Love as Laughter – Holy

3 out of 5

Label: Epic

Produced by: Joe Blaney

From album to album – from the scrappy solo sounds of Sam Jayne’s lo-fi Greks mess to the realization of a band sound on Destination 2000, to the NY-via-Seattle pop rock genius of Laughter’s Fifth – Love as Laughter had impressed by actually growing their sound, proof that a base template of guitar-bass-and-drums didn’t need to incorporate the kitchen sink and mighty producers to make change.  But after that amazing fifth album, which was stuffed to the brim with enough infectious riffs for multiple albums, where to go?

Expectations were undeniably set.  And then, following in the footsteps of longtime friend/s Isaac Brock / Modest Mouse, LaL went major label to Epic for their sixth release, Holy.  Setting aside MM’s sneaked-in major label oddity of The Moon & Antarctica, their first heavily promoted Sony outing – Good News For People Who Love Bad News – eventually somewhat soured my opinion toward the band, and thus what type of concessions or modifications should we be expecting from Sam Jayne and crew?

…but LaL’s sound was already much closer to ‘accessible’ than the Mouse’s, so the good news, for Holy, is that it mostly sounds like Love as Laughter, still.  There’re some awesome hard rockin’ riffs ringing through the runtime, and Jayne seems to stick to the street-level observational lyrical nature of Fifth.  However, what to make of some of the more ‘easy going’ tracks, like the simple shimmy of Baby Shambles, or the drum circle glee of Don’t Worry?  And there’s something missing in the louder songs, despite being quite catchy in and of themselves.  The lack of any real lasting impression is am indication: Jayne’s concession, for Epic, was to not continue growing his band’s sound; instead, he shifted gears.  Underdog angst is swapped for a bluesy acceptance; ballooning energy for curtailed singles.  Any track that makes an initial impression – and, at a glance, there are plenty,such as Crosseyed Beautiful Youngunz, and the raw distorted licks of closer Bonnie & Clyde – doesn’t stick around for long enough to burn the sound in, or doesn’t push hard enough to do so.  To the group’s credit, this was probably the safest way to go major, as, again, for most intents and purposes it sounds like LaL, it’s just LaL playing it safe.

Which is by no means a horrible thing.  Holy is a catchy disc, if a bit too feel-good and ephemeral..  And it’s aged well: while at the time of release I somewhat dismissed it as pap, coming back to it fresh, yeah, it’s lacking some oomph, but the core of the album is quality.