Love as Laughter
Thur June 23
Berbati's Pan 10 SW 3rd

When Sub Pop first floated me an advance copy of Love as Laughter's latest, Laughter's Fifth, I took a frustrating rollercoaster ride of elation and disappointment. The record was a long-overdue, gracefully executed treasure highlighting frontman Sam Jayne's exceptional knack for fusing crafty lyrical innuendo onto grimy-but-gorgeous pop-rock hooks. It didn't leave my CD player for weeks (hell, it's still there), so I was crestfallen when a Sub Pop rep told me that there were no tour plans in the works.

Thankfully that's all been resolved with the confirmation of a handful of West Coast dates featuring Jayne's rotating cast of talented friends. Chatting via phone from his Brooklyn home, he discusses his eagerness to hit the road again: "Playing in New York is basically just playing for our friends--it's better for us to get out of New York. It seems like people enjoy us more on the West Coast anyway."

Jayne's return to the Northwest will undoubtedly feel a bit like a family reunion, given his history, fan base, and friendships within this community. He initially made his mark in 1994 with the K Records debut (and swan song) of Lync, a short-lived, Olympia-based punk trio still fetishized by underground-music aficionados. An appearance on Beck's One Foot in the Grave that same year may have somewhat increased Jayne's profile, but it was really the subsequent formation of Love as Laughter that established him as a gifted (if slightly unfocused) songwriter with a fondness for wry, intelligent lyrics and chaotic, distorted guitar.

Love as Laughter's first four releases reflected those traits, occasionally to a fault. Despite Jayne's impressive writing skills, he often seemed to overthink his arrangements in the studio, overdubbing himself into oblivion (1999's Destination 2000) or going bananas with odd tunings and distortion (1996's The Greks Bring Gifts). There's nothing wrong with making a creative racket, but when you write songs as strong as Jayne does, they're often better served by letting them exist in their natural, unadorned state--a simplification Jayne wisely employed with Laughter's Fifth, a relaxed, dry-witted, and infectious collection that sounds like early Crazy Horse with a better sense of humor.