The Band That Loved Life

I've been getting by I've no cross to bear But I'm still getting thereThe Jayhawks' Tomorrow The Green Grass is an album I can't play anymore; to do so is to place my hands in a hot white flame that curls them to ghastly korl. You may have one like it in your collection -- a series of songs so enmeshed with a certain time of life that, though all involved have been forgiven beyond reproach, the passions and fears stoked by it still threaten equanimity. Such is testament to the writing of Mark Olson and Gary Louris. "I'd Run Away," "Two Hearts," "Over My Shoulder," "Red's Song," and especially "Blue" are songs that score a period of depth experiences not because they're vague enough to cover any situation, but because they're so compelling you conform to them.We tried it all You left me standing on the brink looking down, down, downOpening the spring of '95, their cover of Grand Funk's "Bad Time" was a tremendous coup, bringing me unparalleled window-down joy; I bought the album one day in June while the woman I loved wept in a health clinic, far from my arms; by August I was convinced it was among the greatest recordings I'd ever encountered; by Christmas she'd returned to her used-to-be and the Jayhawks had broken up.Why do good things divide Why did they all choose sidesOlson and Louris were no Seals and Crofts. Their keening voices cohabited 3 minute vignettes in a rough marriage that crumbled like their displaced characters -- perambulating aimlessly from the Greyhound station, craning their necks in wonder, disgust and hope. Now it's two years later, she's had the kid, left the jerk, and the Jayhawks are back.Won't you smile, smile, smile ... smile the smile that fills the room with an independent lightLouris began writing alone, and with bassist Marc Perlman; keyboard player Karen Grotberg started singing more; they got their own drummer, Tim O'Reagan, who also sings and contributes a song, and a regular string player so the swirling rush of "I'd Run Away" can be caught up with more often. Sound of Lies is already being called the best album of their career, or at least, "better than it has any right to be."Think about it once Take your time, don't fuss What you got to lose Everybody chooseMoving on is tough. It takes time to find a balance between the tenderness and trials, learning how to say Thank you and I'm sorry and Up yours and Good luck, Good-bye all at the same time. It was doubtful anything would happen at all; there was talk of changing their name ("Six Green Olives" was a possibility); they could just as well have become cashiers at Woolworth's.... flat-busted Wild-eyed and free I couldn't get arrested if I tried A has-been at a mere thirty-fiveBut through a collective leap of faith and unusual label support, Sound of Lies follows late-'60s Byrds reissues onto the market as evidence of the regenerative capacity of great American bands. As beautifully flawed as any of McGuinn's aggregations, they've made a transitional record, sort of The Notorious Jayhawk Brothers. Showing from behind a psychedelic serape are elements of a familiar sound -- and intimations of a new one. This is not the crackling guitar album Green Grass was; the songs are longer and less enigmatic, presented in straight lead-singer-with-back-up fashion instead of those disconcerting tight harmonies.Looking for a sweeter sound Looking for a brighter dayIt's convenient to redefinition when a partner has made himself or herself unavailable; something more conscious is required for growth. What I mean is: if Olson showed up tomorrow and wanted to rejoin the band, I don't think they'd have him.... now I'm getting somewhere Babe Scared of you Scared of youLaying the music for a new time, Sound of Lies offers songs of guts and humor, of getting out of our heads, living beyond our dreams -- or engaging them; it's as good an American rock record as you're likely to hear until the Byrds' (Untitled) is reissued. Like that mixture of past and present, for stumbles and over-steps it still gets moving on:The sound of lies rings funny against the truth


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