Grandaddy, “Last Place”

Grandaddy
Last Place
30TH CENTURY
7/10

It’s been eleven years since Grandaddy announced its breakup. Since then, frontman Jason Lytle has made a handful of solo albums and another with Admiral Radley, in which he played with Grandaddy’s Aaron Burtch and Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray. Lytle also produced last year’s Band of Horses album, Why Are You OK. While he’s hardly been absent from the music world, this return to his main project after more than a decade is rightfully being treated as a monumental occasion, especially among devotees.

And yet Last Place is initially something of a disappointment. It fizzes and fuzzes with typically Grandaddy-esque verve—electronic flourishes humming over plaintive yet upbeat melodies, and Lytle’s idiosyncratic lyrics toying with the idea of sentimentality and melancholy—but in a somewhat anemic way. The first two songs in particular, “Way We Won’t” and “Brush with the Wild,” sound more like an attempt to sound like Grandaddy than the natural product of being Grandaddy.

Perhaps, that’s just uncertainty brought about by an extended absence though, because after that, the band rears its melancholy, paranoid, and existential head. The sweetly pained “The Boat Is in the Barn” tackles the relationship and disconnect between technology and human emotion in a way that would have Radiohead nodding their heads in appreciation, while the mournful, slow-motion lament of “Jed the 4th” gives sorrow a distorted, space-age treatment that, ironically, adds to its poignancy and humanity. Elsewhere, the graceful, piano-lilted futurism of “A Lost Machine” sounds sweet at first, but it hides a sinister, apocalyptic darkness that’s easily missed if you don’t pay attention.

That, perhaps, is the crux of this record. It needs to be digested, to be actively listened to and thought about and engaged with. No, it’s not the second coming of Under the Western Freeway or The Sophtware Slump—but that’s because it isn’t those records. Time has marched on. This is as much about who Grandaddy are now, in 2017, as who they were all those years ago, and Last Place reflects that—as well as all the neuroses and insecurities and frailties that come with being alive in 2017. 

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