Most helpful positive review
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The most compelling album I'd heard in years
on 30 November 2002
While I hope to keep this review as balanced as possible, I have to admit that Grandaddy have become one of my all time favourite bands since I first heard ‘Under the Western Freeway’ 2 years ago.
They blend acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pianos and synths in a uniquely atmospheric fashion. Their songs often flick from grunge guitars, to melodic pianos and off into space age synths in just a few seconds, but it never feels wrong. The songs always seem to have a very definite flow and they rarely lose the listener in a mash of sounds. Tying all this together are some of the most wonderful lyrics ever penned. There are no love songs or tales of teenage angst here, instead you get songs that conjure up visions of ship-wrecked astronauts and sitting on a veranda having a beer and strumming on a six-string. Take the opening few lines of track 9:
“Go progress chrome
They paint the moon today
Some brand new future colour”
It’s original stuff and much more interesting than hearing someone yawn on about how they can’t live without a certain girl/boy.
People who have heard that one of Grandaddy’s biggest influences is ELO maybe put off by this idea; I know a lot of Grandaddy fans reject this statement outright, but I’m afraid it’s true. Don’t panic though, as someone who was brought up with ELO during the 70’s I can assure you we’re not talking ‘Mr Blue Sky’ or ‘Last Train to London’ here. In fact it’s ELO’s 1980 space opera ‘Time’ that seems to have had the most lasting impact on Grandaddy’s song-writing, but it’s fairly subtle. An odd riff or chord that sounds familiar or a few lyrics that are reminiscent of ‘The Rain is Falling’. If you’ve only heard ELO’s chart releases you’ll never notice.
Most people will be drawn in by the rocky ‘AM180’ with its ice cream van siren signalling one of the most distinctive intros ever, but patience reveals this is an album with incredible depth and character. The same goes for their second proper studio album ‘The Sophtware Slump’, which continues the themes established here (only even more space aged) without sounding rehashed.
So give ‘Under the Western Freeway’ a try, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.