Ever since Jars of Clay’s eponymous double-platinum debut in 1995, the pioneering alt-rock band has been a Christian music staple. And each subsequent release has tweaked Jars’ constantly evolving sound a bit further. While the group’s previous album, Good Monsters, forayed into straight-up rock ’n’ roll, what The Long Fall Back to Earth offers is slick, synthesized retro pop. Regarding the album’s title, frontman Dan Haseline says, “The Long Fall Back to Earth describes that sobering moment in a relationship when you move from the euphoria of being in love to the reality of what it means to live in a relationship on a day-to-day basis.”
As Haseltine notes, Jars’ 10th album often addresses the difficulties of relating to an invisible God and to imperfect people. Accordingly, “Two Hands” reflects a Christian understanding of the paradoxical war between our sin nature and our redeemed identity as believers in Christ. “I have a broken disposition,” Haseltine sings. “I’m a liar who thirsts for truth.” The song insists that if we could get our “two hands” to work together, there’s no telling the good we might do. Likewise, “Heaven” calls us to notice “what’s growing on the inside,” meaning evidence of God’s work in our lives. “Lyrically, I love [this song],” says guitarist Steve Mason, “because we always seem to be looking for heaven outside and around us, when eternity has been written on our hearts” (a reference to Ecclesiastes 3:11).
“Closer” pleads poetically for reconciliation. “Headphones” rails against modern distractions that alienate us from our problems and from each other. “Safe to Land” tackles the struggle of getting reacquainted with family after a long tour. “A lot of bands write road songs,” Haseltine says, “about what it feels like to miss one’s family when you’re on the road—but nobody writes songs about what it feels like to come home from the road and try to reconnect with your family.” The result of that lyrical focus is one of the album’s most poignant, determined tracks. “I’m gonna stay ’til we make it work,” he sings. “We’re not going down even if it gets worse/We’ll work it out.” Elsewhere, “Hero” sends up a broken plea for a savior, while “Scenic Route” deals with someone trying to mend a rocky relationship. “Heart,” the album’s final track, sounds like a love song from God: “No walls to defend, wars to align/Give me your heart, you already have mine.”
None really. But because the band isn’t afraid to voice deep doubts, a handful of isolated lyrics could be misinterpreted if taken out of context. On “Hero,” for example, Haseltine apparently vents frustration over unanswered prayer. “We hide on our knees in silence,” he sings. “Maybe God doesn’t hear at all.”
Jars of Clay has never fit neatly into the stereotypical CCM box. Optimism, faith and hope infuse many of the band’s songs, to be sure. But Dan Haseltine and Co. never focus on these things at the expense of an honest assessment of how hard and confusing life can be as well. The Long Fall Back to Earth continues in that lyrical vein, even as it showcases the band’s ever-evolving sound. All in all, Fall Back is sonic cotton candy with bite—tuneful cries from the souls of four guys willing to look at life unflinchingly, in all its grit and glory.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.