In 2000, So-Cal’s Grandaddy released a quiet masterpiece in ‘The Sophtware Slump’. Evocative and daring, it was an intelligent, well rounded record that earned a rabid cult following. There must, then, have been some debate about how the band might follow it up. Rather than once again aiming for dizzying ambition, with 2003’s ‘Sumday’, Grandaddy instead sought to create the most satisfying, concise collection of songs they’d ever write.
Throughout it’s 52 minute run-time, ‘Sumday’ is utterly quintessential; any newcomers looking to familiarise themselves with the band need look no further than this, the group’s third outing. Hook-laden at every turn, ‘Sumday’ is a tour-de-force in the infectiously melodic Indie Rock that the more upbeat moments of their last effort sign-posted but never wholly bought into. Album opener ‘Now It’s On’ is a manifesto of the band’s attitude on the album; joyful melodies (replete with the occasional whoop of glee), straightforward, punchy musicianship and cashmere-smooth vocals from Jason Lytle. Almost a decade into their career, it was a sound Grandaddy already knew worked and although ‘Sumday’ was only an evolution rather than a reinvention, if it ain’t broken why the fuck fix it?
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‘Sumday’ is a record purposefully less high-brow than it’s predecessor; whereas ‘The Sophtware Slump’ tackled weighty themes of depression and even existential dread, ‘Sumday’ sought not to weave complex webs of intense high-concept but rather to takes things down a notch. ‘Sumday’ was, first and foremost, Grandaddy at their most fun and vital. It’s certainly not to say the album was dumbed-down – doubtless an impossibility when you’ve got as sharp and witty a lyricist as Jason Lytle in your band – but it’s songs were for the most part short, sweet and very heavy on hooks.
‘Sumday’ is an album bursting at the seams with such highlights that it’s something of an uphill battle to choose immediate standouts. Still, ‘The Go In The Go-For-It’ is delightful – warm rushes of sighing backing vocals lend depth to a song with a smoothly chugging drive and that signature Grandaddy ear for melody. The slow-burning reverie of ‘Lost On Yer Merry Way’ signalled that the band hadn’t entirely moved away from the more experimental leanings of ‘The Sophtware Slump’.
Lyrically, ‘Sumday’ is as sharp as anything else in the band’s repertoire, brimming with a wry humour that belies moments of knowing poignancy. ‘The Group Who Couldn’t Say’ works on multiple levels; funny enough to be taken at face value alone but smart enough to stand up to closer examination. ‘I’m On Standby’, meanwhile, takes the same themes of technology and robotics that permeated ‘The Sophtware Slump’ and moves things in a new direction, resulting in a song simultaneously anthemic and – on closer inspection – rather melancholic if not even a little disquieting.
Key not only to the success of ‘Sumday’ but Grandaddy as a whole is that though they’re a band who so often trade in hooky, deeply immediate pop songs yet neither they, nor their music, feel throwaway. ‘Sumday’ is, like the band that created it, a record of significant depth – and the more time that listeners invest, the more they’ll get back from the album. Even numerous listens in, it’s a record that can still reveal the odd subtle touch missed on earlier examination; a small guitar lick here, a subtle vocal harmony there. It’s not necessarily that it’s an especially complex record – if anything, it’s Grandaddy at their most streamlined – but it’s one that’s made with enough love and attention that it endures almost a decade and a half on.
If criticism had to meted out it could be said that ‘Sumday’ is a little too consistent in it’s presentation. Whilst there are a few moments of deviation, by and large the band settle into a groove – usually mid-tempo – and stick to it closely. The album doesn’t particularly suffer for it – the songs are so strong and gel together so well that it’s a compelling listen regardless – but the band’s previous two efforts were perhaps more adventurous in both tempo and atmosphere. If that’s all that can be bemoaned of the album though, then it speaks volumes for it’s quality.
‘Sumday’ is in someways a curious album; it’s not necessarily the group’s best record (‘The Sophtware Slump’ takes that title) but it is the one that most defines the group’s idiosyncratic sound. Though not devoid of experimentation, it’s certainly the band’s most typical work and therefore the one newcomers should start with. Listening to ‘Sumday’ now vividly brings home the loss the band suffered after the recent death of bass player Kevin Garcia. Even more than that though, it’s a reminder of just what vital a group Grandaddy are and always have been.