Eleven years ago, Jason Lytle pulled the plug on Grandaddy after four albums of intriguing and often wonderful indie rock music. They fused the archetypal 90s scuzz of Pavement with the more psychedelic wanderings of the Flaming Lips and even ELO to create something utterly individual. Last Place sounds as though they've never been away: it’s an album loaded with ideas and melodies, on occasion hitting the dizzy heights of their stellar first albums, Under the Western Freeway and The Sophtware Slump.
Grandaddy were a band that always sounded nostalgic, even when they were singing about the future, robots and time-traveling. Last Place is as melancholic as anything we've ever heard from the band, understandably so given that much of it is inspired by the breakup of Jason Lytle’s marriage – Lytle has spoken about how the reunion of Grandaddy was a crutch as he looked to rebuild his life.
'Nothing lasts forever,' he sings on opening track Evermore, a song dominated by a scuzzy riff that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Yes, Last Place is sad, but it's so melodious, so warm and so peculiar that it’s difficult to feel anything but love for it. From the gasp of relish that opens proceedings ('Aaaaaaaahhhh'), to the cartoonish intro that follows it, this is fresh and fun – a record that sounds as though it was as fun to make as it is to listen to.
Lytle has spoken about using previous Grandaddy records as a reference point for this one, and this self-reflection provides some of the album’s loveliest moments. On Jed the 4th, he resurrects the humanoid character from The Sophtware Slump, using a reprise to Jed’s Poem from that record to tell us that Jed the robot 'was a metaphor' for his own boozing at the time.
Similarly, Lost Machine – the grandest track here – revisits the story of Broken Household Appliance National Forest, whereby nature coexists with dumped 'audio surveillance equipment' and toasters. This is clearly a metaphor for his own lost love. 'Everything about us is a lost machine,' he sings over swirling strings and synths, on surely the saddest song about white goods you’ll ever hear. It’s sentimental, it’s oddball and it’s beautiful. In other words, it’s Grandaddy at their finest.
Listen to: Way We Won't, Evermore, Lost Machine
Buy Last Place on CD and vinyl via Norman Records