Sam Jayne, the mastermind behind Love as Laughter, loves rock and roll. In 1998, when Love as Laughter released second full length, #1 USA, Jayne left behind his bedroom lo-fi experimental roots and emerged with an actual Love as Laughter band. In so doing, Jayne and company have taken a much more classic (rock) approach to their music with a pulse that came straight out of 1968. #1 USA was jam-packed with balls-out, fast-paced driving rock songs, and was quietly one of the best albums of 1998. Destination 2000, their follow up album, was a continuation of this rock style...but it didn't click. The album lacked the charm of #1 USA, and the record as a whole seemed flat, muddy, and simply didn't work. Seeing the new band live that summer---of which Sam was the only original member---didn't help. They were tired, hung over from the previous night's bender of booze and god knows what else, and were quite lackluster. Too bad, I thought--a good band so quickly down the drain.
It gives me nothing but utter satisfaction, then, to announce to the world that Love as Laughter are BACK and better than ever. After listening to Sea to Shining Sea, the weaknesses of Destination 2000 seem obvious: they were simply growing pains for what was essentially a new band. For the first time, Jayne has a solid band backing him, and their growth as a band clearly shines through.
Between the touring, the line up changes, the drugs, and the hangovers, the band got good-like. Real good-like. Instead of letting their influences overwhelm their writing--which was clearly the main problem with their previous album--they have let their songwriting overwhelm their influences. Man, does it sound refreshing, too! Gone are those blatent Rolling Stones overtones, in favor of a more original sound.
Instead of top-heavy jams and go-nowhere noodling, the songs have a definite direction and aim to them--to rock. Many of these songs go well over the six minute mark, but you don't really notice, nor does it make the songs overweight. From the fast paced "Temptation Island" to the comic blues of "Sam Jayne=dead," and the anthemic "Put it Together" and "e.h.," Love as Laughter are all about one thing: having a good time--you know, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. We've established the rock bit, the sex bit is alluded to, but the drugs--heh, they're very clearly on the map. "Druggachusetts?" "French Heroin?" Make your own decisions, boys and girls. And let's not forget to mention "The Square," which finds Jayne setting aside his love of AC/DC, the Stones, and Lou Reed, to do a little bit of a Nico tribute. Yes, I said Nico. It sounds like Nico. (Yeah, shocked and impressed me, too)
It's amazing what a little time can do for a band, and Sea to Shining Sea is a clear example of a band growing into its own. Sure, missteps were made, bands changed, but it's only a matter of time before Love as Laughter get some kind of recognition for the hard work that they do. Sea to Shining Sea is a lot like that metalhead kid you knew in high school--not the smartest in the class, but you knew a that his life was always one helluva party.