sound of lies
looking for a sweeter sound
The Jayhawks are not one of the most prolific of bands, with Sound Of
Lies being only their fifth album in 13 years. However, the quality far
exceeds the quantity, and Sound Of Lies provides 13 songs that just scream
for attention. Most of the songs come from Gary Louris, who also provides
lead vocals and much of the lead guitar work. The overall impression of
the album could be described as folk-pop-rock and provides the listener
with flashes of Beatle type harmonies, winding bass runs and underlying
melodic riffs - touches of glam-rock, both in piano and guitar stylings
(the latter strongly reminiscent of the late Mick Ronson) - some further
mix of acoustic, grungy (as in pre-seattle) and 'treated' guitars - and
all held together by multi-layered violin/strings/keyboard arrangements.
And throughout it all, The Jayhawks manage to create a distinctively unique
and timeless blend, with a clarity that rises well above the consistently
homogenous and dire sounds currently emminating from much of today's radio
The Jayhawks origins may have been folk, or even a touch country, but they've heard quite a few pop songs along the way (although sometimes in a dark alley).
The Man Who Loved Life opens the album with some simple piano chords,
before immediately flooding you with a rich melody, strong earthy harmonies,
and upfront 'lead' bass, setting the pace for the remainder of the album.
And the opening lines 'Won't you take my hand? Won't you be my friend?
Take my advice - go away." set the mood for the bittersweet journey ahead.
This is followed by the guitar laden and anthemic Think About It, where
the message appears to be the individual's right to choose - as in life
Trouble starts with acoustic guitar and piano leading into some sweet harmonies (CSNY meet the Beatles), "There's a bit of truth in every lie", before being split down the middle with a fine guitar break (courtesy of the spirit of Mick Ronson). A piano riff from Karen Grotberg (who also provides much of the vocal harmonies throughout the album) introduces It's Up To You and is the dominant feature of Stick In The Mud, a stirring waltzing ballad. Big Star continues the story of The Byrds' - So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Star, complete with wild guitars (a slightly borrowed solo from Let It Be?), soaring harmonies and "cuban cigars!" And an obvious choice for a single.
Poor Little Fish is a more laid back approach with some Nilsson styled
storytelling and vocalising and of "Seeing Nick Cave, down at the laundromat".
Sixteen Down, which appears to be some sort of obtuse confession from a
serial killer, floats in on wah-wah guitar with "bodies never to be found",
before breaking into some crashing guitar chords. A very strange affair
Haywire also rises and falls, but in waves of sweeping organ and harmonies - punctuated by some more lead bass runs. Dying On The Vine approaches epic proportions with an ever ascending cyclic guitar riff (a la the Beatles - I Want You) supported by bold and adventurous harmonies (actually they share a closer affinity with Badfinger).
Bottomless Cup and the plaintive title track tone things down, with the first being somewhat slightly in the Dylan (both of them) mold, while the latter is simple acoustic guitar and piano, accompanied by the the 'mellotronic' sound of the chamberlin together with violin - resulting in a very melancholic moment! A time for reflection, and some form of resolve? The album closer, I Hear You Cry, is a slightly jazzy song, with a touch of wah-wah, ending the album in a very subdued way. The overall effect of these last three songs is to produce an enormous desire to start again at the beginning of the journey. A sign of a trully great album.
Every discerning record collection deserves to have Sound Of Lies, and The Jayhawks deserve much more recognition than has been afforded them over their 13 years. If you can handle the dark side of the loon, seek out and buy Sound Of Lies. And soon , before The Jayhawks become yet another extinct species.
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