A slightly detached guitar begins strumming out of tune chords. A warbling voice hums a few lines, and the album begins. "1234… How's it going 2000 man
Welcome back to solid ground my friend
I heard all your controls were jammed
Well it's just nice to have you back again" . These words are whispered by Jason Lytle, the mastermind behind American indie pop outlet, Grandaddy. The song is the near perfect album opener, He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot and the year is 2000. Grandaddy's Sophtware Slump starts out with this beautifully orchestrated tune about the trials of a man from the future. Through piano lines, acoustic guitars and atmospheric effects we hear the buildings of a truly great album from a misunderstood mind. The Sophtware Slump is, for conversation’s sake, a concept album. It's about the near future, technology and emotion, a post apocalyptic universe where true feelings don't matter and machines take the roles of humans. Sure, it's been done, but Grandaddy do it just as brilliantly as anyone has ever. They do it, with creativity and powerful emotions. TSS's unseen savior is its habit of counteracting every sad song with an upbeat without losing the obvious emotion in the former. This makes for a very exciting depression record.
The music of the Sophtware Slump is very moving, replacing the typical indie pop instrumentation with a very spacey, Flaming Lips esque, less is more type of songwriting. Most songs are crafted with a grand piano, an effects board and a soul. Jed the Humanoid is a perfect example of this style of songwriting; it is a piano oriented tearjerker that finds Mr. Lytle singing an all too familiar story about the death of a close (but perhaps not real) friend. Though the song never builds out of the calm stages, it stays interesting through clever lyrics and catchy, but not too catchy instrumentation. Of course there is always some good old guitar jams, and the tones Jason rips from his Jazzmaster strings are near perfect, with plenty of fuzz, but a very clear cut sound. This is especially potent on songs like The Crystal Lake and the wonderfully titled Broken Household Appliance National Forest. The former makes it a classic through its heart pounding emotion and brilliant melodies with the latter using a blend of bass heavy power chords and weeping interludes. Another moment of true musical brilliance is Miner at the Dial-A-View, the guitars, once again are perfect, this time backed by not only Jason's incredibly relaxed voice, but drums and synthesizers aplenty. Though the vocals/lyrics stand out more than anything, the Sophtware Slump is, if nothing else, a record built entirely on the perfect tone.
The plot of the story takes another saddening turn with the introduction of Jed's Other Poem, a sort of suicide note for the friendly robot, the song is characterized by a rather impending, but otherwise uplifting organ and a simple drum beat. The song reads aloud Jed's final words to an audience, without a dry eye in the house (hey, I have allergies). The album, in a nutshell, is a disassembled journey through the future, the human heart, and the inhuman heart. It is, though it may not be billed as it, a classic indie rock record that keeps its influences close but its originality even closer. An Amazing record, and deserving of a 5/5 rating.
Great tonal qualities
Creative, lyrically and musically
Sounds a lot like The Flaming Lip's The Soft Bulletin (but maybe better)