Music Monday - Jayhawks - Paging Mr. Proust
The Jayhawks are no spring chickens. Founded in 1985 in the twin cities, the band has cycled through members through its over thirty years of life, toured the country, changed labels and even gone on soul-searching hiatuses. But this April, the Jayhawks returned with their ninth studio album, Paging Mr. Proust by Thirty Tigers Records.
For the uninitiated, the Jayhawks tend to be labeled as “alt country” or sometimes just indie. Other than held guitar twangs and fiddle interludes, I wouldn’t quite call the Jayhawks country, until the harmonica busts in. Musically, Paging Mr. Proust bops from country drawls to be sung in the round in “The Devil is in Her Eyes”, to a trailing, acoustic love song in “I’ll Be Your Key.” It’s like a slice of summer Americana you forgot.
It’s a weird experience, hearing something absolutely familiar and fresh all at the same time. The songs are all new, and carry harder edges, even something I might label punk, but it also feels like a well-worn memory, like a ragged cassette tape that lives in your dad’s car. And going by the, uh, paraphernalia references in “Lost the Summer”, maybe one he blushes a little through.
The lyrics are also out-of-time, unrooted to any particular era, save for maybe the Southwest Airlines reference in “Comeback Kids.” I’m partial to “Pretty Roses in Your Hair,” which is a quintessential song of regret and heartbreak if I’ve ever heard one.
Never once but broken
All we should have been
You lived your life I lived mine
Oh, how did I let you slip away
Oh, how could I let you slip away
A young twenty-something couldn’t write lyrics or music like this. This is the music that comes with time, experience, bitter heartbreak, and leaves you feeling wiser for it. The repetitive bridge drives it home in a kind of singalong melancholy.
The Dust of Long-Dead Stars (which is way more optimistic than it sounds, promise.) Is also fun and bouncy. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to bounce on your heels, a perfect summer festival tune.
Silly rings formed on the counter
Lost among the boomerangs
The existential biker waitress wisdom
Betty Page without the bangs
Like two moths lost and tattered
Only looking for the light
Went searching for enlightenment
But ended up in here tonight
Ended up in here tonight
What kind of great imagery is that, seriously!
And that’s really what Jayhawks has bottled up here. This is your music festival, your summer, your parents’ festivals, all of your parents’ summers, wrapped up in a nostalgic package. And truly, only bands with history and artists who have been through it can produce music that sounds authentic this way. Paging Mr. Proust is a welcome and worthy addition to the Jayhawks’ already awesome discography.