The posthumous album by Grandaddy opens with the forlorn voice of a child simultaneously invoking the album’s title and asking the question innocents invariably ask in the wake of a divorce, fire, flood, hurricane, towering inferno, earthquake or Poseidon adventure: What Ever Happened To The Family Cat? Trust me kid, you don’t want to know.
As you have no doubt heard by now, this will be the final Grandaddy album and, really, that should come as no surprise. Most bands have a shelf life of ten years tops — five in obscurity trying to get your attention, and another five trying desperately not to squander it. By then, the ultimatums of long-suffering significant others, accruing debt, mounting substance abuse issues and internecine in-the-van squabbling conspire to break the back of even the strongest rock steeds. Bands like Grandaddy are in a war of attrition with the Fame Machine, and invariably the Machine wins — not least of all because it does not have to contend with personal debt, screaming girlfriends and passive aggressive drummers that hog the van-porn and the shotgun seat. So be it.
Grandaddy served its purpose well, messengering home soft bulletins about the collateral damage incurred in the Tectonic shift of centuries: the prevailing po-faced melancholy of living in a disposable technocracy, where khaki cubicle drones dream of electric sheep under Ikea lights, and todays’ iPod is tomorrows space junk.To do so, they borrowed liberally: The Pixies’ angular rockism; Stereolab’s jangling Moog vistas; Neil Young’s shivery, high-lonesome yelp; ELO’s syncretic symphonic whoosh. And somehow they made it all fit like a snug North Face fleece. Everyone who already loves Grandaddy is gonna love this album because, really, the music hasn’t changed much since 2000’s solar-powered classic, The Sophtware Slump — but the stakes have.
Weep not for the lonesome, crowded death of Grandaddy, dear reader, weep for yourselves, and let us bury our brothers in arms in echoing halls of lasting praise and glory. Future generations will one day disinter all our palaver, which will have long since been buried under miles of binary code at the bottom of the Internet, and they will listen to the totems Grandaddy left behind the same way we look at those Easter Island statues. And then, truly, the grizzly bears of Grandaddy will at long last be regarded as the American idols.
Grandaddy may not get there with us but they have seen the promised land: A home where the buffalo roam, where never is heard a discouraging word, the skies are not cloudy and grey, and wireless is free and plentiful. In G-daddy’s absence, any number of Americana bands that were previously pulling up the rear will now vie to walk point. I nominate Seattle’s Band Of Horses, whose Everything All The Time These dropped a few weeks back — typically, with all the fanfare and cultural impact of a teardrop exploding in the Pacific. These guys are hardly the first band to walk through the desert on a horse with no name, but by gawd do they nail the sad-eyed grandeur of that whole Cosmic Americana thing — like a fine puree of Mercury Rev, Lips, G-daddy, My Morning Jacket, Built To Spill — which, for reasons that remain damnably unclear, works like musical Viagra on British critics but seems to have about the same impact on statesiders as a dog shown a card trick.
Play it at your Grandaddy wake, and will the last Americana band to be played on the radio please bring the flag.
(Artwork By Alex Fine)