Grandaddy

Sumday

What happens when the line between dystopia and the daily grind disappears? Is this indeed the robot-policed future that science fiction has been hinting at for decades? It is, according to Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, but he seems surprisingly calm about it all. It's a calm that infects the protagonists of the group's latest effort, Sumday, who weed through ominous oceans of binary with Neo-like precision and little worry. That's the distinction here that makes a world of difference: Whereas other technophobe outfits drench their fictions in utter hopelessness (we're looking at you here, Yorkey), Grandaddy's soft-sung, sunny lyrics offer a refreshing glimpse of a future where it's OK to rejoice, despite the frightening effects of technology gone mad.

As the title suggests, computer metaphor is thick throughout Sumday. This isn't anything new for Grandaddy, as anyone who remembers the tragic robot Jed from 2000's Sophtware Slump will recall. The inherent charm of the band's recurring themes, however, is the way in which technology is humanized. We end up empathizing with a worldview where desktops cry, robots sweat, and next year's model already pines for something better. Tucked in under a blanket of lilting melodies and chocolate-rich production, these figments nest amidst some sensitive and tender rock music.

It would have been a logical progression for Lytle and company to get more experimental with this record; Sophtware already found the band employing drumless interludes and spoken-word meditations. But Sumday is the work of musicians who have rediscovered minimalism, who sound as focused as ever. Synthesizers warble between a handful of viable harmonic options before settling on the perfect note; guitars and drums chunk out rhythms like some spacecraft's engine room. The result is a tidy batch of snuggly pop hooks that distracts us from the fact that sun-faded Datsuns and El Caminos are at times our only reminders of the past. In the hands of Grandaddy, the depressing vacant lots and persistent stench of decay are not only tolerable, but pretty.

 
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