Monday, November 23, 2020

No Thanks: Sound of Lies

The Jayhawks: Sound of Lies

There are so many things not to be thankful for in 2020, which will go down in history as a particularly bad year. Maybe not as bad as during the Civil War, or the Great Depression, or other periods of strife and struggle, but I think that the sheer number of different bad things that have happened during the year is unprecedented. I know that I’ve written a few political pieces on this music blog recently, so I hope that this one is the last for a while, but as I put figurative pen to paper, our political system is being bent to the point that there is real concern about it breaking. I’m confident that it will not snap, but like most things that are stressed to the breaking point, it will be weakened, maybe permanently. 

So, why, “Sound of Lies?” Because one of the things that I will not miss from 2020 is worrying that every time I turn on the radio, or TV, or check social media, I will be barraged by a steady stream of lies from the president and his henchpersons, sycophants and enablers. I mean, we all knew that most politicians shaded the truth when expedient, and that some lied, outright. But the sheer volume of dissembling and BS from this crowd has been astonishing and exhausting. I fully expect that, shortly after January 20, 2021, there will be stretches of days where I don’t even think about the President, and don’t have to get angry about his lies, which I expect to improve my mental health. 

“Sound of Lies,” the song, is the title track of the Jayhawks’ 1997 album, which followed the departure of co-leader Mark Olson, and the resulting primacy of Gary Louris as singer and songwriter. And the album also marked a shift in the band’s Americana-based sound to include more pop influences, although the twang wasn’t completely eradicated. It’s an album that received mixed reviews at the time—in fact, they were “mixed” not in the sense that reviewers thought the album was mediocre, but in the sense that some reviewers loved it and others hated it. I suspect that many of the “haters” were the folks who object to bands that change and grow over time. And, in fact, many writers, often in pieces discussing the album’s reissue in 2014, noted that it had held up well over the years.  In an interview from 2014 about the album, Louris said:

It’s probably our favorite album as well. It is the 'fuck you' record. It really is the fuck everybody record, I really remember Olsen had left, he had quit, I was going through a divorce, I was a mess, I was drinking too much, I was unhappy… I really felt this was the last Jayhawks record, and why not go out with a bang, so fuck it? 

The song, though, is not a glossy pop song, but is, instead, a quiet, heartbreaking ballad, which is consistent with the dark place he was in. And while the lyrics to the song don’t really relate to the current political situation, these lines do resonate: 

The sound of lies rings funny
Against the truth 

Despite Louris’ belief, it was far from the Jayhawks’ last album (it wasn’t even their last album with Olsen), and despite the despair and exasperation, they’ve gone on to continued creative success. 

Hopefully, next year, at this time, we can all put aside our current despair and exasperation, and move on to be thankful about the truth.