/v2; 2003/




more info:

Sumday is already nominated for Only Angels' 2003 best album contest. All the songs are beautiful. Grandaddy’s third album (if we don’t take into account the Broken Down Comforter Collection) is more cohesive than its predecessor. It resumes The Sophtware Slump thematic of alienation while it also conveys the feeling of weariness which inhabited Under the Western Freeway. Although it is more subdued than the first two albums, the recipe hasn’t changed: beautiful mid-tempo ballads endowed with eccentric keyboards sounds and finest melodies, be they catchy (‘Lost on yer merry way’, ‘Now it’s on’, ‘El Camino’s in the west’) or laid-back, focusing on pastoral melancholy (‘Yeah is what we had’, ‘Saddest vacant lot in all the world’, ‘The warming sun’). There are still some countryside ballads reminiscent of The Byrds but surprisingly The Beatles’ ghost is not that far and Grandaddy’s singer sounds more and more like Neil Young. When it comes down to mentioning only essentials concerning references, it is indicative of how important the band is. After all, Grandaddy probably sounds more like Grandaddy than everything else.

The opener is the most catchy track and it’s definitely not as catchy as ‘AM 180’, ‘Crystal Lake’ or ‘Chartsengrafs’. Its pace is indolent, nonchalant, and gently melancholy. It will fit many a soul summer’s state of mind. ‘The fast pace is too much, here at the final push to the sum’ says Lytle in the last song and he goes on singing ‘if my old life is done, then what have I become ?’ Something has changed in Grandaddy’s life. Apparently the band came to grips with their status and has finally realized it. Some songs testify it, let’s mention the "Now It's On" chorus:

 ‘Bust the lock of the front door, once you’re outside you don’t wanna hide anymore, light the light on the front porch, once it’s on you don’t wanna turn it off anymore and now it’s on…’

Lytle also utters this comforting line for his fans: ‘I wouldn’t trade my place’. ‘The Group Who Couldn’t Say’ sums up the band’s history with distance and sincerity. Something has changed and it’s time for doubts, loss and self-analysis as well, ‘Are you happy with what you’re doing ?’ sings Lytle in the same song. Old concerns appear again, alienation, the feeling that you don’t belong. The narrator of ‘Lost on Yer Merry Way’ wants to get back home and feels ‘so far away from home’ in ‘El Camino’s in the West’. What is especially nice in his lyrics lines and ensuing melodies is that they can be fairly long (‘The group who…’, ‘Stray dog…’) and therefore convey an impression of tiredness and weariness. ‘Saddest Vacant Lot in all the World’ is a sad touching piano-driven chronicle dealing with a shack-job (as Bukowsky would put it) that’s going wrong. It fits in Grandaddy’s tradition, dealing with bucolic love and weary relationship.

Weariness echoes the band’s main theme in their wonderful debut: escaping from the city life to lead a slow-paced lifestyle in the country. This is still coming up here (‘perfection of an outdoor day’, etc.) but it no longer constitutes the central concern. You can’t really see the landscape anymore through the lyrics. Their thematic duality first opposing country to city has shifted to manpower vs industrial robotics and computing network, flesh vs hardware, without altering the quality of both harmonies and lyrics. ‘I’m Ok with My Decay’ is the touching acceptance of one’s fate, a theme that is pervasive through the album, be it about the struggle between man and machine, the band’s fate or a love story.

The cohesive music is echoed by a unifying theme, a theme that already was in Sophtware slump (‘He’s simple, he’s dumb…’, ‘Hewlett’s daughter’, ‘Miner at the dial-a-view’): Sumday is a veiled pamphlet about modern world, modern factory working (workers are robots in ‘Stray dog…’) and modern techniques that are supposed to make our lives easier. However, while the computing network industry and capitalist vocabulary is pervasive throughout the lyrics (standby, power down for redesign, level ground, company, data files, e-mail, faxes, desktop, selling more stuff than the other guys, etc), the songs still convey this pastoral impression that has made Grandaddy idiosyncratic in this standardized world. Offbeat ‘keyboardish’ arrangements characterizing Grandaddy since the beginning sound much more like children’s games than standardized beats, brand new samplers or laptop technology, that is why their albums remain organic as opposed to the lacquered sanitized production of other bands using electronica to renew their sound.

Sumday is Sophtware Slump's logical follow-up. It’s subdued, dreamy, sometimes pastoral but less than before, and less depressing, always mid-tempo. Lytle has a nonchalantly lovely unwavering way to sing his honest lyrics which are not as sad as they used to be (‘Everything beautiful is far away’). Once you’ve accepted your fate, it’s easier to cope with it, therefore lyrics are encrusted with melancholy and weariness rather than depression. Despair has been acknowledged, it even spreads its shadow onto robots and desktops (‘I’m on standby’). Alienation concerns everyone, from human beings who try to flee the growing industrialization and the overwhelming expansion of cities to mere electronic objects and tools. It’s a dehumanizing world depicted by Grandaddy but in the end you have to make the best it: ‘I have no choice so I rejoice’. Melodies are really magnificent and sometimes reach a naïve dimension, which creates a discrepancy with the lyrics. Grandaddy’s idiosyncratic sound and beautiful indolent melodies makes Sumday the album of the summer and it will undoubtedly be high up in my 2003 top 10 albums.

Note: There is some software bonus, 3 video clips. The ‘Now It’s On’ video is nice and makes you visually associate images with tiny offbeat sounds and it’s funny to see the guy running in a box like a hamster. ‘The Crytal Lake’ is a funny vid directed à la Pavement dealing with Grandaddy’s main concern: they’re looking for a place in town where people just phone and fight while they are just rowing through the street. The third one is an unreleased ironic folk song in which they’re all dressed up in animals. In addition, the cd gives you the opportunity to reach a tiny secret website where you may watch additional videos and listen to unreleased songs (the b-sides off ‘Now it’s on’ ep). These are nice laid-back songs but obviously they didn’t make it on the record because they are not as good as those on Sumday.


/july 1st 2003/