Reviewed by John Cheek
Seems a long time since I first heard Ball Jar live, in 2000. They were supporting the Vigilantes Of Love, at The Borderline in London. I knew that a couple of their line-up had been in Eden Burning, the Christian act who almost broke through in the mainstream, about five years before Delirious? Being unfamiliar with their material, it was still noticeable that themes of resurrection and redemption peppered their lyrics, delivered to a packed audience and a diverse one at that, as capital crowds often are. Such cross-over appeal, rare in many CCM artists, has always been a hallmark of the sublime experience which is Bell Jar; so it's a shame that they've had limited visibility during their dozen-year lifespan - band members understandably giving priority to their families and proper jobs. Yet a group featuring such talents as twin-guitarists Charlotte Ayrton and Paul Northup, are always worthy of attention. A tight, jazz-tinged sound with traces of Elliot Smith perhaps, this four-track EP, released last year, was meant to be a taster, of 'work-in-progress' for realisation in 2010. With no sign of it now, the EP takes on a different life. A daft comparison could be The La's relative hibernation, but this is gold-dust and it begins with "Somewhere Else", an evocative mood, which reminds you of the times when you think that real life is happening 'somewhere else', before the twist in the tale, "listen and you'll hear it". With an opening reminiscent of the intro to The Doors' "Riders On The Storm", comes the classy title-track. Warped guitars here and there, later to give way to feedback but not before an intriguing lyric which lays down a challenge to go on a journey - it may not be a stairway to heaven, but a subtle pointer to remember our First Love and pass it on: "Follow the road down from the mountain/Follow the road across the flood-plain.Like a story you once told/You've forgotten how to tell". The last couple of songs then don't quite live up to the same standards; the final track showing the group at their most expansive: laid-back, having a blast. It reflects the need for a more group-wide contribution, rather than over-reliance on Northup song-smithery. That said, this is now a worthy part of the (slight) Bell Jar canon. We long to see Northup and co's album of which this is a most welcome taster.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out