my taste, “I’m Alright” has a lot of unique features (the choir, the whistling) that are interesting at the very least.

Lyrically, this album abounds with irony. You could pick songs at random and find line after line of bad puns like, “Tearful confessions have watered down” or attempts at being profound like, “Raise a glass to ignorance, drink a toast to fear.” That last song is about the musicians aboard the sinking Titanic, musing about the turn of the following century. I still have no clue why that has relevance to anything other than the chronological proximity of Titanic the movie to the making of this album, but I digress…

On the other end of the negative lyrical spectrum are moments like “Hand,” a concoction of fluffy spiritual cliches algorithmically strung together for CCM radio. “Grace” suffers here too, but it’s made up for by a catchy melody and instrumentation.

For the many faults on this record, there are a couple of really bright spots. The mandolin and accordion on “No One Loves Me Like you” complement one another nicely to give this song almost an almost Italian texture. There’s a vulnerability in the lyrics that’s absent from much of this album, which may be due to the fact that this song was written during the Much Afraid sessions.

“Sad Clown” is another great moment. It’s surprising, more like a song you would expect from Alicia Keys than Jars. The jazzy, melancholy piano enhances the sense of disappointment in trying to put on act for someone you can never please. The “do do do do” background vocals, which would normally be done on a happy song, ironically highlight the sadness of this performing “clown.” The immediate context for this theme was crisis in trying to find their identity as a band, but it applies more broadly to many kinds of relationships. They have never done another song in this style since, but it was an interesting foray into new musical territory.

Finally, there is “River Constantine,” which Dan once described as “the new Worlds Apart” as they were writing it. This will come up in subsequent reviews, but Jars at this point seemed to fall prey to a desire to reclaim the glory days, and for a while every new album was said to be “going back to their roots.” This song is no “Worlds Apart,” but it has a beautiful instrumental arrangement and brings some quiet meditation where it was otherwise lacking.

Dan recently said of If I Left the Zoo, “To this day I consider it our least compelling collection of songs.” That’s really the best way to describe it. This isn’t a bad album by any stretch, but the most forgettable. While there are other meritorious lines and interesting moments on this record, they are more sparse than on other offerings.

The entire period from about 1999-2001 was, to me, the valley of Jars of Clay’s career. The album is still their third best-selling record of all time, but only because it was coasting on the initial wave of popularity from their first album—a wave that was quickly losing momentum. I remember thinking when I saw them in concerts during this time how tired, uninspired, and even unhealthy they seemed. They looked like they just needed a break. Matt did an interview around this time in which he seemed to insinuate that he was getting a little tired of the whole Jars of Clay project.

Jars went on to make great records after this. As time passes, I think Dan’s assessment of this album says it best: If I Left the Zoo will be remembered as “a necessary act of experimentation.”

--Derek

datraceman

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Reply with quote  #2 
I re-listened to If I Left the Zoo a couple of times over the last week and I came to an interesting conclusion. 

Yes, this is their weakest album but it undeniably has the most unique flavor of all the Jars albums. 

While the album isn't their best work, it does have some highlights we shouldn't miss. 

Goodbye, Goodnight - This is one of the highlights of the album. The ironic idea of singing from the perspective of the band on the Titanic as the ship goes down is a fun one. 

Unforgetful You - I've never been a huge fan of this song. I understand it was written to satisfy Jive and get on the Drive me Crazy soundtrack (squint in the Britney Spears video and you see the band leaning against a bar in the background). While it isn't a great song, it served the purpose of getting the band some more exposure.

Collide - Just a fun rocking song. To me the best part is the bridge with the piano interlude leading to the guitar solo and final chorus. 

No One Loves Me Like You - Here's a nice laid back song. It's nothing super special but I enjoyed it again nonetheless. 

Famous Last Words - I've always been a fan of this song. While there are some questionable production choices, it doesn't dilute the good song that it is. I really enjoy the chord structures they chose for the song. 

Sad Clown - This is my favorite song on the album. I love the toy piano, I like the lyrics, and I like that its the most radio unfriendly song they could write and put on an album. I've never heard this live and probably never will which is OK. The album version cannot be topped. 

Hand - Apart from a good vocal performance from Dan, there isn't much to say. It is a very weak track.

I'm Alright - I like the ideas here but I've never been a big fan of this song either. It felt like any Christian band in the late 90s could have performed it/written it.

Grace - The song is a whole is decent, what saves it from going in the negative category for me is Steve's solo during the bridge. It sounded nothing like what Jars of Clay had done before. I truly believe without this album, Steve would not have written the type of solos he did for The Eleventh Hour.

Can't Erase It - I just like it. I can't explain why. I just do. 

River Constantine - I'm not a huge fan of the recorded version but I really liked the live version I heard during the Zoo tour. I saw them in 1999 at the United States Military Academy and it was a good show. The highlight was the show opening of "River Constantine". I loved the reverb on Dan's voice in the mix and the haunting quality it emitted. It was a brave choice to start a show on that note and I maintain it was the right one. All I can remember from that show was how good this song sounded live and how loud everyone got when they played "Flood". 

Overall, this record is a C+. It's not a terrible album by any means but it isn't anything super special. You can feel how tired and drained they were during this record and subsequent tour. Thankfully, after the Zoo cycle, the guys took a long break and made a record that would put them on a better path in The Eleventh Hour.
hurtstotalktoyou

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Reply with quote  #3 
datraceman,

Wow, we must have dramatically different taste when it comes to Jars, because IILTZ is actually my favorite of Jars albums.  Hands down, even.

But that's how it works, isn't it?  Some Jars fans are going to dig different elements than others.
haveapez

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Reply with quote  #4 
This album grew on me a lot through the years. It was so far removed from the sound of their first album that I didn't know what to think. It probably wasn't the wisest choice as far as trying to sustain their popularity, but there are some gems on there. I'm sure they were worn out,but for me this album still gets played more than my least favorite album, "The Eleventh Hour." Thanks for the review. I'll listen to it tonight.
Jake

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Reply with quote  #5 
Funny - I've never really gone through and rank all of their albums, but I've never considered this to be one of their worst. Much Afraid was already a big departure from their self titled so I saw this as further progression. I saw one of their live shows around this time and thought it was full of great energy (particularly the I'm Alright and subsequent medley) and I didn't pick up at all on their tiredness or frustrations.

I remember allowing myself to listen to the full album stream a single time prior to the album being released. (It's funny to think back to that. The "live" stream was basically playing through the album that you could basically "tune in" to wherever the album happened to be playing at the time rather than it playing the album from the start. And I shudder to think about what the audio quality was.) I remember being struck by their interesting instrumentation choices. Once I got the actual CD in my hands (I found a place that had put it out a day early!) and drove home listening to it, I think it was my most satisfying first-listen of a Jars album - possibly next to Who We Are Instead.

Herring's influence is clear when you listen to both Unforgetful You and Counting Crows' Hangingaround which was also Herring-produced and came out around the same time. While I can't say whether his involvement helped or hurt the album, I thought it was good for them to be pushed.  I remember being excited to hear about them self-producing The Eleventh Hour, but after a string of self-produced albums, I'm was really hoping they'd partner with a producer again that would push them. I was thrilled to hear they were working with Tucker Martine on Inland as I felt some outside direction could help them.

I would love to hear more of the b-sides and demo versions from this album. I remember hearing about an I'm Alright reprise which is intriguing. New Math is actually one of my favorite Jars songs - I've always hated the thought of some other unreleased gem like that just sitting on a shelf somewhere. I actually prefer elements of the Grace demo to the final version.

What I didn't care for was the introduction of those mid-tempo and somewhat generic CCM-sounding Jars tunes on this album such as Hand that has continued through today (I put "Skin & Bones" in that category). But with songs like Collide, Can't Erase It, Sad Clown, River Constantine, and Goodbye, Goodnight, I was sold on their new direction and could look past a few bland songs. I'm Alright and Unforgetful You were interesting. They were both very poppy and unexpected but I enjoyed both and appreciated the overall quirkiness of the album.
datraceman

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hurtstotalktoyou
datraceman,

Wow, we must have dramatically different taste when it comes to Jars, because IILTZ is actually my favorite of Jars albums.  Hands down, even.

But that's how it works, isn't it?  Some Jars fans are going to dig different elements than others.


I think that's what makes Jars of Clay such a unique band. Their albums rarely sound the same and introduce new ideas and elements that differ from the previous. 

I don't mean to state that If I Left the Zoo is garbage. I think it is a decent album but when I stack up against the other official studio albums, it falls to the bottom for me. 

I haven't listened to Inland enough to rank it but if I ranked the studio albums they would probably look like this:

1. Much Afraid
2. Jars of Clay (self -titled)
3. Who We Are Instead
4. The Eleventh Hour
5. Good Monsters
6. The Long Fall Back to Earth
7. If I Left the Zoo

I also admit this order ebbs and flows based on the mood and my current musical tastes. 

Unrelated side note: I think I'm going to go through all my Jars CDs/EPs/etc. and rank them all. I busted out Front Yard Luge the other day and it resonated more with me now than it did when I first got it from tappedinto.com (yep, I somehow still remember this, oh being in high school and having nothing better to do but look up stuff about your favorite bands and begging your dad for his credit card to order it)
steve_l_murphy

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Reply with quote  #7 

This is the first album that I owned, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

 

 

hurtstotalktoyou

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by datraceman
1. Much Afraid
2. Jars of Clay (self -titled)
3. Who We Are Instead
4. The Eleventh Hour
5. Good Monsters
6. The Long Fall Back to Earth
7. If I Left the Zoo


Interesting.  I think mine would go like this.

1.  If I Left The Zoo
2.  Much Afraid
3.  Self-tiltled
4.  Who We Are Instead
5.  The Eleventh Hour
6.  The Long Fall Back To Earth
7.  Good Monsters
8.  Inland
9.  The Shelter

So far, Inland and The Shelter are the only ones I don't get super-excited about.  However that may just be because they are more recent and I need time for them to grow on me.  All the Jars albums previous to those class as "favorite" albums in my rotation.
haveapez

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Reply with quote  #9 
I will add that I think I like the demo version of Grace better than the final one.  The final version might've fit more with the album as a whole, but I prefer the demo.
murlough23

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Reply with quote  #10 
I love these "Revisiting" threads. I'm a nostalgia junkie in general, and one day I suspect I will have some bored grandchild on my knee, squirming to get away from me as I laboriously go through every detail of my top 10 Jars of Clay concerts while lamenting that the music the kids are listening to these days doesn't hold a candle to it.

If I Left the Zoo is certainly Jars' weirdest album - it may well be their Zooropa, and you know what, I didn't even think about the connection between those two album titles until just now. Unlike their other early albums where I wasn't really aware of what the band was going through personally at the time, I knew it had been born out of some strife. I can recall reading an article in either CCM or Release Magazine (anyone remember Release? With the 99 cent mix tapes?) where Steve Mason was quoted as saying, "I didn't want to be a part of this album on several occasions." The band was being pushed in an uncomfortable direction by a producer who meant well but who they apparently didn't see eye-to-eye with. The White Elephant Sessions offered further insight into this process by demonstrating how drastically some of the songs were changed in their final versions.

Personally, I was at a really rough point in my life when this album came out. Just out of college, broker than broke, trying to patch together a tumultuous relationship with a college sweetheart that had been smooth sailing before I went and graduated (and which wasn't helped by my broke-ness), and going through a bit of a depression and even a bit of doubt over whether God still considered my sorry self to be worth saving. Because of the funk I was in, I didn't find as much solace in the music that previously made me happy, so despite Jars being my favorite band, I sort of had this attitude that they'd better deliver on this new album, or else the "favorite band" mantle would be passed along to dc Talk (who, unbeknownst to me, had just released their final album the year before). My definition of "deliver" at the time was "have a lot of energetic, rocking songs", so on first listen, the album didn't deliver at all. Some upbeat, quirky pop stuff that I later came to appreciate, and some slower material that I would eventually find a lot of solace in at the depth of my depression. But I wasn't inclined to be patient with this one at first. Owing to my cash flow issues (or lack thereof), it remains the only Jars album aside from their first that I didn't purchase on or before its release date. But it's the first one I ever owned on CD.

Some thoughts on the individual songs:

Goodbye, Goodnight - Probably the most off-kilter opening track they've ever done; I had a definite "what the heck?" reaction to it at first, but I soon came to find it amusing due to that very reaction. On first listen, my girlfriend at the time commented on the Beatles influence heard in the strings, which reminded us of PfR's "Goldie's Last Day". When they got to the bridge, she exclaimed, "This is like PfR Beatles!" I didn't really catch on to the whole end-of-the-world hysteria that the song was mocking at the time. I'm ashamed to admit that I kind of got caught up in the Y2K hysteria - probably as a result of my being raised on a lot of Charismatic doctrine and bogus prophecies from Pat Robertson and the like. So when January 1 passed and all of the computers in the world didn't simultaneously melt down and bring about the apocalypse, I lightened up significantly and I began to find the song a whole lot more amusing.

Unforgetful You - The first completed track that I heard from the album (they'd premiered a few others at a festival a few months prior). Like many people, I found it kind of weird and annoying at the time. I wasn't sure it quite communicated as witty or profound of a sentiment as it was trying to. But I soon came to appreciate the "loose" feel and the oddball catchiness of it - it may well be a template for a lot of the quirky indie pop songs I came to enjoy in the new millennium (and looking back, I can totally see the Counting Crows influence here).

Collide - One of the new songs I heard at the aforementioned festival. I instantly fell in love with its hard-driving rhythm, because at the time I didn't think Jars had enough straight-up rock songs, and "Crazy Times" had never really done it for me. I loved the haunting piano melody and the weird background sounds in this one, but it was also one of the songs I related to the most on a lyrical level. At the time I still associated the good or bad events that happened to me with God directly rewarding or punishing me. I had to learn to untangle the two. I was waiting for an axe to fall that I had to realize was never going to. God wasn't putting me through a brief period of poverty because I had somehow displeased Him. It was to build character.

No One Loves Me Like You - The only other album version I got to hear prior to the album releasing, thanks to its befuddling inclusion on WoW 2000, back when I still cared about the WoW series. I was really underwhelmed with it at the time. I didn't appreciate the more easygoing, sparse acoustic stuff the way I do now. In a way, this song was ahead of its time for Jars, and probably would have fit better on Who We Are Instead. But by the time that album rolled around, I came to appreciate this song a lot more. It was one of my wife's favorites, and when we first met in 2002 and I told her my favorite band was Jars, this ended up being the song that reminded her of me the most.

Famous Last Words - The other song I first heard at that festival. "Famous Last Words" was one of my girlfriend (at the time)'s favorite sayings, usually in situations where someone's bold claims about things they were planning to do ended up going horribly awry due to circumstances beyond their control. Sort of an "I told you so" for situations in which you didn't actually get to tell the person so ahead of time. Because of that little in-joke between us, this one was an easy favorite. It has a heck of a lot of wacky things going on in it, for a song about something as serious as putting off repentance and salvation. This was the counterweight to "Collide", because it was long on consequences and short on second chances. I suppose in that context, the alarm clock (which scared the bejeebers out of nearly everyone who listened to it for the first time, especially while driving!) makes perfect sense.

Sad Clown - Definitely a dark horse favorite. I overlooked it at first, thinking it would never catch on due to its clumsy intro, with the half-hearted count-off and all. Seeing it performed live in early 2000 really helped - their soulful take on it, with a segue into "Ain't No Sunshine", helped me to understand the whole mood and feel of the song a lot better. Nowadays, it's a serious contender with "Collide" for my favorite track on the album, and one of my favorite Jars songs of all time. Going through a depression, I slowly learned to appreciate its story of trying to put on a happy face and entertain people while disguising the dark, sad thoughts you're grappling with deep down.

Hand - I agree with the above comments about it being more of a nondescript mid-tempo song. I often respond that way to mid-tempo songs. It's still my least favorite track on the album, though I don't hate it - it's vaguely pleasant. If I'm not mistaken, this was the first cover version of a song that the band ever put on an album. The original artist was Jonathan Noel, though Jars may have changed up the arrangement significantly (it's been a long time since I heard Noel's version).

I'm Alright - This one seems to draw a lot of hate-dom from the folks who find its too-obvious attempt at irony annoying, but I always enjoyed it. My first impression was that the rougher guitar sound and the choirs reminded me of something Audio Adrenaline had done on Underdog. But Jars always wrote better songs than Audio A did. Even if the joke was obvious, I liked how the sing-songy nature of it reinforced the deep state of denial that the song was trying to illustrate. This dude was anything but alright. (Longtime Jarchives members may also remember my parody of this one, called "I'm All Right", which may or may not contain a bit of satirical political commentary.)

Grace - Nitpicky as I was when I first listened to the album, and sensing a distinct lack of "fast songs", I felt a bit teased when this one started off upbeat, but backed off to half of its tempo when the verse rolled around. Kind of a stupid reason to dislike a song, but Zoo isn't an album that lends itself well to first impressions. It probably should have stood out more than it did - a song on the subject of grace deserves the spotlight, rather than just breezing by as a sort of connector song between two others that, for me at least, were album highlights. I came to like it a little more when they played it live, and I was startled at how drastically different the chorus of the original version was when I heard it on White Elephant. The former is a stronger rock song that I would have liked more at first, but the latter is more bright, upbeat, and well, graceful.

Can't Erase It - Another dark-horse favorite - I don't know a lot of folks who would cite this one as a personal highlight, but I felt like it was a real bright spot near the end, with its ramshackle percussion, dirty guitar riffs, and the strong vocal harmonies in the chorus giving it the same sort of effect near the end of the album that "Unforgetful You" did near the beginning. At times during my depression, I would be jealous of others' lives, and at times I wished I could be those people. I didn't care much for my own identity - I thought I was a hapless and unlikeable person. This song sort of reinforced the idea that you've been made unique and you can't erase the person that you are, so you have to embrace it with all of its inherent quirks and flaws instead. Hearing the White Elephant version reveals what may be one of the reasons Steve Mason was so frustrated during the making of this album, because he had this neat little guitar solo in the bridge that is completely missing from the final version, which sounds like a big gaping hole with only percussion where there ought to be something melodic going on.

River Constantine - This may be the song that took the longest time for me to really get into - it was another one of those that I found vaguely pleasant, but that didn't come across as profoundly as it seems like the band intended it. That may be due to their overly cryptic lyrical style at the time, I guess. It wasn't until their acoustic tour in 2011, when they brought this one out of the vault with a strikingly different arrangement, that I really fell in love with it. The acoustic arrangement on the EP that accompanied that tour was a little closer to the original album version, but since it reminds of an excellent concert in a roundabout way, that's become my favorite version.

Overall, Zoo was my #2 favorite Jars album behind Much Afraid for quite some time, but like how a lot of folks put the first album on a pedestal, this may have been a case of me viewing my formative years through rose-colored glasses. Looking back with a little more perspective, I'd probably put Good Monsters and WWAI ahead of it. But I still think it's a solid album that shows great flexibility and ingenuity on the band's part, despite the negative circumstances surrounding its creation. It's not really a representative album in the Jars discography in terms of their overall mood and sound, but it is representative of their ability to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings.

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DISCLAIMER: The preceding post was a statement of opinion, and does not reflect the views of the members of Jars of Clay, the moderators of Jarchives, or any member of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is only my opinion that this is my opinion. In my opinion, you may choose to believe that my opinion is fact, if in fact you are of the opinion that you are allowed to choose what you believe, which presupposes the opinion that you do in fact exist in the first place - in my humble opinion, of course. It is my opinion that all of my opinions are humble opinions, but this does not indicate a bias on my part against opinions which are, in my opinion, proud opinions.
haveapez

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Reply with quote  #11 
Thanks for all of the feedback.  As someone posted earlier, I'm also a nostalgic buff, so I enjoy reading these threads and listening to the album as I do.  I'm excited about the next album thread.  The album, though seen as a return to form for some, isn't my favorite album.  I'll be interested to see the thoughts on it.
murlough23

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by haveapez
The album, though seen as a return to form for some, isn't my favorite album.


"Return to form" is a phrase critics love to throw around. All it really seems to mean is "I like this better than what they were doing last time." I can see in the case of TEH how it brought together elements of their last three albums, but advertising it as sounding like the first album would have been extremely misleading.

__________________
DISCLAIMER: The preceding post was a statement of opinion, and does not reflect the views of the members of Jars of Clay, the moderators of Jarchives, or any member of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is only my opinion that this is my opinion. In my opinion, you may choose to believe that my opinion is fact, if in fact you are of the opinion that you are allowed to choose what you believe, which presupposes the opinion that you do in fact exist in the first place - in my humble opinion, of course. It is my opinion that all of my opinions are humble opinions, but this does not indicate a bias on my part against opinions which are, in my opinion, proud opinions.
haveapez

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by murlough23
Quote:
Originally Posted by haveapez
The album, though seen as a return to form for some, isn't my favorite album.


"Return to form" is a phrase critics love to throw around. All it really seems to mean is "I like this better than what they were doing last time." I can see in the case of TEH how it brought together elements of their last three albums, but advertising it as sounding like the first album would have been extremely misleading.


Oh, I agree.  I remember when The Eleventh Hour came out seeing in at least two Christian catalogs using the "return to the sound of their first album..." which made me laugh.  I knew it wasn't that. 

However, maybe I should've chosen my words more wisely, but what I meant by a return to form was that in self producing the album, and from interviews from the band at the time many felt this was their most honest and satisfying album since their debut.  But here I go rambling on about that album, while this is a IILTZ thread. [wink]
murlough23

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Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Originally Posted by haveapez
Oh, I agree.  I remember when The Eleventh Hour came out seeing in at least two Christian catalogs using the "return to the sound of their first album..." which made me laugh.  I knew it wasn't that.


I'd imagine being a P.O.D. fan must be ten times as frustrating in that department. Every album they put out is described either by critics or by the band themselves as a "return to their roots". (Which roots are we talking about? Snuff the Punk? Southtown? Satellite? In all cases, FAIL.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by haveapez
However, maybe I should've chosen my words more wisely, but what I meant by a return to form was that in self producing the album, and from interviews from the band at the time many felt this was their most honest and satisfying album since their debut.


You were describing how some folks viewed the record, not necessarily how you yourself felt about it, so I think it was a good choice of words, because it illustrates an overall misunderstanding that seems to exist between the band and their fanbase.

"Most honest and satisfying" was probably the band's diplomatic way of saying "We didn't have a producer forcing us to do stuff we didn't want to do". TEH came out pretty good as a result, but it's probably one of their less challenging albums - it was their first since the debut that I liked right away, but nowadays it's one of my least favorites (and though I say that, it's still a very strong pop album).

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DISCLAIMER: The preceding post was a statement of opinion, and does not reflect the views of the members of Jars of Clay, the moderators of Jarchives, or any member of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is only my opinion that this is my opinion. In my opinion, you may choose to believe that my opinion is fact, if in fact you are of the opinion that you are allowed to choose what you believe, which presupposes the opinion that you do in fact exist in the first place - in my humble opinion, of course. It is my opinion that all of my opinions are humble opinions, but this does not indicate a bias on my part against opinions which are, in my opinion, proud opinions.
wasp

Newbie Like a Child
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Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #15 
I really agree with the OT, I appreciate that Jars of Clay tried for a something a little more off-the-wall with the arrangements and so on but all in all I don't think the core songs were strong enough to uphold that, and the record as a whole felt so much more unfocused and at times more clichéd than its predecessors. So interesting to read this thread all these years later and find out that the band themselves sort of agree!

I really agree with you about "No One Loves Me Like You" and, especially, "Sad Clown." Beautiful songs and the latter one was a bit daring for Jars; they definitely stretched themselves with the record, even though I don't think a lot of it worked.
murlough23

Ghost in the Moon
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Posts: 2,109
Reply with quote  #16 
wasp, are you on Facebook? This forum has been largely inactive for last few years and we've moved most of the ongoing discussion to a Jarchives group there. We've been having a "listening party" over the last few months where we've revisited one album a week, so you'll be right at home.
__________________
DISCLAIMER: The preceding post was a statement of opinion, and does not reflect the views of the members of Jars of Clay, the moderators of Jarchives, or any member of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is only my opinion that this is my opinion. In my opinion, you may choose to believe that my opinion is fact, if in fact you are of the opinion that you are allowed to choose what you believe, which presupposes the opinion that you do in fact exist in the first place - in my humble opinion, of course. It is my opinion that all of my opinions are humble opinions, but this does not indicate a bias on my part against opinions which are, in my opinion, proud opinions.
wasp

Newbie Like a Child
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Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #17 
oh, "Can't Erase It" is good, too, one of the better up-tempo "rock" songs in their catalog.
wasp

Newbie Like a Child
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Posts: 6
Reply with quote  #18 
I am on the Facebookz every once in a blue moon, I will find your guys group!
trigger

Reckless Forgiver
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Reply with quote  #19 

Much Afraid was an initial disappointment that has grown to be one of my all time favorites over the years. If I Left The Zoo has had the opposite trajectory.

I think the ironic lyrics and strange production choices gave nearly every track a unique flavor. I was re-riding the Jars of Clay hype train after coming to terms with what a great album Much Afraid was (three years after the fact), so I bought IILTZ out of rediscovered enthusiasm. I vividly remember laying on my bed with my dad's gigantic Sony headphones, picking out the background noises (like the rocking chair), analyzing the unique instrumentation of each track, and pouring over the lyrics for clever puns and turns of phrase that I might catch.

IILTwas also the Jars album I could put on in my little blue Mazda and jam out to. "Collide", "Grace", and "Can't Erase It" were a lot of fun to turn up too loud, and probably contributed to blowing out the cheapy stock speakers. But the staying power of the album was poor. I remember when I got my first iPod, with it's comparatively limited space, where all the other Jars albums up to that point went on as complete albums. Zoo had the distinction of having tracks left un-synced. 

To this point, IILTZ is tied with The Shelter (which I consider more of a City on a Hill style compilation than a true Jars album) as my least favorite Jars album. Both have some highlights that I really enjoy, but they also sport the weakest tracks in the bands catalog.

Today, the highlights for me are "River Constantine", "Sad Clown", and "No One Loves Me Like You". They seem like the most genuine and honest songs on the album.

________________________________________________

Interestingly, it wasn't until 2004 that I'd heard about The White Elephant Sessions, and I ended up buying it off eBay. In some ways, I actually prefer many of the tracks from TWES to their counterparts on IILTZ. Some of that may be the novelty, but on an album like IILTZ, where there isn't much of a coherent thread being woven from song to song it seems like some of the more unique stylistic choices made on TWES strengthen their respective tracks. Also, no obnoxious buzzing sound on "Unforgetful You"!

As a side, side note, I still love Fly Farther, and I think it's a shame that it never saw a proper album release.

julie

Seatbelt Tubist
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Posts: 184
Reply with quote  #20 
I love if i I left the Zoo   i bought the CD at Newbury Comics a record store on the east cost when they were making the record album they had stated in an interview with CCM that there where places that dennis pushed them to go. I think Steve said there where times during that recording he wanted to quit or through away his guitar along those lines for some of the music was just painful to them and some of the  piano playing for Charlie didn't like but must of it he did. This album won a Grammy i think and it was decaied to Cassie Burnnel who was killed at high school  for saying Yes thar she belived in God shoting at Littletion CO that happened in 1999 in the USA. i liked the album my brother said it sounded like the Bealtes on first listen to him. i like most of the songs if you orted this album early you got the White Elphant which had a diffrent verson of grace on it and others as well seasons with the CD for free. I  like the song Hand I thought of it as a song that Dan wrote for his wife at least that's what i picture it of him and his wife walking by the ocean holding hands or maybe by in busy city. i loved River constaine as well most of the songs i like on this album and Dan had said during this time he had felt a lot of pressiue of the christian people to be and perforem to be something he was not/so there was a song on that album that was taking about the holy Ghost and how he had felt that he had to feel mulipilied and that Holy Ghost had fallen prey to this as well and also people to be somtehing he was not or felt. for the record when ever i saw jars of clay live i didn't expect them to respleant the whole feeings of the church which is sad thar people but that expecation on Dan and Jars of Clay ....but just to be themsleves nor did i ever expect Dan to be any one but him self. but that most likey has to do with my family when you came to vist our home you could be your self. there is one song that has this old piano sound that i just love it. it was also one of my late father's favorte records of Jars of Clay. People where also dealing with Y2k at this time and there was alot of fear that if the computers when dark what was going to happen.  i think this is a good album [smile]  but i have very bord tates and i like a lot of artist as well. and i think jars of clay did a good job on this too bad the felt rushed. i had kind of hated that they got lumped in with the boy band fad and with brinttey spears  i didn't conisder them that way. i think it is a beaitful album and brings back many found memoires for me, i didn;t see them tour during this time i don't know if they came east but i was really busy if they did it was my last year of school i may have not had the time to see them  if they did. love famous last words and and  and sad clown and the image of this song is my mind is a person who is travling form place to place to peform for people yet they sturggle with people's precption of them as they perferm. also it's on a bus just a gray hound  sounded by people and as well some time the images is of a person in apartment while it is raining very heverly out side the window as they sit and write the words. that would make a nice black and white video for the song also the writer stumbling in side with his friend or lover in the room.
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