Tuesday, May 23, 2006

RIP Grandaddy; Long live Lytle

The wise review editor at Harp Magazine warned us last year that us scribes had to stop using phrases like "one of the best albums of the year" in our reviews. He had a good reason for telling us this- it was getting overused and when people keep saying it again and again, an idea like that starts losing its meaning. I become self-conscious of that when I wrote elsewhere, trying not to drag out that phrase again and again.

But this time I can't help it. In light of their recent break-up, it's a shame that Grandaddy's Just Like the Fambly Cat is their finest album, it's also (forgive me, Harp) one of the best albums I've heard so far this year.

In a recent interview at Tune Tribe, head Daddy Jason Lytle explains that the pressure of a group and matters in his personal and professional life made him decide to pull the plug on the band after roughly a decade and a half. When a band is already led by a songwriter, you usually think that a break-up is just semantics, bad blood and ego: Lytle will continue to do his music thing but now stick his own name on the product.

In the meantime since he's in the awkward position with a new album to promote and no band yet to do it with (and also the fact that the band whose name he did it under is already gone), Lytle decided to do a record-store tour to promote Cat. Not a bad move since he gets to thank the stores that have supported him, not to mention his fans with free shows.

Since he was only doing one New York area performance as an in-store at the redoubtable Other Music, I decided to bite the bullet last week and see him there. Usually, I hate lining up and waiting for something like this especially since I ain't as young as I used to be and it happened to fall on my birthday. But I thought it'd be interesting to hear how he'd pull off a show like this and maybe it'd be a nice present for myself.

Turns out it was. Even without the guitar chugging and spacy keyboards, the new songs sounded beautifully transported- appropriately enough, one of the early band songs he revived was about painting the moon. Hearing the Cat songs with Lytle alone on acoustic guitar made me appreciate just how beautiful those tunes really are and made me appreciate the album even more (though it would have still been nice to see a longer set with a band). Even with 100 of us crowded in the store, the 45-minutes flew by and as a good entertainer, he left us wanting more (even with a one-song 'encore').

When Amazon recently grilled Lytle about his favorite music, much of what he came up with were singer/songwriter albums rather than straight rock albums per se: David Bowie's Hunky Dory, Frank Black (as opposed to the Pixies), John Prine, Handsome Family, Fleetwood Mac, Elliott Smith, Giant Sand, Traveling Wilburys (plus A-Ha and the Beastie Boys as surprises). Considering his solo tour and pending solo career, that's certainly where he's heading and as evidenced by his recent show, it looks like a good place to be for him.


Blogger Pocheco said...

Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading it. I went to that show too, and I thought it was phenomenal. It was the only time I ever got to see Jason Lytle perform live, and it was worth every bit of time it took me to to get to New York City from Boston.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

i've always really wanted to like grandaddy more than i have. this album just seems like more of the same to me but even less so. yet i can readily understand people liking them to death.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Garrioch said...

i have to admit, i downloaded most of my grandaddy library, but it was only because most of the grandaddy stuff i like was b-side rare stuff that never made it on to the full-length albums - which I did actually buy. as for the band breaking up, i think its a good thing. all in all, lytle was responsible for 80% (arguable) of the sound anyway, and it seems very unlikely the guy will give up his recording gadgets for an x-box. if you do a grandaddy search on Youtube you can find a wealth of people using the music to make their own videos. not many bands inspire that kind of artistic following. G'daddy will live on. The sound will grow. I think the best is yet to come.

1:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home