Live Monsters (Live)
Over the years, Jars of Clay has oscillated between melancholy folk-pop, upbeat retro-rock, and brooding atmospheric numbers. Live Monsters documents the band’s more muscular side by offering in-concert versions of tunes from their Good Monsters album. This eclectic Christian unit acquits itself well as it strips away all studio polish and holds forth in unfiltered glory. Singer Dan Haseltine’s vocals take on a harsher, more urgent edge on “Work” and “Good Monsters,” while “Light Gives Heat” finds him projecting a moodily prophetic air. The band plays with sustained intensity, riding an insistent pulse on “There Is a River” and slicing away like a punk act on the title tune. “Dead Man (Carry Me),” is a particular high point, exceeding the taut power of the studio version. For all their versatility and lyric intelligence, Jars of Clay can sometimes sound overly mannered and pristine at times, but Live Monsters allows them to unleash their inner rock animal without sacrificing the spiritual essence of their songs. More live releases like this one would be most welcome.