On Monday evening I met with my mates Stedge, Colin, and Simon and we went to see Grandaddy at the Roundhouse. It was a sunny evening and the beers were flowing in the Enterprise beforehand so my recollection of events may be a little hazier than usual. I do clearly recall having quite a long chat with the pub barman about Kunt & The Gang though.
Grandaddy are much more acceptable to a family audience. I first encountered Modesto, California's finest when I bought their Everything Beautiful Is Far Away single back in 1998. It reached number 162 in the UK charts at the time! Following singles like Laughing Stock and Summer Here Kids did similar business, charting somewhere between about 90 and 130. A.M.180 had a cover version of Pavement's Here on the flip side so amateurishly recorded it made Pavement sound like Steely Dan.
Yet the reviews were good and the band went from strength to strength. The Sophtware Slump (2000) and Sumday (2003) albums even managed to break into the Top 40 and, more importantly, saw Grandaddy develop a sound that was noticeably them. Moving away from other US indie hopefuls of the time. Analog synth layered over fuzzy guitars as Jason Lytle's high pitched, Neil Young influenced, vocals skyrocketed over the top singing tales of anthropomorphised sad computers and robots.
This combination of classic rock tropes (Lytle has cited both The Beatles and the Electric Light Orchestra as influences) and lo-fo indie tricks proved to be a winning formula. It imbued the band with a warmth and, us, the fans, in turn warmed to these non-assuming dudes in trucker caps and beards who looked like they'd be equally happy firing up a barbecue and cracking open a few beers than analysing, or even playing, their music.
After a six year break they returned in 2006 and found they'd not lost their audience. Even if that audience, like the band, had aged somewhat. Songs like Hewlett's Daughter, Laughing Stock, and The Crystal Lake always had a sort of resigned sadness running through them anyway so it's not as if these guys are embarrassingly rehashing their youth. In fact in many ways it seems like the years away have seen the band grow into the songs.
Cuts from this year's album, Last Place is their first for 11 years, slot easily enough in amongst the old hits. Way We Won't already sounds more like a forgotten classic than a band attempting to recapture former glories. Evermore's intro apes The Fall's Living Too Late whilst I Don't Wanna Live Here Anymore mines the canon even further with its nods to rock both classic and pub. So confident are the band with lovelorn ballad The Boat Is In The Barn it's played as the first song of the encore.
Some bands experiment with different sounds, try out different styles while others like to hone, try to perfect, their sound. Grandaddy, undoubtedly, are in the latter camp. What they may lack in variety (and, dare I say it, stage prescence) they make up for in heart, passion, and basic old fashioned songwriting chops. As Lytle's tenor soars over the trademark buzzsaw guitars and grinding bass of Now It's On's tale of dealing with disappointment, moving on, and eventually accepting contentment into your life it strikes me that Grandaddy make being middle aged somehow cool. Who'd have thought it?
The last line of the last song of the night, Summer Here Kids, "I'm not having a good time" may have rung true coming from the mouth of the younger Jason Ltyle but it didn't on Monday night when the older, seemingly happier man, sung it and it certainly wasn't true of how I was feeling. A top night with top friends and top music. What more could I ask for?