R'n'R chameleon

Oct 13, 1999 at 12:00 am

They say it’s all been done before. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They say a lot of things. Love as Laughter, however, is too busy rewriting the rock ’n’ roll fakebook to say much of anything – and we and they are all the better for it.

Love as Laughter is basically Sam Jayne and friends (Jayne formerly of the short-lived but well-admired Lync). Originally a one-man show on its first three home-recorded releases, LAL finally became a three-piece last year and released #1 USA, an endearing slab of Northwest indie rock that proved, if nothing else, that even though fewer people were paying attention, Seattle could still produce the goods.

Jayne is back with a new album and four new friends to plunder all that’s good in rock ’n’ roll. The album’s cover could pay tribute to Kraftwerk, Devo or Big Black, and once inside, Jayne and friends tip the hat so often they might as well just leave the damn thing off.

The most striking thing upon first listen is that it’s hard to believe the whole album’s by one band. Shape shifting from one song to another, Jayne even appropriates different vocal styles. Blazing out of the gate with the high octane "Stay Out of Jail," next thing you know Jayne’s doing his best Thurston Moore doing Iggy Pop on "Margaritas," only to switch to an Oblivians-style delta stomp. With the band not content to change genres each song, the title track is a by-the-numbers Stones tune that somehow transmogrifies into lo-fi Atari sounds more fit for a Trans Am record. Hints of folk, country, the better bits of new wave and plenty of what’s "now" about indie rock all find their way in. You’ve heard it all before, yet somehow the record holds up to repeated listening and manages to be a fine piece of work on its own.

They say rock ’n’ roll will never die and Love As Laughter not only believes it, they prove it. Jayne and his co-pilots may not reinvent the wheel, but they take it for a high-speed joyride.