Here’s The Robster again…..
I swore I wasn’t going to do any more ICAs, but the other day Walter posted something that inspired me. He mentioned he’d seen Gemma Ray at a festival and enjoyed her immensely despite having never been familiar with her before. So I took that as a cue – I’ve done a Gemma Ray one.
While putting it together, I found another ICA I started last autumn then seemed to have forgotten about – Grandaddy. So I set about finishing it off after the Gemma one and reckoned you might as well have it too.
As usual, do what you want with them. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them.
Hope all is well with you in sunny Glasgow!
I started compiling this ICA back in September last year, shortly after the release of Grandaddy‘s comeback single Way We Won’t. And then, for some inexplicable reason, I forgot about it; although the tracklisting was in place, everything else was only half written. I wrote about my excitement for their then forthcoming album, hoping it would live up to the standards they had set themselves over the course of the decade or so they existed first time around.
Since then, said album has been released and I’ve seen them live. They’ve not disappointed me. Far from it; in fact, ‘Last Place’ rates among their best records. I’m sure most of you know a Grandaddy track or two, and they were one of my favourite bands during the first half of last decade. Like many, I first became aware of them through their second album ‘The Sophtware Slump’, though they had been going for eight years by that point. Their earliest material was released on homemade cassettes and was raw and fast, influenced heavily by US punk and the so-called ‘slacker’ scene (Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, etc).
Over time, they refined their sound and became one of the most instantly identifiable bands around. Their blend of vintage electronics, psychedelia, Americana, alternative rock and acoustic melancholy gave them a sound of their own. Their discography boasts only five proper studio albums, but there’s a plethora of singles, EPs and compilations in there, which makes compiling a satisfactory ICA all the more difficult.
I’d argue that Grandaddy got better with each album. I know the purists are squealing – let them squeal. If I am going to listen to any Grandaddy album beginning to end, it would most likely be the new one or their 2006 swan song ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat‘. Having broke up just prior to that record being released, frontman Jason Lytle has made two solo albums, a soundtrack, a mini-album and a live album.
So having rediscovered the unfinished ICA while preparing the Gemma Ray one I did recently, I decided to resurrect it. It does not include anything from the new record; it’s too new so go buy it. That said, even taking that one out of the equation, some very tough choices had to be made and there are some significant omissions (Crystal Lake, anyone?). I’m sure you’ll point them out…
1. AM 180 (from ‘Under The Western Freeway’, 1997)
Best known in the UK for its use in a BBC ad for it 6 Music radio station, as the theme tune for ‘Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe’ and in the zombie flick ’28 Days Later’. It’s one of those that sticks in your head and refuses to budge. The best track on the debut album for sure.
2. Now It’s On (from ‘Sumday’, 2003)
The opener from Grandaddy’s third album is one of their best songs. ‘Sumday’ was the album that really showed off Jason Lytle’s progression as a songwriter. It’s got some cracking tracks on it, two or three that I really wanted on this ICA but couldn’t find a place for. To me, Now It’s On sounds like it’s about coming out of a period of darkness and making a fresh start, something I know a bit about.
3. Hewlett’s Daughter (from ‘The Sophtware Slump’, 2000)
One of the highlights of what many believe to be Grandaddy’s finest hour. ‘The Sophtware Slump’ was a triumph for sure, a huge leap in quality from their previous works. It’s an unusual record that throws all kinds of sounds and moods at you, but every so often a pop gem leaps out. This is one of them.
4. Aisle Seat 37-D (split single, 2003)
In which Jason Lytle imagines himself on a plane falling from the sky. While all around him descend into panic and chaos, he remains calm, looking for the picture he carries of his loved one while having one last drink of wine before it all ends. Sometimes, Lytle can write the most touching music you’ll ever hear.
5. Jeez Louise (from ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat’, 2006)
This tale recounting a lost love whose parents disapproved of the relationship was the loudest, fastest track Grandaddy had made for some time. Yet it retains that melancholic air and winsome vocals that they do so well. Even with the guitars turned right up, there was still plenty of room for a dead good tune.
6. Taster (second single, 1995)
Pre-dating the first album by some two years, the somewhat appropriately-titled Taster was the first sign of what Grandaddy were to become. It’s their most melodic and melancholic early track and even though it lacks some of the band’s later idiosyncrasies, it’s recognisable as the Grandaddy that we all came to know and love.
7. The Group Who Couldn’t Say (from ‘Sumday’, 2003)
I love the lyrics of this song. It’s the story of a bunch of office-bound city folk who spend a day in the countryside and realise a whole new existence. It has one of my favourite Grandaddy lyrics:
Becky wondered why she’d never noticed dragonflies
Her drag and click had never yielded anything so perfect as a dragonfly.
8. Disconnecty (from ‘Just Like The Fambly Cat’, 2006)
My fave Grandaddy track of all. No further explanation needed. Probably because I don’t have one…
9. Miner At The Dial-a-View (from ‘The Sophtware Slump’, 2000)
This track, more than any other here, sums up the quirkiness of Grandaddy. Lytle explains it thus: “After a certain point, when the earth has been tapped of all its resources, they start mining other planets. And there’s these machines, and the idea is to add coins to it, and you can punch in the latitude and longitude of places on earth, and revisit wherever you want. And he’s actually revisiting his house, and he’s seeing the girl that he’s got back home is hanging out with some other guy, and he misses home.”
10. Goodbye? (from ‘Excerpts From The Diary Of Todd Zilla’, 2005)
Grandaddy’s penultimate release (prior to their reformation) was an EP which closed with this song. I wonder if it foreshadowed what the band probably knew at that point – that they were breaking up. Though in that case, why didn’t it appear on the final album? And does the question mark signify that this might not really be the end, that there was a chance we’d see them again? As with much of what Grandaddy did, there are untold mysteries and plenty of unanswered questions. As it turned out, they did reform and they did make another (very good) record.
Sadly, the joy of Grandaddy’s comeback has been tempered by the sudden death of bass player Kevin Garcia back in the Spring. It remains to be seen whether the band will continue without him.