Now a robust twenty-five years deep in to their career, Grandaddy have re-emerged in fine form with new LP, Last Place.
Perhaps that quarter century mark is a tad misleading; for the past 10 years, the group has been dormant. During this time, Jason Lytle and co. went their separate ways.
Long considered the de facto leader of Grandaddy, Lytle moved from Modesto, California to Montana, and put out a few projects under his own name, or as part of Admiral Radley.
The other members? Who is to say. But if Last Place is a time capsule of this period of separation, it sounds like the members of Grandaddy disbanded to gnaw on the more trying experiences of life.
The album careens sort of helplessly between the depths of heartbreak and the disconcerting observations of a paranoid mind. Characters are frequently on the run, living on the roof of a big box store, or surreptitiously followed by hidden recording devices.
These sad tales are delivered via Lytle’s quivering childlike vocals. His neurotic musings are met with Grandaddy’s trademark menagerie of dull throbs, urgent Spy Hunter themes, and cinematic synths.
Occasionally there are moments of sonic levity (“Way We Won’t”) that flirt with a sense of emotional relief. But don’t be fooled. On Last Place, Grandaddy channels dark energy in the way that Nick Diamonds’ Islands does. There may be a playful veneer, but crack it with the edge of a spoon, and that darkness will come pouring out.
Take “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore.” It’s vessel is a generally cheery ditty, maybe even in the spirit of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly.” But the fact of the matter is, Lytle is a wreck: “Everything is outta place, now I’m having trouble dealing, I just moved here, and I don’t wanna live here anymore.”
“The Boat is in the Barn” offers a contemporary vignette of post-relationship hell, as his yearning for a former lover is hijacked by the far more crushing thought of being totally forgotten. “I saw you sitting at a table by the water, and you were going through the photos on your phone. You looked so happy, and you need to be there all alone. Getting rid of all of me is what I figured. Delete, deleting everything that had occurred. That’s when I backed away and headed out without a word.”
If that isn’t enough, the LP ends with the killer one-two punch of “A Lost Machine,” and “Songbird Son.” The former is a pitch perfect capture of modern paranoia, and haunted by post-apocalyptic imagery. I’m not sure I can recall a more evocative first line of a song than, “Surveillance audio recorder in a dried-up creek.”
“Songbird Son” is a delicate gem, and well-situated to close out Last Place. It’s a microcosm of Grandaddy’s core elements: Lytle’s frail intonation, an acoustic guitar juxtaposed with electronic swatches of spaceship whirs, and other beeps and blips that suggest that this coda is a descendent of “Let Down.”
Last Place is due March 3 on Century Records / Columbia. For a few more days, stream it on NPR’s First Listen.
For more information: Grandaddy