If you're going to address God directly in your songs, as the Jars of Clay so frequently do on their new album, "If I Left the Zoo," it makes a certain sense to put your lyrics to the psychedelic-pop of the late-'60s Beatles. After all, conversing with a supernatural being is a pretty trippy enterprise, so why not accompany the dialogue with the squishy guitars, tape tricks, string quartets, weird chords and dizzying harmonies of a "Magical Mystery Tour"? It sure works for the Jars of Clay.
It wouldn't work half as well if these four singer-songwriters from Nashville didn't come up with melodic hooks nearly as pleasurable as Paul McCartney's. The catchy choruses on songs such as "Unforgetful You," "Famous Last Words" and "I'm Alright" pull the listener in and allow the artsy arrangements and elaborate harmonies to work.
The lyrics are vague enough that they probably won't offend anyone, though they probably won't inspire anyone, either. But it's the music that carries the meaning here, and what a mind-bending, optimistic message there is in this Beatlesque pop.
Appearing Thursday at the 9:30 club.
* To hear a free Soundbite from Jars of Clay, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)