Much to the delight of sensitive slackers everywhere, synth-rockers Grandaddy are back from the dead with Last Place, their first record since 2006.
Most of us just assumed that frontman Jason Lytle had shuffled off into the forest to live out his days amongst the broken household appliances he prophesied on the 2000 classic The Sophtware Slump, but 11 years later, Grandaddy show no signs of rust after the lengthy hiatus. In fact, Last Place is a solid record that maybe sounds a little too much like the old Grandaddy.
A common misconception about the band is that their records tailed off in quality after The Sophtware Slump, but really, each successive record was another successful variation on a theme; and by the time 2006's Just Like the Fambly Cat rolled around, it seemed like a natural time to say goodbye.
On Last Place, the band returns to the same well again, and while there is enough here to sustain some nostalgia, that well seems drier than ever before. First single and album highlight "Way We Won't" sounds like classic Grandaddy, and "A Lost Machine" is the kind of slow-builder that this band does so beautifully, but there are also several lesser re-treads, like "Chek Injin" and the needless call-back to Jed the Humanoid in "Jed the 4th," that prevent this from being a truly satisfying reunion. The heart on Grandaddy's sleeve has always been Lytle's, and on Last Place, he continues to do what he does best, but somehow the end result seems slightly diminished.
For fans of the band's earlier output, there is a lot to like here, and I am sure Last Place will be a welcome diversion for many. Everything you'd expect from a Grandaddy record is here — the melancholy synths, the bitter sweetly romantic lyrics, the warnings about the perils of the digital age — but the feeling is older, different. I am not sure where the band will go after this, but count me among those hoping that they might head in a new direction. (30th Century Records)