Slag Boom Van Loon
We're trapped in The Beta Band's bathroom as they exorcise poodle-haired prog rock demons...
It is, in a very wholesome and real sense, a natural progression. From the Grateful Dead-infested backwaters of small-town California wander five dazed souls with, like, a whole buncha stuff in common. One of them, Jason Lytle – that’s him hunched over his keyboard in the middle – writes songs that sound like Yes playing nursery rhymes; ambitious but perfectly formed; trashy but, hey, timeless too. The other four hide behind, upstaged by the small trees dotted about the stage. This is Grandaddy. If you want spectacular, go see [I]Starlight Express[/I].
If, however, you want pocket symphonies, picket-fence romance and a hankering for ‘back home’ as articulated by a bashful ex-pro skateboarder with a Photofit beard then perhaps Grandaddy can oblige. Or maybe not. “Trees have no words and nor does this song,” Lytle mumbles, before launching into some hideous prog belching. Ouch. And we came here to be wowed, to have our soft underbellies tickled by songs that bumble along like a drowsy bee, choruses teased from the soul of a young Brian Wilson. Instead we’re trapped in The Beta Band’s bathroom as they exorcise poodle-haired demons.
Forgive and forget, though. Grandaddy are allowed some excesses, just as Pavement’s early forays into angular arty drivel could be absorbed with a mild sigh, safe in the knowledge that, when bands are this special, things will only improve. And so they do. ‘Everything Beautiful Is Far Away’ and ‘AM 180’ graze on Pacman melody, while Lytle, neck cricked towards his mic like a slacker Elton, whimpers lurve fodder like, “[I]I need you like the winter needs the spring[/I]”, and fat children stagedive. It ought to be unsexy, big-trousered, Bud-soaked fare, more Hootie than beauty, but Grandaddy hail from the same US school of sound as Mercury Rev, Beck and Pavement: simple songs mutated into thrillingly compelling simple songs.
That said, Grandaddy refrain from over-embellishment, their overt radio-friendliness never abused by pointless analogue gurgling. Strange given Lytle’s furtive appreciation of many things prog – ‘Collective Dreamwish Of Upperclass Elegance’ rumbles like ELO and ELP – but also pleasing, unfazed pop suss like ‘Summer Here Kids’ crashing by like Billy Joel ripped on tequila.
“Have a wonderful night,” Lytle apologises through his beard at the end, unable to comprehend his band’s success, but happy to just, you know, “be here”. But we just did, Jason. We just did.