It’s been a long time since we last heard from Grandaddy. The cult Californian band last released music in 2006, and the ensuing 11 years have seen the world change dramatically. Grandaddy’s distinctive lyrical outlook, courtesy of frontman Jason Lytle, has long had technology at its heart, with 2000’s ‘The Sophtware Slump’ delivering tales of alcoholic robots and the struggles of a technology-obsessed near future. Now, there’s an antiquated charm to the album – although it remains a classic and Grandaddy’s best – simply because many of the predictions found on the album aren’t so far-fetched anymore.
With technology playing such a vital role in the band’s identity, ‘Last Place’ is an album that, by necessity, has to feel contemporary – or face irrelevance. The decade gap between albums hasn’t dulled the quintessential Grandaddy outlook, however – ‘Last Place’ is brimming with the same self deprecating tales of tech-age misadventure that made the band’s prime material so invigorating. In fact, Grandaddy have done an admirable job modernising their lyrical themes without losing the essence of their sound, making the resultant record one that could only have come out in 2017 but still fits effortlessly into the group’s 20 year plus output.
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The album’s clutch of singles are all early standouts; once again the band demonstrate their knack of melding infectious, glitchy electro-pop with slacker indie rock and the results are hard to resist. ‘Way We Won’t’ bounces along with a lovably brash lead synth line – the perfect counterpoint to Lytle’s melodic, smooth vocals, whilst ‘Evermore’s unrelenting groove has an almost Kraftwerkian slant to it.
The album takes an unexpected turn into classic ’60’s pop territory with ‘The Boat Is In The Barn’; a song halfway between Elliott Smith‘s ‘Baby Britain’ and a ‘Revolver’-era Beatles track. It’s a deviation from the typical Grandaddy sound but it fits like a glove. Another fruitful experiment comes in the form of album closer ‘Songbird Son’. The track strips away the chugging, palm muted electric guitars and slack drums the band are so fond of, instead presenting the song in bare-bones acoustic form. The minimal presentation only serves to highlight a gorgeously understated, sadly swaying cut that ends the album on a bittersweet high note.
Other moments on the album feel like a very deliberate recapturing of the ‘classic’ Grandaddy sound. ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore’ sounds like it could have come straight from 2003’s ‘Sumday’,whilst ‘That’s What You Get For Gettin’ Outta Bed’ recalls the aching sadness of ‘The Sophtware Slump’s’ most fragile moments. ‘Jed The Robot’ – a familiar name to any long term Grandaddy fan – even makes a return in ‘Jed The 4th’: a song that more than lives up to the bleak outlook of its predecessors.
‘Last Place’ isn’t destined to topple ‘The Sophtware Slump’ as Grandaddy’s finest moment, but it is an excellent addition to their short catalogue. It’s a record that will feel instantly familiar to fans without ever becoming predictable. ‘Last Place’ ultimately represents Jason Lytle’s best work – in or out of Grandaddy – for nearly 15 years. It’s great to see Grandaddy back.
‘Last Place’ is available on the 3rd of March via 30th Century Records.