The Broken Down Comforter Collection

One of the sweeter surprises of '97, [a]Grandaddy[/a] crawled from the remote wastelands of Modesto, California ... bringing with them poignant, retro-electro popscapes, aching and echoing with the sp

One of the sweeter surprises of '97, Grandaddy crawled from the remote wastelands of Modesto, California (home to George Lucas, Gallo wines and not much else), bringing with them poignant, retro-electro popscapes, aching and echoing with the spectres of a million deserted ghost towns. The eerie, crushing melodic erudition of Brian Wilson(see 'Warmth Of The Sun' or the harmonies on 'All Summer Long') has rarely been so sublimely evoked as on their debut 'Under The Western Freeway' LP.

This stopgap release collects together their pre-album EP, 'A Pretty Mess By This One Band', and 'Machines Are Not She', a rare vinyl-only EP of B-sides, and other detritus. Patchy, to say the least, and lacking the epic sprawl and easy flow of its predecessor, it perhaps isn't the greatest argument for the widespread affection held for this band. But, as with so many American indie groups, there are gems hidden on here iridescent enough to render the collection essential.

Almost stereotypically Grandaddy-esque, live favourite 'Levitz' hums with the finest Texas Instruments proto-synth technology thrift-store dollars can buy. When Jason Lytle sings, "All your lectures will become/Converted into static hum" with his caressing angel's whisper, he paints a dysfunctional slackerdom as lush and inviting as any opiate coma. Meanwhile, even on their earliest tracks Grandaddy display an enviable subtlety, 'Pre-Merced' somehow deploying manic Sonic Youth surf-guitar melee to achieve a luscious tranquillity, while 'Lava Kiss' is as beautiful as it is improbably fragile.

The absolute standouts of this collection date from both earlier EPs. 'Taster' is a study in simplicity, with a delectable Neil Young wispishness to the vocal. 'For The Dishwasher' is stunning, perhaps the finest of Lytle's 20-something symphonies to (the lack of) God, all eddying arpeggios and pseudo-classical flourishes, elevating a seemingly mundane subject to painfully meaningful portent.

The rest of the compilation is unlistenable. But for those five aforementioned moments alone, 'The Broken Down Comforter Collection' earns an 8/10. Roll on the second LP proper.

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