|Track||Album / EP|
|Nonphenomenal Lineage||Under The Western Freeway|
|A.M. 180||Under The Western Freeway|
|Summer Here Kids||Under The Western Freeway|
|Why Took Your Advice||Under The Western Freeway|
|Fentry||Machines Are Not She EP|
|He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot||The Sophtware Slump|
|Chartsengrafs||The Sophtware Slump|
|Underneath The Weeping Willow||The Sophtware Slump|
|So You'll Aim Toward The Sky||The Sophtware Slump|
|A Lost Machine||Last Place|
Grandaddy (l to r): Jim Fairchild (guitar), Aaron Burtch (drums), Tim Dryden (keyboards), Jason Lytle (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Kevin Garcia (bass)
Contributor: Paul Jenkins
How best to describe Grandaddy? They’re the band you wanted to hear when you heard that Neil Young had made a synthesiser record. They’re the diplomats in a war between Pavement and Super Furry Animals. They’re what you’d want a band from Modesto, California to sound like. And look like too. Unassuming backwoodsmen hunting with Casios in the Broken Appliance National Forest, Grandaddy were rocking a look one might like to call Gas Station Chic long before the Deliverance extra look came back into vogue.
Jason Lytle writes songs that could and should soundtrack a version of ET that ends with the death of the little lost alien. His fragile and vulnerable voice, somewhere south of Elliott Smith and to the west of Jonathan Donahue, complements perfectly these odes to disaffection and ennui.
I first encountered Grandaddy on one of my then regular trips to Spillers, Cardiff. I didn’t know what I wanted but I wanted something. Over the speakers the first eight notes of Nonphenomenal Lineage rang out. I stopped browsing. That distorted organ was enough. I’d found what I was looking for.
Their first two albums, Under The Western Freeway (1997) and The Sophtware Slump (2000), were the soundtrack to my late twenties. I struggled to make the transition from drunken student to respectable adult and wasted those years in a series of McJobs, waiting for something to happen. Grandaddy seemed to fit that mood quite well. I was with this girl for all of those years and she was nice but I wasn’t. The last gig we saw together was Grandaddy, one of the greatest gigs I ever saw. Within a week I had a proper job. The girl went soon after.
That gig was in Bristol. I’m seeing them again there at the end of the month. Maybe it will start another chapter in my life. You should see them too.
Nonphenomenal Lineage. The tune that hooked me. Not so much a call to arms as a musical P45, this should have accompanied one of the doctor sketches in Chris Morris’s Jam.
A.M. 180. An ice cream van synth riff, crunching power chords, and a lyric about never really wanting to leave the bored town you grew up in – if Beck had released this, it would have been hailed as zeitgeist-defining slacker hip hop rock or something equally shit. As it was, it found a fame of sorts at the end of 28 Days Later.
Summer Here Kids. The place where Kurt Cobain meets Abba. Plaid shirted neo-grunge boredom clashing with those big arpeggio piano notes.
Why Took Your Advice. “I took your advice. And bought the microscope. I can’t find anything I want to see up close.”
Fentry. Named for the principal character in a particularly bleak William Faulkner story, and sampling dialogue from the 1972 film adaptation, this is Grandaddy playing at Depression-era chamber rock or something. I like it, anyway.
He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot. Grandaddy’s second album, The Sophtware Slump, released early in 2000, was recorded at a time when you couldn’t move for fin-de-siecle, millennial angst. Was the Millenium bug real? Were planes going to fall out of the sky? Was Nostradamus bang on the money? Would R.E.M. really split up as promised?
The first question asked on this album was “How’s it going 2000 Man?” but this was no laidback Lebowski style enquiry, more peek through your fingers after the end of the century party has finally finished.
Chartsengrafs. In which Grandaddy both rock and resurrect one of the Great Rock Clichés (the misspelt song title).
Underneath The Weeping Willow. The nearest Grandaddy will get to one of those 3am just-me-the-piano-and-all-the-bad-luck-ever songs that Tom Waits does so well. Except this isn’t being sung at a bar where the customers are all circus freaks and the landlord just challenged you to a knife fight. No, this is in the near future. The bar is empty, the world is ending and the television news is showing the last leaf falling from the final tree on our polluted planet. Or something like that.
So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky. Despite all the synth and indie-rock accoutrements, it’s not hard to detect the country band in Grandaddy. Emmylou Harris covered this optimistic, exhilarating slice of Mercury Rev meets ELO rock – detecting the Americana beneath the battered end-of-warranty technology that Lytle coats his songs with.
Me and Grandaddy then lost touch with each other. I fell out of love with ‘indie’ music in the 2000s. The term began to lose all meaning. Lumpen landfill indie filled the air. 6Music moved from national treasure to propagandist for Heritage Alternative Music. Suddenly everyone had a Ramones t-shirt. Bands were called The something. All of them. The Anodyne Alternative Music Virus was catching. Grandaddy released a couple of albums, Sumday (2003) and Just Like The Fambly Cat (2006), but nothing on them touched the heights of those first two albums. I guess they knew it, too. The band disbanded in 2006. Which was the worst year of my life. But that’s another story.
A Lost Machine. After a ten year hiatus, hopes were high that Grandaddy could return to the form of their first two albums. And so it was that Last Place emerged this year to mostly positive reviews. All the usual Grandaddy tropes were on show – discarded machinery, broken down relationships and broken hearted synthesizers, nowhere more so than in this song; a metaphor for both Jason Lytle’s failing marriage and, perhaps, the strains of being in a band.
Paul Jenkins is a pop music obsessive living in fear of being found out as the owner of two Tight Fit singles. His opinions on life in general can be gleaned from his Twitter account @fourfoot. He lives in South Wales with his wife, daughter and a collection of Fall gig anecdotes. His posts on this site include Arab Strap and Tindersticks.