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Love as Laughter 

Sea to Shining Sea (Sub Pop)

Singer-guitarist Sam Jayne is one of those frustratingly amazing musical constructionists, putting together project bands to realize his intermittent visions of lo-fi sonic grandeur. After the 1994 demise of his acclaimed Seattle band Lync, Jayne formed a de facto ensemble known as Love as Laughter, first a completely solo project and then a loose affiliation of like-minded musical provocateurs who wound their way in and out of Jayne's studio and pop-damaged punk act. Jayne's latest version of Love as Laughter resembles the aggregation that was responsible for last year's Destination 2000, a marvel of stripped-down, smartass rock. On Sea to Shining Sea, Jayne and this year's model (bassist Brandon Angle, drummer Zeke Howard, and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Davidson) present a similar tone and texture, with lots of production savvy, but no gloss.

Early Stones references are standard for Love as Laughter, but in most instances, early Stones recordings are too clean and reverential to serve as measures for Jayne's messier presentation. A much more linear connection can be traced to the dirty acid blues of the Pretty Things, a British band of '60s madmen who populated their raw musical output with reality-based theater of the absurd. While Jayne wisely avoids the Things' debilitating antics, his sound is a dead ringer for their brand of high-energy retro rock. If Jayne's sonic meandering is just a by-product of his creative restlessness, he has a relatively cool catalog to chart his course so far. But if he's been looking for the right mix before fastening everything down and actually calling Love as Laughter a real band, now might be a good time to get the current lineup to commit to more than a single album.

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