Last Place opens strongly, with an irresistible trio of songs that are comprised of quirky guitar riffs, catchy vocals hooks, and the kind of fuzzy, chugging power chords that would get a Weezer fan’s heart racing. This initial section is vital in Last Place’s master plan — these tracks buzz with an upbeat peculiarity that results in an immediate accessibility. If you’re not hooked after the first ten minutes, chances are you never will be.
“Oh She Deleter” serves as a perfect breather after the opening surge of energy, shortly followed by the pleasingly punk-tinged “Check Injin”, which prompts a noticeable change of tone on the record, despite Jason Lytle’s yelps of ‘please keep fucking going’. The moments that follow are still undoubtedly catchy, yet ring with a solemn expression. “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore” and “That’s What You Get for Gettin’ Outta Bed” have the bittersweet charm of an early Eels classic. From these moments and beyond, Last Place is extremely contemplative, and not all listeners will be willing to indulge the misery, however bouncy it may sound.
“This is the Part” is a major latter-end highlight that flourishes with its gorgeous string section, whereas “A Lost Machine” tries to disguise itself as a theatrical centrepiece, but ends up just being a bit of a bore. It’s the closest the album gets to feeling predictable and formulaic. Thankfully, it’s the only real dud. Last Place is one of the better comeback records of recent times. It’s both playful and poignant, and unlikely to disappoint fans who have been longing for a new piece of Grandaddy goodness for the past ten years.
7 out of 10
It’s tempting to simply exalt Last Place for being an actual, legitimate, bona-fide Grandaddy record, because holy shit it’s an actual, legitimate, bona-fide Grandaddy record. I’d love to just skip around and rhapsodize about how it’s not some ersatz approximation that kind of, sort of sounds like Grandaddy’s woozy, bittersweet brand of indie-rock, and about how much of a relief this is. We are, however, talking about a band that has only recently returned from a lengthy hiatus, so I appreciate that such statements cannot stand on their own, because what the fuck is a Grandaddy record, anyway?
Well, as with Grandaddy’s best work, Last Place is a deeply sad thing. The band always had an easy-going, slacker’s charm about them — a strange way of working a sense of nonchalance into tracks that lesser bands would have turned into grand gestures — but this quality often betrayed a weariness and a melancholy. They were never the sort to quiver in the throes of despair or make Big Statements about how terrible everything is, and would rather shrug, sigh, and maybe crack a joke about the inexorable sameness of existence, or the insecurities and loneliness woven into modern life. Grandaddy were resigned, but never whiney or self-important: they were grounded, relatable; your depressed, stoner best friend, slumped on the sofa with a fragile grin and a profound longing in their eyes.
It turns out they haven’t moved off that sofa in the eleven years since 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat. That is to say, Last Place is an actual, legitimate, bona-fide Grandaddy record not only because the band employs the same sonic palette and songwriting quirks as before, but because, even in the seemingly perky numbers, it retains a sense of melancholy nonchalance, an acceptance that we’re always on some kind of scrap heap. It superficially sounds like a Grandaddy album, yes, but it also works on you like a Grandaddy album; it’s entirely of a piece with their earlier work, and, given how long they’ve been away, that’s quite remarkable.
8 out of 10
Sometimes it’s nice to listen to an album that one doesn’t need to rip apart. Last Place is everything I expected from a Grandaddy album and just a little more. Opening with a strong ten minutes of mid-tempo fuzz and catchy lead riffs alongside Jason Lytle’s smooth, complementary vocals, the album draws in its listener. Then, signalling a change of pace, “Oh She Deleter”, a bubbling, sci-fi interlude, elegantly tees up “The Boat is in the Barn”, an entrancing slow jam reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably numb”.
The pacing of Last Place is brilliant throughout, making peaks and troughs in energy that slowly dissipate to introspective, acoustic focused tracks. “Jed the 4th” does particularly well at riding the line between acoustic and electronic with an instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place on an Air release, and flourishes of quirky electronica that appear without warning to bring smiles on each listen. The closing track, “Songbird Son”, is quite the contrast to the album’s punky, gravelly opener, but still sounds familiar, as it leaves the stage open for delicate vocals and a sole acoustic guitar line, which makes for a pensive parting that really hits the spot.
Some artists have a hard time returning after a lengthy hiatus, but Grandaddy has done it with aplomb. Avoiding sounding like a shadow of their former selves and any desperate attempt to update their style, Last Place is all you could want from the band, and I can easily see myself returning to my favourites from the album, if not the entire tracklist.
8 out of 10