Paging Mr Proust is the eagerly awaited new studio album from The Jayhawks, it’s an ambitious undertaking whilst still preserving that familiar melodic framework of their previous albums. With ex REM guitarist Peter Buck producing the Jayhawks create a vast and changing sonic landscape that retains its cohesion with sterling musicianship and great songwriting from Gary Louris.
Quite Corners & Empty Spaces evokes the jangling pop guitars and harmonies of Big Star and early REM. Louris who is now the bands principal songwriter displays a literary bent, each song a vignette of lives passing by and a distinct sense of isolation and withdrawal. Lost The Summer is the Jayhawks at their most ragged, clashing guitars and defiant vocals frame a song about alienation and anger. Lovers of the Sun sounds like the Byrds’ during their mid 60’s heyday it’s upbeat sound beguiles a sense of the futility of running from life. Leaving The Monsters Behind draws on a similar theme, the fallacy of trying to escape from the past.
Isabel’s Daughter is a superbly crafted tale of the possibilities and pitfalls of the young as they stand on the precipice of adulthood. Ace sees the band exiting their comfort zone, employing elements of electronica and lo fi distortion it provides a nice contrast to the more bright melodic structure of the album. The Devil Is In Her Eyes has a stream of consciousness feel, it’s inspiration appearing in the second verse, “David Wallace Foster said what goes on inside your head is too complicated to be said.”
Comeback Kids is the most overt display of the REM influence, the melodic guitar lines and the tight harmonies. Another vignette that binds itself to a thread that runs throughout the album, this time a more exuberant reflection of the past. The Dust Of Long Dead Stars traces the darker side of Los Angeles, the broken dreams an unfulfilled ambitions. Lies In Black and White sifts from the personal domain to a caustic examination of what we read in our newspaper. Referring to the more conservative strand of the American media where information is often wrapped in a warped bias.
Paging Mr Proust is a step forward for the band, each song delicately carved with lyrics that read like novels. Casts of characters experiencing the turmoil and uncertainty of life against a backdrop layered harmonies and precise melodies. There are moments where the band push beyond the ornate beauty to something more stripped and rough and there is true magic in those moments.