Machines corrode, computers become obsolete and people don't fare much better: Thus went the underlying theme of The Sophtware Slump, the lonesome and beautiful 2000 breakthrough album by Modesto indie-pop-rock-bot band Grandaddy. You could hear the Carter-era synthesizers clinging to life support on that album, the whirrs and buzzes befitting a parking lot of an electronics surplus store where Ric Ocasek and Wayne Coyne are going on a Jack Daniels binge. But for all its emotional frailty and chirpy synthetic nature, much of the album was infused with a glossy power-pop churn, a punchy counterpoint to the gentle, world-weary falsetto of singer Jason Lytle.
That churn steps forward to form the backbone of Sumday, a meandering album that reinvents 1972 as the apex of rock music. The electronic touches are toned down to approximate the steady hum of an Alan Parsons tweakathon, creating texture for the idling big-block V8 guitars to swim through. The release is not unlike their '97 full-length debut Under the Western Freeway at points, but more focused, more in debt to simple hooks and metronomic drumming--hallmarks of a bemused shrug. Lytle seems to hold a casual c'est la vie frustration with the daily refuse and fluorescent malaise of industrial-park America, but he refuses to let it get in the way of a new and better self. The propulsive leadoff track "Now It's On" has him swearing that he's "Got no reason to be/Weathered and withering/Like in the season of the old me," while "I'm On Standby" envisions him as a shut-down machine awaiting upgrades in the hopes of becoming something better. Most pinpoint-sharp is "The Go in the Go-For-It," which he admits to losing with an oh-well smirk: On the way out of some stultifying office, he sings, "My farewell e-mail reads/'Farewell to thee, I'll pass through your world with ease/Like wind blowing through the leaves.'"
Even if Lytle seems to have a shaky grasp on his well-being, he seems to accept it as fate--to paraphrase another title, he's OK with his decay. Like a grown-up Weezer album for temp slaves, Sumday works the delicate balance of sadness and pop into a record as remote and pastoral as an empty suburban strip mall overgrown with foliage. It's the sound of fingers-crossed uncertainty--music to get laid off by.
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