Sunday, 12 June 2011

Grandaddy - The Windfall Varietal, Tour CD 2000

Time to bring a bit of the mainstream back to the blog methinks.

Grandaddy were a band I initially hated, they stood for all I disliked about 'indie' music. They seemed twee, and 'quirky', the singer sang in a high falsetto voice, kinda like the Beach Boys, but without the harmonies and they seemed far to fond of prog rock style keyboard overtures. To cut to the chase, I thought they stank. But despite this, somehow, they got under my skin. There was some freebie cover mount CD with the awful dad-rock magazine Uncut, and among the usual flavour of the month detritus I just kept returning to the Grandaddy track 'Miner at the Dial A View'. I couldn't really say why, maybe it was the lush reverbed guitar sound, the odd vocal sample or those ever present prog sounds, maybe it's the plaintive lyric about wanting to go home, anyhow it just drew me in to their weird sci-fi world.

I picked up the early singles collection 'The Broken Down Comforter Collection' and found to my surprise that I kinda liked most of the tracks. They were not just twee songs, but some had a punkier edge, whilst others were heart-breakingly beautiful, but they all had a lo-fi, DIY, made at home feel that I kind of admired. It seemed they were making music on their own terms, for themselves. The texture of songs would often be at odds, but they made it work. Americana would rub shoulders with lush orchestral arrangements, lo-fi and punky against futurist tones, proggy keyboards against lush gutair with 'nature' sounds mixed in, they had great compositional skills and interesting lyrics. Now I'm not saying they were out-there, as they were in many ways just a rock band. Most of their tunes are eminently hummable, as all good pop should be in my opinion, but, I liked (like) the fact that they went a, little further than say Coldplay to try and make things interesting.

To cut a long story short, I started buying up just about anything I could lay my hands on by the band, and, up until 'The Sophtware Slump' they were just dandy. With this bejeweled gem of a record they hit pay dirt, and stadiums of the world beckoned, well sort of. I'm not sure what happened on the 'fame trail', but in a very short time they'd become kinda MTV (which isn't a compliment) and for me, lost their way a little.
Pretty much everything after Sophtware Slump sucked big logs. Maybe with the exception of the Todd Zilla EP, which was OK. They continued on for two more albums and some patchy singles before the cracks emerged and they politely bowed out, still friends, but not band mates.

I gotta say  in their defence, that all through their career they were one of the best B-Side bands around. Never afraid of putting out something odd, challenging or at times bewildering. They didn't always pull it off, but you can't accuse em' of not trying. When I get a moment, I'll compile a B-side compilation and you can hear what I'm on about. It may be a large file though, as they were always generous with those extra tracks.

For me, The Windfall Varietal is a relic from that early 'golden age. Sold as a tour only CD in 2000 to make more of their music available cheaply to the fans. Many of the tracks have become rarities (if there is such a thing in the digital age) and are only available if you require the actual artifact on this release. A few songs turned up later as B-sides or extra tracks on releases, though not many. Unfortunately for us fans, someone, somewhere took umbridge to the final comical track 'Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland' and the whole thing was quickly pulled with only a couple of thousand copies of the CD sold.

Windfall Varietal Tracklisting

So,if your inclined, have a Listen , but be fore warned, like Marmite, you'll either love the band or hate them.

Finally, if you do find you've a taste for Grandaddy's quirky (there I've said it) charm, for my money, they never made a better album than 'Under The Western Freeway'. Forty odd minutes of perfection, I wouldn't change a thing.


  1. There's twee and quirky, but there IS something deeper to grab onto here. I'm aware that my music tastes are getting narrow, so I will check out some of the stuff you post properly soon, I liked the track you embedded. Nasally or girlie vocals usually finish me, this was tolerable though. I very rarely listen to music with singing, don't know why. Perhaps if I were more culyured I'd be into classical music!

  2. Argh, don't get me started on classical music, it, and many of the inverted snobs who listen to it just leave me cold.
    I don't think you should beat yourself up over what you listen to, you get to know what you like, and I know how massively disappointing it is to fork out for something new, only to find most of it's pants. Half my vinyl collection is a testament to artist disappointment. A good single but a lousy album.
    The web really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of music, good or bad being produced out there. In the last 12 years or so I've picked up stuff I'd never have given the time of day to previously, mostly from recommendations from online buddies whose taste i've learned to trust. Hell, I've even discovered the delights of 'folk' much to my kids amusement (or not as is the case when I'm actually playing it:)
    Like yourself, I'm drawn to instrumental music. You can interpret what your hearing on your own terms, without the 'baggage' of lyrics steering you in a particular direction.
    With a lot of the quieter contemporary electronic music I like to think there is a valid argument that much of it could be described as modern classical. I'm sure the artists use the similar composition skills to composers, though of coarse it's a lot easier with the advent of cheaper keyboards and computer mixing and effects.
    From the list of blogs I follow check out Nodata or Zooey. They have numerous releases you can sample that won't take you too far outside your comfort zone, but a few may set you on another path of aural discovery.
    I highly recommend the Jonas Reinhardt album 'Music From The Tactile Dome'. It has a few 'beaty' tracks, but also some nice drifty analogue style stuff as well.

  3. Thanks for that, I'll check out those blogs later. I replied re your job hunting on my post, should have done it here!
    You're right about classical music, I love watching University Challenge when a 20 year old knows all the composers but gets stuck on anything from the past 2 decades.
    'Skirmish' whose blog I follow recommends some really interesting music, drives my kids mad when they're trying to watch telly!

  4. Hi ... the link has been taken away (megaupload &c) ... is it possible to post it elsewhere?