Album | Grandaddy  – Blu Wav

Grandaddy main man Jason Lytle has always had a country heart, notwithstanding the skateboarding and DIY punk origins of his band’s taped-together indie rock. 

Their sixth album is the one on which Lytle gives in to pedal steel and the inspiration of roaming across Nevada listening to ‘The Tennessee Waltz’.

That’s not to say Blu Wav (where bluegrass meets new wave) isn’t immediately recognisable as a Grandaddy record. It’s still characterised by Lytle’s keening vocals, synth swooshes and slow ride-cymbal rhythms. But largely gone is the familiar up-tempo guitar-and-drums chug of older highlights like ‘A.M. 180’ or ‘Now It’s On’.

And that’s where the pedal steel makes its gorgeous debut in the Grandaddy canon, on repeated tracks by the aptly-named Max Hart. Whether retreating to lick wounds in the ‘Cabin In My Mind’ or marking the loss of three animal friends (‘Ducky, Boris And Dart’), Hart’s instrument sprinkles mournful star dust; the twinkling foil to Lytle’s heartbreak. It also bites deep on the Johnny Cash-meets-Jeff Lynne waltz ‘You’re Going To Be Fine And I’m Going To Hell’, which sees its protagonist three-stepping into oblivion, wrapped in a computerised coda.

Elsewhere, Lytle includes the obligatory Grandaddy household (or workplace) appliance number with ‘Watercooler’, the LP’s most upbeat tune despite featuring crying in the bathroom, and the bleak humour of ‘Jukebox App’. Aimed at keeping an old flame and their new beau annoyed via a remotely-controlled jukebox (“don’t let this go on/or I’ll play all our songs”), this at least suggests the possibilities of driving away from old ghosts, which Lyttle seems intent on burying (maybe with himself!) on the album’s penultimate track, the lilting ‘Nothin’ To Lose’.

So, finally, there’s a sense of a line being drawn under the past. And with that, Blu Wav’s blue skies hint at opening – teasing at what could be next in Lyttle’s hard-won flights of fancy.