Every now and again a CD comes along which truly dazzles; a disc that sounds so effortless, conspiring to conceal the work that has gone into it. That in itself is uncommon. When said CD comes from a band that you've never particularly rated in the past . . . well that's far more unusual.
These beardy Californians have had their moments in the past - the unsettling pop of single A.M. 180 comes to mind instantly - but Grandaddy have never held my attention for a complete album. Never quite weird enough to compete with The Flaming Lips, and without the sycophantic following of Pavement, Grandaddy's future didn't look like it was going to warrant eye protection.
For the existing Grandaddy fan, Sumday is going to be a minor revelation. The queasy melodies of the breakthough Under The Western Freeway have been tempered, as has the rambling experimentalism of 2000's The Sophtware Slump. What's left sure sounds like Grandaddy, but it's a sound that has been distilled down into its very essence.
That alone could make a good album, but what pushes Sumday over into greatness is frontman Jason Lytle's unique lyricism. Take for example The Group Who Couldn't Say: "Daryle couldn't talk at all, he wondered how the trees had grown so tall. He calculated all the height and width and and density, for insurance purposes." What? Yep, that's it. Words that make you stop and think instead up just filling up space.
Have you ever heard a song that sets a scene in its opening lines as perfectly as this? "The supervisor guy turns off the factory lights, so the robots have to work in the dark. And there's a carload of kids with beer and cigarettes, burnin' out and doing lawn jobs in the park." If you need an explanation as to why that excerpt from Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake is so cool then you're a lost cause.
It could be said that by streamlining their sound Grandaddy have lost some of what made them good in the first place. That may be true, but in doing so they have gained that indefinable something that has made them great. Now It's On, The Go In The Go-For-It, and El Caminos In The West are some of the best songs Lytle has ever written, and because of this Sumday deserves a place in your collection.
:: Rowan Shaeffer