Never go back, they say. However, Jason Lytle couldn’t stay away, so after a six year hiatus Grandaddy are back. And while the indie music market may have changed in their absence, on the evidence of opener ‘Way We Won’t’, the band haven’t. Harking back to tunes like ‘Hewlett’s Daughter‘ on 2000’s sophomore release ‘The Sophtware Slump’, Lytle and pals know what their audience want. A wobbly brassy intro leads to the refrain “Damned if we do, damned if we don’t” and it’s a very familiar Grandaddy rhythm, with theremin-y keys – almost like a more complex ‘AM 180’.
‘Brush With The Wild’ similarly, is all meandering guitar lines and a hushed, conspiratorial vocal, while ‘Evermore’s Krautrocky throb contrasts beautifully with the ethereal washes of sound, and may be as close as we get to pleasing everyone, channeling their biggest hit ‘Now It’s On’.
However, perhaps in classic Grandaddy style, things get a little weird – literally.’Oh She Deleter’ is a minute of semi-ambient keyboards that act as some sort of bookmark before ‘The Boat Is In The Barn’. A two-part song, it boasts a perky staccato rhythm which threatens to turn into ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ before breaking down into a swimmy Flaming Lips-style chorus.
‘Last Place’ is an album of contrasts for sure, ‘Chek Injun’ quite the reverse of its predecessor – scuzzy, shouty and insistent, while ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore’ rather washes over the listener, a slowed-down surf-pop grower.
‘That’s What You Get For Gettin’ Outta Bed’ sounds like Lytle has indeed just emerged, blinking and croaky from under the duvet, though the keyboard sound is harsh enough to rise anyone from slumber.
As the album hits the home straight, ’This is The Part’ sees the band back on track, a dreamy and sleepy meander in the style of debut Under The Western Freeway, while ‘Jed The 4th’ continues that almost horizontal vibe. But these are just scene-setters for ‘A Lost Machine’ – classic Grandaddy, even down to the subject matter. it’s a strummy chug before a repeated chorus and what might well be the sound of a dying computer to fade.
And just to confound further, ‘Songbird Son’ closes the 12 tracks with Lytle’s fragile voice and just acoustic guitar and the odd wash of electronics.
So very much an album of contrasts, with plenty for vintage Grandaddy fans, so to speak. More importantly for a band returning after a lay-off, the tweaks to the sound could draw in a whole new audience – which could see ‘Last Place’ being less an also-ran and more a frontrunner in the indie race.