Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Jayhawks

  • Blue Earth [Twin/Tone, 1989] A-
  • Hollywood Town Hall [Def American, 1992] Neither
  • Tomorrow the Green Grass [Def American, 1995] *
  • Sound of Lies [American, 1997] Dud
  • Smile [Columbia, 2000] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Blue Earth [Twin/Tone, 1989]
Gram Parsons comparisons get you nowhere, but I'm not kidding--this is the obliquely songful followup the Burritos never made. Mark Olson is spared Parsons's obsessions and probably his genius. When he sings about death--there are three angels in the first four songs, two grievous though not identified as such--you suspect Gram rather than Thanatos got him thinking on the subject. But his "Commonplace Streets" are his own. A-

Hollywood Town Hall [Def American, 1992] Neither

Tomorrow the Green Grass [Def American, 1995]
always sincere, never wimpy, can write some ("Miss Williams' Guitar," "Ten Little Kids") *

Sound of Lies [American, 1997] Dud

Smile [Columbia, 2000]
The Jayhawks without Mark Olson don't resemble the Flying Burrito Brothers without Gram Parsons so much as Poco without Richie Furay. Not that they were ever as fluffy as Poco (or as chewy as the Burritos). But now they're as vapid as late Poco and then some. Although specifics do assert themselves, like when the drummer sings or the inspirational title cut references some northern clime, Gary Louris's boys aspire to the generalization level of transcendentalist parlor ballads, Hallmark cards, and, increasingly, Music Row. Alt- and any other kind of country behind them, they praise the Bob Ezrin who produced Alice Cooper and hire the one who produced Air Supply. C