Much will be made of the fact that Last Place is the first record of new material from Modesto fuzz-poppers Grandaddy since 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat, and for ostensibly good reasons. Everyone likes a reunion story, as least in the beginning. The most fans can hope for is a modicum of the magic through which the band drove its creative fancies. The focus ought to be on how satisfyingly true to the Grandaddy aesthetic that Last Place sounds despite the decade-long absence.
Beginning the album with a brief noise collage, the band’s experimental bents are intact, treated as trimming to the meat-and-potatoes lo-fi rock of opening song “Way We Won’t.” Lytle’s fragile vocals drive the gravelly pop gem, an ode to the tumultuous life of a couple living on the roof of a big-box store where “cinnamon smells and holiday sales” greet them every time the electronic door slides open. The song has all the characteristics of Grandaddy’s sweet-and-sour catalogue; both lyrically and musically. Lytle’s compositions are subtle tractor beams, pulling you in over repeated listens.
The gloomy “Evermore” is delivered thickly mournful over a heavy synth progression, allowing for the band’s more harmonic interplay to stretch its legs during even the most rudimentary of songs. Lytle’s grumpy sentiments are typified most clearly toward the end of Last Place, on the cruelly funny fuzz-folk tune “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore.” Lytle’s brief residency in Portland, Oregon after living in Montana for eight years gave life to the lyrics, where he bluntly states, “I just moved here and I don’t wanna live here anymore/No I can’t exactly say, I’m really getting just a feeling/everything is out of place and now I’m having trouble dealing.”
The song perfectly sets up the dark acoustic-pop intro of “That’s What You Get for Gettin’ Outta Bed,” a tale so innately miserable that it’s an instant standout on Last Place. Lytle’s brittle tenor crackles as he opines, “Head out the door/you’ve seen this all before/you’re such a tragic kid.” This despondent trio of late LP gems is completed by “This Is The Part,” where minor-key chords and sweeping string arrangements result in the record’s most affecting moment during a soaring symphonic bridge.
In their inherent sullenness, Grandaddy finds ways to create happy/sad vignettes that appeal to the hopeless romantic in ways that are nearly invasive. Lytle remains adept at worming his weary melodies into the hidden folds of broken hearts, and through a bit of grin-and-shrug relation, can take aim at the enigmatic roots of a dangerous generation with little more than three chords.