Positive: 3 out of 3
Mixed: 0 out of 3
Negative: 0 out of 3
Years ago, as the music writer for an insignificant regional newspaper, a copy of a CD called Sumday arrived in the mail. Knowing little of the band Grandaddy (virtually unknown in the far-flung regions of Australia), I mentally filed it under 'indie beard folk' and threw it on a growing pile of sample products to be absorbed at a later date.
Months, if not years later, Sumday was finally given the chance of an audition. As I recall, it was late one Monday night, after too many drinks, but despite my damaged faculties it made an impact. Sumday soon provided a path to The Sophtware Slump, and despite my long standing preference for metal over all other genre, it proved to be one of those rare life-changing episodes. By now, I'd read a little about Grandaddy, including comparisons on Metacritic to Radiohead's 1997 effort, which had already gained its dubious sacred cow status.
Radiohead is an easy band to admire; but they write songs that are hard to love, even like. I gave OK Computer a 10/10 rating on release, yet I'll confess to not listening to the album in its entirety for years. I played Kid A last week, trying to rationalise in my own mind why Radiohead have achieved mythical status, yet Grandaddy are forgotten. I can't.
One of my greatest regrets is not discovering The Sophtware Slump on release. When I eventually did, it became an obsession. I played it on repeat for months. I lived it; I made love to it; eventually, I sought solace for my broken heart with it. Few other works of contemporary art have made a similar impact The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin did. Experiencing Van Gogh's Starry Night did. Not much else has come close.
The Sophtware Slump is flawed, there's no disagreement here. Like the creations of many driven individuals, Jason Lytle doesn't know when to stop. But in an ugly world, talent beyond the far reaches of genius commands respect, particularly when that creativity can bring a 49-year-old cynic to years with a few strokes of a keyboard.
I bought Department of Disappearance last week. I had no great expectations Just Like the Fambly Cat was little more than a few cast-off ideas, and recent coverage on UTube seemed to confirm that Lytle's well-reported battle with drink and pills might have taken their toll. I've played the album five times. That's not enough yet it will take some late nights involving alcohol and opiates before I can really judge whether Lytle's bleak, yet life-affirming brand of self loathing is intact. My early guess is if The Sophtware Slump was Grandaddy's Dark Side of the Moon, this is Lytle's Wish You Were Here. And we all know which of those is the most popular nearly half a century later.… Expand
8You can't really go wrong with anything Jason Lytle touches. Over 8+ albums ranging from B-sides to C-sides, from Admiral Radley to none other than Grandaddy (possibly the most underrated/undiscovered greatest band of no time), he has possibly written fewer than 5 "bad" songs (F##$ked On Beer and Sunburn Kids among them). He's also written more than a few possibly "perfect" songs that possess harmonies and intricacies worthy of a modern day Beethoven. Not Radiohead or Sonic Youth wanneebees. Not "trying to sing it funny like Beck." Grandaddy quietly amalgamated a cult-like fan base that obsessively not just wanted, but even "needed" more of the post-futurist pathos that was just a bit warmer and fuzzier than Paranoid Android. Jed's systems weren't ever really dead, and I have to admit that Sophtware Slump finds its way back onto my playlist moreso than OK Computer. If only the chicken had come before the egg. So, you always know what you are going to get from Jason Lytle. Electronic blips and beeps teased with melodic distortions that seem beautifully accidental. And then the soft surfer dude (or skater dude) musings sung with Lytle's soft but resonating Californian folk twang. Just like NIN nails was always pretty much Trent Reznor stoned in front of a Mac book, Grandaddy was mostly Lytle drunk (and possibly stoned) in front of a beat-up synthesizer. The recipe tends to remain the same, but indeed the story evolves and changes.
So while I "enjoyed" this album, and more than few songs will grow on me with more listens, at times I crave Lytle to do something radically different. Perhaps abandoning his typical arrangements and/or using an entirely different array of instruments. The best of Lytle's best is easily idenifiable when compared to his average/run-of-the-mill electro/acoustic songs about yearning. Perhaps something more like Live and Die in LA, Wives of Farmers, or Summer Here Kids to help spice things up and diversify. Much of this album is Lytle-light, and after a first listen you aren't quite sure which song to cling to most. At times campy (Get Up and Go) and at other times saccharine (Somewhere There's a Someone), the overall theme is definitely a bit Elliott Smith "should I do it," which is also a bit tragic and worrisome. All in all, it's a good album that Grandaddy loyalists will like. It's not Under the Western Freeway or even Signal to Snow Ratio, but it is a slight step above Yours Truly the Commuter. With Grandaddy reunion tours underway, one can only hope that they get back in the studio and record something new. While Lytle is, in essence, the heart and soul and genius of Grandaddy, one gets to think he could use some company after the singer-songwriter elements of this new album slightly exhaust themselves. Get up and go back to Modesto Mr. Lytle. You can do it.… Expand