Chris Donaghey
Reviews Editor
June 08, 2006
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Just Like the Fambly Cat

Maybe Jason Lytle and his running crew were overtaken by the immense weight of their own lazy atmospherics. Maybe the band saw that they had nothing left to accomplish and their catalogue was already good enough for there to be pointed retrospectives and melancholic looks back. Either way, let’s all face the truth: Grandaddy is dead. Long live Grandaddy. But before we start constructing elegies, we should examine the band’s swan song, Just Like the Fambly Cat.

The landscapes explored on these 15 songs are familiar to established fans and newcomers alike. Opening up with the gently sampled glitch-pop of “What Happened?,” Grandaddy dart and weave their way through excursions of their own previous apexes and contemporary pop references. Grainy guitars and warbly synthesizers form a lazy river for Lytle’s breathy and somewhat nasally vocals to float upon for a majority of the album. Tunes like “Summer…It’s Gone,” “Guide Down Denied,” and “Campershell Dreams” are so strongly Grandaddy that they are almost covering themselves. They can be likened to a futuristic church with breezy recessionals that swell and calm like the wind. Fuzzy pop anthems to the vast expanses of the stars, ocean, and seasons are what these guys do best, but it does little to inject immediacy or cleverness into the classic recipe.

And, of course, there are a couple numbers with abrasive flare to awaken the listener from their soothing lull. “Jeez Louise”, the first single, presents such a stark contrast to the cruise-control blip melodies of their last album, Sumday, coming off sounding like Fountains of Wayne stuck inside a 56k modem. Then, there is the strange battleground of “50%”, a minute-long punk breakdown that sounds as misplaced as it does jarring. “Disconnecty” is a triumph of their steps toward the uptempo, coupling their classic elements into a compact and jangly correspondence of optimism and silver linings.

Lyrically, Fambly Cat seems to be extremely self-aware. The understanding of mortality, completion, and cycling permeates much of Lytle’s prose. Loss and transformation lends itself to reflection (“Summer”), frustration (“Rear View Mirror”), and exhaustion (“Where I’m Anymore”). There were times during my listens that I had to consult the five stages of grief and loss for greater insight into the collective psyche of these songs. It would be easy for the listener to let loose a barrage of sighs at points within this weighty mix.

I will be the first to say that The Sophtware Slump was the apex of Grandaddy and I probably would not be alone. The sad part is that with that title, they created both the epitome of their sound and put themselves into that very title for their remaining releases. Just Like the Fambly Cat is by no means a bad release; it is just glaringly unremarkable. Though like a cat just passed who stuck with us through the good and the bad, they stuck with us and we have memories to boot. I already miss the good times. The self-help lyrics within may help us to deal with the band’s demise, but the music just is not conducive to the fond sendoff for which I had hoped.

Release date: May 9, 2006
Label: V2
Rating: 6.5 / 10

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