Grandaddy: The Diary of Todd-Zilla Rating: 5.7 (out of 10)
I've been a Grandaddy fan for a long time. I was captivated by 2000's The Sophtware Slump, bought up their back catalog, including the brilliant Under the Western Freeway and their disowned hits collection Concrete Dunes (which happened to be awesome, if just redundant for fans who had purchased The Broken Down Comforter Collection). And I've made the meticulous effort required to track down their breadth of B-sides, singles, and rare releases, as well as some under- or completely unreleased tracks, including the cool rocker "Nebraska", off their first ever album. Their most recent album, 2003's Sumday was somewhat disappointing, with only opener "Now It's On" having much of a lasting effect in the collection of oddly gloomy but poppy songs. So I was excited to hear a return to a more garage-based Western Freeway-type sound on the first single to their latest release, the catchy (but ultimately forgettable) "Pull the Curtains". Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed in this case.
This EP was made in Jason Lytle's home studio and is a return to the four-track recording process that powered the band through its early releases. The songs are a lot less structured, too, and include a lot of twangy guitars and swerving piano. But they just don't amount to all that much. "Pull the Curtains" is a good song, if a little redundant upon multiple listens, but nothing else really stands out. "At My Post" is pretty good as well, starting out with a familiar feedback layered guitar beat with the "ah ah" vocals common on many Grandaddy tracks, segueing into a decent enough rock ballad. But the ending doesn't hold well, and at over 6 minutes, the song seems to drag. It's a decent experiment but it doesn't work out altogether. And sadly, that's about it for highlights on the album.
The songs concentrate primarily on their living surroundings of Modesto, California, which Lytle has frequently trashed for the way the suburban sprawl sucks the life out of its residents. I guess he has a little bit of "Weeds" anger going on, and you can hear it in the music. Unfortunately, it gets a bit redundant. "A Valley Son", "Fuck the Valley Fudge", and "Cinderland" all have their moments, but sort of blend together with putdown lyrics about the environmental wasteland he's trying to escape. Closing tracks "Florida?" and "Goodbye" signal his intentions to leave Modesto once and for all, but these more wispful tunes do little to leave an impression. All in all, the tracks sound familiar and are obviously old-school Grandaddy-esque, but just aren't as memorable as classics such as "AM 180", "Our Dying Brains", or "Kim You Bore me to Death".
The bright side is that this album is only intended as a placeholder before a completely new full-length comes out in early 2006. There have unfortunately been rumors that that album may be their last though, as Lytle may have reached his limits of recording under the Grandaddy name. We can only hope not, but this EP is not a particularly good sign. I still have to hold out hope, though. This is a band that once recorded "Why Would I Want to Die", one of the great songs about betrayal ever made.