Picks and Pans Review: Smile
The Jayhawks do not lack for guts. Unfazed by numerous personnel shifts (including the 1995 departure of coleader Mark Olson), the Minneapolis band not only shares its album's title with Brian Wilson's notoriously unfinished 1967 avant-pop masterwork, but also includes a track, "Mr. Wilson," that despite auteur Gary Louris's intentions ' seems to chide the ex-Beach Boy for failing to fulfill his artistic promise. That would be harder to take if this particular Smile didn't include songs as lovely as "Broken Harpoon" and "What Led Me to This Town." High points tend to be its quieter acoustic moments, but the addition of synthesized keyboards and drums lends the album a satisfyingly twitchy, 21st-century sound. And if Louris's dark, cryptic tunes could use a dose of Olson's refreshing directness, Louris has crafted several songs worth smiling over.
Bottom Line: A band spreads its wings