The Jayhawks "Paging Mr. Proust" (Thirty Tigers)
Paging Jayhawks fans: The Americana band of renown has returned with a timeless gem that belongs among the best of the group and its loose, expansive genre.
"Paging Mr. Proust" kicks off with a one-two punch that's a good guide for the rest of the collection. The leadoff, "Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces," shimmers with a beauty and familiarity that wouldn't have been out of place on the band's "Tomorrow the Green Grass" or "Rainy Day Music." It's followed by "Lost The Summer," which equally rocks but the jangle is replaced with a slightly less common funky syncopation and distortion.
Gary Louris, who leads a band that's cohesive despite the at-times acrimonious comings and goings of absent co-founder Mark Olson and others, revels in musical dichotomy: For every song that's straightforward and clean (the first track and "Isabel's Daughter"), there's something more crooked and cacophonous ("Pretty Roses in Your Hair" and "Ace").
That mostly works. "Ace" might be the only track that doesn't totally land — it's groovy, smoky and swampy, yet seems more like an opportunity to let off some steam before embarking on the rest of the musical journey. If so, it paid off, because the next song soars: "The Devil Is in Her Eyes" is a ruggedly exquisite rocker with heartbreaking harmonies.
There's plenty of polishing of the Americana apple here. But now in their fourth decade, The Jayhawks also want to expand the frontier, as REM did for 31 years before hanging it up. Appropriately, the album is co-produced by former REM guitarist Peter Buck and features musical appearances by Buck, his ex-bandmate Mike Mills and other REM associates.
"Paging Mr. Proust" finds a band supremely confident of where it's been, where it is and, one hopes, will be.
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