Just Like the Fambly Cat

“Oh if this album is a hit, they’ll probably release another one!” was the cynical response from the CD store clerk, when I mentioned that Fambly Cat was Grandaddy’s last album, their swan song, so to speak.

I seriously doubt it though. I’d like to think that after all these years listening to Grandaddy, I have a sense of where Jason Lytle and his merry men were coming from. Somehow, I don’t believe commercial ambition at the expense of musical integrity figured in the Grandaddy scheme of things.

That said, it is sad to report indeed that this is Grandaddy’s final hurrah. Just Like the Fambly Cat, all things must pass…

Last year’s Excerpts from the Diary of Todd Zilla EP, carried on the fine work of the sublime Sumday and from a cursory listening of Fambly Cat, it is evident that the band has moved on.

A poignant piano plays whilst a little girl asks, “What happened to the family cat?” as the opening “What Happened…” wafts through and then segues into the fuzzed-out space rocker “Jeez Louise,” the very conceit recalling Lytle’s favorite band, ELO. More of that later…

If you have been following Grandaddy through its distinguished recording career, you would agree that Fambly Cat is the perfect way to bow out – at the very top! Well, so maybe it won’t cause the likes of Coldplay or the Killers serious heart palpitations but it encapsulates all that is/was admirable about Grandaddy and suggests that the band is quitting at the height of its creative powers.

Thus, par for the course, Fambly Cat is what I would call the quintessential “headphone” album as Lytle’s fragile guitar crunches and wistful acoustic breezes are often embellished by incongruent synthesized sounds and effects, without sacrificing one iota of cool tunage quotient and somehow also squeezing an unlikely quasi-concept album about a lost feline. Perhaps a metaphor for Lytle’s state of mind in the aftermath of the band’s split? Or just good old-fashioned fun?

Whatever, heart-tugging material like “Summer… It’s Gone,” “Rear View Mirror,” “Where I’m Anymore,” and “Guide Down Denied” all convey a palpable sense of loss, regret, dislocation and disaffection with modern life that is delivered with a sense of playfulness that belies the heavy sentiments.

The latter is provided by the strangeness of the spacey “Animal World,” the hardcore “50%,” new wave robotic “Elevate Myself,” the synth-poppy “Disconnecty” and the enigmatic instrumentals “Oxygen/Auxsend” and “Skateboarding Saves Me Twice,” all filtered through Lytle’s widescreen lens.

And as the music fades on the six minute long breakup song “This Is How It Always Startsssss…,” the outro of ELO’s “Shangri-la” fades in, faithfully rendered save that Lytle sings, “I’ll never return to Shangri-la” which is the ultimate farewell that Lytle could ever make to the season of his life known as Grandaddy. What a way to finish the story – well. Grandaddy may be gone but will never be forgotten. A+