Never having properly scaled those greater heights of recognition that their talent undoubtedly deserved, Grandaddy called it a day in 2006. Speaking then of those new millennium travellers of both time and space, fellow American Howe Gelb understood more than most their reasons to quit. “Bands, like marriages, have shelf lives. And it’s important to explain why it’s okay to split up. It’ll make sense later.”, he said. And then with remarkable prescience, the Giant Sand leader added, “and when it doesn’t make sense anymore, maybe they’ll come back together again.”
It clearly stopped making sense for Jason Lytle – the man who for all intents and purposes is Grandaddy – because he went and resurrected the band. After an 11 year hiatus, give or take a brief return to live duty in 2012, they are back. Whether financial necessity or a creative renaissance informed the Californian man’s decision is open to question, but predominantly rave reviews for new record Last Place – their first album of entirely new material in more than a decade – points firmly in the direction of the latter.
And tonight in Leeds – a few dates into a long, sprawling tour that crisscrosses back and forth across the Atlantic before ending up in Los Angeles in July – that decision to come back feels like one of the best that Jason Lytle has ever made. In some respects, nothing has changed since Grandaddy formed a quarter of a century ago. They are still five men who would not look remotely out of place stood outside of some lost American highway diner and Lytle continues to have a great fondness for a trucker’s cap. ‘California Cooler’ is emblazoned across his headgear tonight, perhaps more in memory of the vintage alcoholic beverage than any real statement on his part about the relative hipness of his Golden State homeland.
But what Grandaddy may lack in sartorial grace they more than compensate for with one of the most captivating live performances that you are ever likely to experience this, or any other side of Modesto for that matter. Stood in front of a huge video screen that vividly presents their native country as one full of wide open rural spaces, endless highways, lonesome freight trains, and the land of the free where the buffalo still roam, the five men produce an absolutely compelling accompanying soundtrack.
Stretching across the length and breadth of their entire discography, Grandaddy shift their imperious tales of melancholy, dignity, defiance and decency from a broken past and into a brand new day. They let us see our world through their eyes, a world that is full of ecological insecurity, technological redemption, heartbreak and emotional reincarnation. From their 2000 breakthrough album The Sophtware Slump, ‘The Crystal Lake’ still sounds like one of the greatest alternative pop songs that has ever been written and Last Place’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore’ affirms that age has not withered Lytle’s innate ability to pen tearful tunes to die for.
Even after all of these years lost in the wilderness, ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot’ retains every single ounce of its colossally heavy, epic mysticism and humanity. Speaking about the song’s eponymous hero, Lytle emotes “well it’s just nice to have you back again.” And catching Lytle and Grandaddy in this quite glorious return flight we know just exactly how he feels.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.