Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005
What Led Me To This Town
More Cowbell bids a fond farewell to The Jayhawks, and naturally it got me thinking about my relationship with the band (or their music, anyways). I don’t have a terrific story about discovering them or how much they meant to me – to be honest, I got Tomorrow The Green Grass from Columbia House or something way back in… 1996? when I was just discovering the whole alt.country thing. Their name would pop up in email lists or whatever as being part of that scene and I think I’d heard “Blue” on the radio a couple times, so I ordered it. Hey – 12 CDs for a penny, how can you go wrong? Anyway, I listened to it a couple times, and filed it away. It was alright, but probably didn’t “rock” enough for me at the time.
From there I eventually picked up all their records, mostly whenever I got the craving for more twang than my CD collection at the time could provide. Hell, I think I even bought Smile twice, having sold it once when I was not craving the twang (not that that record offered a whole lot of twang). But somewhere along the way, I grew to really appreciate their stuff, even through all their different incarnations. I’d get excited when I heard some Jayhawks in a TV commercial or over the PA in a grocery store. I discovered the awesomeness of Gary Louris’ guitar tones and really, the production of all their records is sublime – just listen to Rainy Day Music on a good stereo sometime. Fantastic. It was like how a casual aquaintance can become a good friend over time without you even realizing it. I feel lucky to have gotten to finally see them perform two excellent shows in the last few years, once opening for Lucinda Williams and then early last year headlining their own show.
And now they’re calling it a day, at least for now. Fans who’d hoped that the current tour with Gary Louris and prodigal Mark Olsen would lead to a full-fledged reunion of the original lineup must be particularly stung by the news. I’m not especially surprised, though. When a band goes silent for the better part of a year, a live album is put on the release calendar and then shelved, when there’s more news about solo records and side projects than the main band, you know something’s up. But I’m glad for them – sometimes a change of situation is just what one needs to get the batteries charged up again. As I mentioned yesterday, the dissolution news is tempered a bit by news of drummer Tim O’Reagan’s first solo album coming out on April 1 (and it’ll feature most if not all the ‘Hawks anyway) and Louris’ contributions to a new Golden Smog record. The Jayhawks may be shelved, but they’re not going anywhere. Cheers, guys, and thanks.
I did make it to see The Empires at the Horseshoe last night. With every band strip-mining the 80s UK indie scene for inspiration of late, it’s good to see a band get the jump on things and start exhuming the early 90s for a change. The two points of comparison that came to mind while watching them were either a less combustible Swervedriver or a Catherine Wheel without the imminent threat of metal. Take that as you will. While they’ll hopefully grow into some more stage presence with time, their performance was pretty good though it lacked the nuance and texture of their recorded material – the keyboards that grace the studio versions of their songs weren’t coming across very well in the live setting. I wish bands wouldn’t try so hard to rock out live if it comes at the expense of the songs. Sometimes quiet and restraint can be far more powerful. Anyway, I would certainly peg them as having quite a bit of potential and worth watching. If you want to sample some of their stuff, listen to “Lesbian Games” off their website. Awful song title, but pretty good song. And man, I don’t want to think about the Google hits I’m going to get from typing that out.
I’ve been waiting for them to confirm this one for a little while, but The Album Leaf will be at the Horseshoe on April 5, tickets $8. I’ve only heard a little of his stuff (thanks to Epitonic, Better Propaganda), but it sounds interesting. anyone want to testify as to whether it will make for a good live show?
Stereogum gives us nightmares.
np – The Wedding Present / Take Fountain