Love as Laughter Holy(Red Int/Red Ink) Buy it from Insound
A couple years ago, I went hogwild over Love as Laughter’s last release, Laughter’s Fifth. I thought, and still do, that it was the best collection of pure rock and roll I’d heard in years. The songs were tuneful and well constructed, and the vibe was loose and rollicking in the tradition of the best Stones records. Virtually everyone ignored it. I suspect this has more to do with what the listening public will accept from new music rather than the objective quality of the album. The heroes of today’s Indieworld, the marketplace in which LaL records compete, usually feature tightly organized, fairly polished performances. Think of anything from Radiohead to the Shins to TV on the Radio to whoever (maybe a few Wilco songs are the exception), and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Gone are the days when Lennon and McCartney would sing a different word, or Dylan would crack up in the middle of a song, and they’d leave it in because the performance crackled.
Except that no one told Sam Jayne about this development. What made Laughter’s Fifth great and this one better than it might otherwise be is his commitment to just plugging in and playing, which gives the music a spontaneity sorely lacking in much of today’s post-digital landscape. He understands that he’s not going into the studio to record the Brandenburg Concertos, where precision is half the point. This is rock music, at its best when really smart people temporarily lose their minds. And call me crazy, but it should “sound” like rock music. You should be able to hear the individuals playing, not programming, their instruments. Take a song like Konny and Jim. You can hear the space in the room, the shifting dynamics, the shared intensity. Sure it’s ragged, but it’s coherent, and it delivers. Even when the band is kicking back, as on Crosseyed Beautiful Youngunz the spirit is communal, and the shared sense of purpose is apparent. The busiest song on the record, All Parts of Me, suffers from horn and guitar parts that sounded pasted together, rather than laid down all in one go. For the most part though, Holy relies on the live band, not over-rehearsed sound that seems to get by most people but thrills me to no end. Nowhere more so than on Cleaning Man, whose sporadic guitar accents only appear where they’re needed. The songs aren’t as strong as the ones on Laughter’s Fifth, and the intensity is dialed down a notch, but there’s still plenty of great stuff here, and the beautiful looseness remains.
This is only the second LaL album I’ve heard and I’m really getting to love this band. In an age when every beat is set to the time of an atomic clock these living, imperfect human beings remind us that rock music is supposed to be fun to play. That’s the spirit that could bring back the great days of air guitar, if only people would listen.23 September, 2008 - 18:13 — Alan Shulman