Right now, I am completely addicted to the Jars of Clay album Good Monsters. This is a problem that I've written about before. It doesn't strike often, but when it does, it strikes hard. I am a victim of my own obsession, and my iTunes is a helpless bystander. I have it repeating this album over and over and over. Poor thing. It had no chance to dig up some random stuff, so I'll just share what I have it playing these days.
"Work" This song is about how life is hard. Everything is hard work -- even just living. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to just give up and die. The key line for me is I have no fear of drowning/It's the breathing that's taking all this work. This causes general doubt to set in about the purpose of life in general.
"Dead Man (Carry Me)" Here we have the imagery of being dead while we walk around in life. The songwriters appear to be talking about people that continue to go through the motions of life, but not feeling anything about anyone or anything around them. It's a basically a plea to care. I do like the picture I get in my head when they come to the lines There's something in my veins/But I can't seem to make it work, it won't work. It makes me think of all the little red and white blood cells on the side of the highway with their shovels in hand, but just sitting there.
"All My Tears" What a sweet song about going home to heaven when we die. I especially love the chorus: It don't matter where you bury me/I'll be home and I'll be free/It don't matter where I lay/All my tears be washed away. It's that whole concept of death being the final resting place of this imperfect body and the transition into the perfect body that God gives us in heaven. It's also a plea to the people left behind on earth from the dead person: So weep not for me, my friends/When my time below does end/For my life belongs to Him/Who will raise the dead again. It also helps that it has one of those sweet melodies to sort of disguise the fact that it's a song about death. Or maybe that's just part of the overall point of the song -- death isn't the terrible end thing that it is always made out to be.
"Even Angels Cry" This song captured me from the first time I heard it. It took me a long time to understand what it's about, but it's so beautiful I was my favorite early on. I'm not completely sure I get it still, but I'll take a stab at an interpretation. Bad things happen, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Those times are even mourned in heaven, and we're not alone while we suffer through them. I can't capture the beauty of the song here, but if you ever hang out with me, I'll be happy to play it for you.
"There Is A River" We are human and we make mistakes. All the time. This is constant struggle that I find myself fighting with. I find myself doing things that I know (even while I'm doing them) that I shouldn't be doing. But sometimes I find I just can't help it. This is one of those songs that strives to make me feel better by reminding me that God still loves me and washes away those mess-ups right away. I'm especially drawn to the line Give it up, let go/These are things you were never meant to shoulder. Remember that more often, Heather.
"Good Monsters" I found myself with an original assumption as to what this song was about, and then that changed with multiple listenings. So, I think I get it now, but a nuanced song like this begs you to find another interpretation or insight with each listen. Currently, I'm in the interpretation that it's a song about the good people that do nothing. People all over the planet just let bad things happen. We don't stop the bad monsters, and that makes us good monsters. Our hearts are good, but our actions don't reflect that, so how good can our hearts be? The song declares this is caused by selfishness, and we just have to get over ourselves. The most poignant verse is this one: If good won't show its ugly face/Evil, won't you take your place?/Nothing ever changes, nothing ever changes/By itself. Okay, I get it: get out there and do something good!
"Oh My God" The haunting melody underlies the theme of this song. Every person has different events that cause them to call on God, but ultimately God hears those requests, regardless of who makes them. I love the middle section where they list off the types of people that pray -- everyone from thieves to angels to orphans to warriors to whores to preachers and plenty more. The juxtapositions of some of the various groups that end up turning to God in times of crisis is very powerful.
"Surprise" A song about dreaming. Who knew that would happen. This song is about those crazy things that show up in your dreams and surprise you. I've almost got the timing on the "surprise" encore to the song that comes up after you're sure it's over.
"Take Me Higher" I think this is a request to God to give the singer some peace, even if just for a short time. However, I am happy to hear alternate interpretations if anyone that reads this has listened to this song, or otherwise knows something I don't know.
"Mirrors & Smoke" This is a weird little song. It seems to be a bitter take on a person's struggle with marriage and love. It's done as a duet with Leigh Nash, from Sixpence None the Richer, and I think it's the only song that I don't really like on the album. Maybe it's because I don't get it and it really isn't a bitter anti-love song. I'll just leave you the last chorus, and you can make your own decision: Love's a constant mission/Truer word were never spoke/My love, it keeps you wishing/My heart, it keeps me broke. I completely agree with the first part, and if they're just trying to say that human love isn't as good as Godly love, I really think they could have done that without making marriage seem like a lost cause.
"Light Gives Heat" As the counterpart to "Good Monsters", here we have the admonition that we don't have all the answers to "save" the whole world. Accompaned by the African Children's Choir, this song hammers home who we are harming with our aid policies. As an example, take the first verse: Catch the rain empty hands/Save the children from their lands/Wash the darkness from their skin/Heroes from the west/We don't know you, we know best/But this is not a test. Clearly, we have to help in appropriate ways, and shoving Western culture and values down everyone's throat isn't the way to do that.
"Water Under the Bridge" Here's a more redeeming love song than "Mirrors & Smoke". Not a love song in the classic sense, but that's the best I can classify it. Here we have a person in a relationship that recognizes that arguments contain hurtful things that dredge up more arguments and more pain. Most of us don't deal with these things well, and it can feel like you're at war with your spouse at times. But these people are committed, and they know they can outlast the hurt they've done to each other, and we can stay/'Till the last drop of water flows under the bridge.
So, there you have it. The album that has hijacked my iTunes. Now that I've listened to it about 40 times in the last two weeks, I might be able to move on to other songs, but we'll just have to see. One must feed her addiction!
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