Why I Love Grandaddy
by Rob Harvilla | August 24, 2012
So Pitchfork recently published this "People's List" thing, urging readers to list their favorite albums of the past 15 years, with results as Radiohead-centric and rappers-who-aren't-Kanye-West-deprived as you might expect. It was pretty cool, actually, and I leapt on the results immediately, if only to see how my personal favorite album of the past 15 years fared.
I'm honestly not sure if I was hoping it'd do incredibly well (I'm a prophet!) or not show up at all (I'm an iconoclast!), but there it is, Grandaddy's 2001 breakthrough The Sophtware Slump, ringing in at No. 160 with a bullet. I have mostly given up trying to explain why I love this album so. Grandaddy are five trucker-hat skate-rat dudes from Northern California (Modesto, specifically) who specialize in a sort of slacker space-rock -- the arcade keyboard bloops of The Cars, the lackadaisical indie-dude diffidence of Pavement, the proud art-rock pomp of E.L.O. Lyrical concerns: the loneliness and isolation of the technology-addled modern man (see "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot") and said technology's uneasy truce with nature (see "Broken Household Appliance National Forest"). Think of it as an OK Computer companion piece where the machines are even more depressed than the humans operating them; the song about a neglected robot who drinks himself to death (that'd be "Jed the Humanoid") sums it up well enough.
This is all way more fun than it sounds; at the very least, I can confirm that it's awesome music for a confused early-twenty-something to drive a Mitsubishi around the Midwest to. Same for the band's other full-lengths: scruffy early one Under the Western Freeway (which ends with five minutes of crickets), polished later one Sumday (key song title: "Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World"), alternately angry and bewildered we're-about-to-break-up one Just Like the Fambly Cat (meaning "dead"). The band reunited this year, actually, and played two shows in the Bay Area in August, and I was at both of them, hooting with barely post-adolescent joy. Here, I attempt a Grandaddy primer; I hope you like it, but if you don't, that only makes me look cooler.