Music News

2000 Flourishes

When soothsayers foretold that the end of the century would bring our human community to ever higher levels of enlightenment, I don't think Fox's Secrets of Street Magicians Finally Revealed was what they had in mind. Or figuring out what space-age adhesive was holding up Jennifer Lopez and her Grammy jammies. Say what you will about the lady's taste in evening wear, but that's one dinner date who definitely won't be ordering the lobster.

I can't remember which understanding-the-aliens book it came out of, but apparently there's some connection between higher intelligence and vibrating. Mastering the art of vibrating faster and faster should eventually allow you to communicate telepathically, pass through walls or, better yet, become invisible, which would go a long way toward explaining why you don't see Katharine Hepburn anymore. Certainly, Love As Laughter leader Sam Jayne is no stranger to superior faculties of thought, having told Magnet magazine in 1996 that Mars was sending him kids-wanna-rock messages from the 23rd century, which he felt compelled to emulate. Judging by the stack of cassettes trembling madly like epileptic lemmings off my speaker after playing Love As Laughter's new album Destination 2000, there's a whole lotta shaking smarts going on in Jayne's world. But with a new album, a new label and a new band, he can't afford to become invisible just yet.

Imagine if Iggy Pop had found a set of Eno strategy cards three albums earlier and was able to record the Stooges' Funhouse at home, unencumbered by the rising costs of overseas drugs and studio time, or if the MC5 decided to incorporate Tangerine Dream's synth roadie into the recording process without ever teaching him any of the songs, and you'll get some idea of the lo-fi/high-five controlled chaos that is Love As Laughter's latest.

The group's Seattle home base knows a thing or two about controlled chaos, having put the kibosh on its own Space Needle fireworks celebration this past December because city fathers feared terrorists were going to beat them to it. Needless to say, our highly evolved friend Sam Jayne was not amused.

"It was pretty bogus," he grumbles. "I just got drunk with some friends. There wasn't really much to do. No one else was freaked out about terrorists except for Seattle because they're bogus. They freak out really easily about everything."

Given that the Backstreet Boys aligned their Millennium album to all the pre-21st-century hype buildup, Destination 2000 seems geared to tie in with the inevitable letdown that comes with having to put that doomsday year on all the bills that still have to be paid with every tomorrow. Jayne maintains he has no regrets about dating the album in light of a possible Y2K backlash.

"I figured that everybody would be sick of it until they realized there's nothing big-deal about it," he says. "We called it Destination 2000 because there's nothing futuristic about the record, actually." For all its futuristic graphics, jokey album credits like "6 string programming" and "4 string research and development" and stiff Kraftwerk poses, you only have to hear the guitars gently slipping out of tune to realize Love As Laughter is a band ruled not by studio wizardry but by sonic accidents, with technology being used as an innocent bystander. Although it's a fully digital recording, the album is abuzz with ungrounded wires, distorted vocals and simulated psycho-acoustics where the band is playing in one key and the room is seemingly humming in another.

"A lot of that is because we recorded the whole thing ourselves. Some of it was purposeful and some stuff is just because that's the way it turned out when we tried to press this button to see what would happen," Jayne says. "We're still trying to figure out all our equipment. But we've got our own portable studio and we're going to do all our recordings ourselves from now on."

Before Love As Laughter, there was Lync, a band Jayne fronted, which put out two popular indie albums in as many years before he quit in 1994 to pursue his porta-studio muse. Lync's rhythm section went to join Built to Spill, while Jayne spent the next two years recording tons of material, some of which went into two cassette-only releases and a CD on Olympia, Washington, indie K Records titled The Greks Bring Gifts.

"I was just sitting around doing LAL-type home recording stuff. I had a lot of time to do it. I was living in Olympia and it was cheap and I didn't have anything to do."

During this period, Jayne and former Lync drummer James Bertram wound up playing on one of Beck's "uncommercial" recordings for K Records. Beck's One Foot in the Grave came on the heels of the folk-hop breakthrough Mellow Gold. Jayne downplays his involvement on the record as being nothing more than what his friends did on the first LAL CD. "I just played some guitar parts and did some backing vocals. Just hung around while he was making it with James. Some of the jams that we had didn't make it on there because they were too awful. Too goofy."