The Sophtware Slump

Save the human spirit. This is the theme of Grandaddy's second album

The romanticised American West of rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds has gone. In its place are farms with fax machines, campers with laptops, electricity pylons studding mountain ranges like topographical acupuncture. Even down rural roads that have barely smelled the acrid, encroaching asphalt of modernity, nature maintains an uneasy relationship with technology. In his home town of Modesto, California, [a]Grandaddy[/a] foreman Jason Lytle has seen broken-down washing machines and rusted fridges populating people’s lawns like emblems of disappointed prosperity. Herein, he believes, is a warning: don’t put too much faith in the machine. What is indispensable today will be obsolete tomorrow. Nothing endures, save the human spirit.

This is the theme of [a]Grandaddy[/a]’s second album, and although it may lack the immediacy of their first, it is far more cohesive, sophisticated and poignant. Similar to the way in which Mercury Rev‘s ‘Deserter’s Songs’ was a vivid snapshot of frontier twilight, ‘The Sophtware Slump’ is a picture of a place where the dreams of the last century have gone to die. It’s about getting lost in the dazzling glare of the computer screen, and finding your way home again. And, yes, it’s made by men with terrifying facial hair.

Like Henry David Thoreau with a mobile phone, Lytle tries to find solace in nature only to discover that even the forests are bulging with technological detritus. ‘Broken Household Appliance National Forest’ is about how “Meadows resemble showroom floors/Owls fly out of oven doors”, (and it’s a pop song!) and ‘Crystal Lake’ weighs the purity of bucolic beauty against “parties full of folks who flake”.

It isn’t a Luddite attitude that [a]Grandaddy[/a] espouse. Their fundamental country muse is upgraded with skewed electronica and layers of studio tampering. They have found a way to reconcile man and machine – by taking control of the devices at hand and making something truly beautiful, mysterious and timeless. Grandaddy have entered the 21st century with their souls intact. Now they’re making sure we have, as well.