The Sophtware Slump (V2 27068)
Ok, so the cutesy merge-spelling of the title is dumb, but that's probably as negative as I'll get in this review that is until I go off on a tangent later on about how my Mac keeps crashing, so keep your eyes peeled! (?) Great, the review already derailed in the first sentence. New paragraph, start fresh.
Grandaddy's "proper" second album The Sophtware Slump is anything but a sophomore slump, and yes, I realize that I'm probably the 3000th reviewer to use that particular phrase in relation to this album, but I'm not above that, you know. Sheesh, stop with the cynicism already. Anyway, feelwise, there's a surprising amount of majesty on this album not too dissimilar to if Glenn Frey had a really f'n hip songwriting son who rebelled against all that was "The Heat is On," and wanted to write his own Soft Bulletin.
Add in an overriding element of half-broken technology and a tiny dash of 1975-to-Trans-era Neil Young, complete with environmental fascination. The epic opener "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot" is a ballsy 9-minute mini-opus, and it sets the musical table incredibly well, with keyboard strings, singing robots (almost always a good sign, and recurrent throughout Sophtware), and multiple song sections the kind of epic that instantly inspires someone to write a list of the top 1000 favorite opening album songs.
Lytle often plays the digital lo-fi card, and to good effect, with grainy samples and Casio-style arpeggiations butting up against the rest of the band. Very beautiful, Betty. And speaking of the band, Grandaddy might be Lytle's songwriting baby, but the band does flesh things out incredibly well. A song like "Broken Household Appliance National Forest" builds and breaks down multiple times; it's an ideal example of the interaction between delicacy and "rockin' out" on this album.
Please excuse me if that last sentence sounded like bullshit reviewer speak. I'm a sucker for nearly every track on this album, and especially love playing the last two songs. "Miner At the Dial-A-View" has the singer looking for folks through some sort of satellite viewfinder musically, it sounds like if Debbie Harry took a smoke break, and the rest of Blondie started playing their centerpiece from an acoustic space opera they're writing unbeknownst to Debbie.
Hmm, teleport me to whatever parallel universe it is where that scenario might be playing out at this moment. Closer "So You'll Aim Towards the Sky" is a vague rewrite of Alan Parsons Project's "Time."
Fine by me derivative or not, it still paints a pretty picture. Later, when the CD player clicks itself off, and you read that part of the band once covered 10cc's "I'm Not In Love," the world seems right and it all makes sense. Can't wait to see if album #3 tops this one, the way Sophtware Slump improved over the band's decent 'debut.'
Review by Quinzio