Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump (2000)

The Sophtware Slump

Album: The Sophtware Slump
Artist: Grandaddy
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #27 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #6 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000, #12 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: The Crystal Lake, Chartsengrafs, Broken Household Appliance National Forest, Miner at the Dial-A-View, So You’ll Aim Toward the Sky
Their Grades: NME (9/10), Pitchfork (8.5/10), Robert Christgau (A-)
My Grade: 90%

Even Jason Lytle, Grandaddy’s frontman, agrees with me: this is not the “next” OK Computer. Besides residing under the same nondescript, wide-reaching “alternative rock” umbrella and its preoccupation with themes of technology and loneliness, the two records don’t really share much common ground. Jason Lytle’s sheeny, crystalline indie pop is more akin to Wayne Coyne’s work than anything else. But (ready your flaming lipped arrows) even better.

Don’t let anyone tell you a record can’t be good when the main adjective you should use to describe its sound is “nice.” The Sophtware Slump is politeness personified. Nothing here is offensive or unpalatable. It’s all clean, stylish and coiffed for your consumption, just like any product Apple’s ever released. Jason Lytle’s “niceness” brings him alongside of you as a friend. Even this record’s most melancholy and teary-eyed moments don’t go for your gut, looking to slice up your innards with despair. That’s why this album is so wonderful.

Usually, the kind of despair alluded to here comes through in music as harsh and aggressive. You sing along with Billy Corgan or Kurt Cobain not to identify with them specifically but because they gave you the words to vocalize your only feelings of isolation. At that point, the partnership ends. But your Grandaddy wants to go through it with you together.

Even if this may be one of the least provocative records I’ve reviewed on the blog so far, it’s still one of the most thoughtful. If OK Computer documents, The Sophtware Slump illustrates. Images of air conditioners in the woods and drunken robots pop up here and there amidst the perfectly fuzzed guitars and merry-go-round, galloping keyboards. The panoramic view proffered here of the world as Lytle sees it is as beautiful as it is sad. The precision of the music is only counterpointed by the imperfections of modern living Lytle details here. Leave it to an album called The Sophtware Slump to find the definitive algorithm for how indie pop bands like The Shins and The Decemberists would be making pop music in the new millennium this early on.

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