Grandaddy - Under the Western Freeway

IF THE BAND WERE SERIOUS SKATEBOARDERS, they might've looked a bit like Grandaddy. Big beards, big shorts, a sense that American musical heritage is being both cherished and perverted to their own idiosyncratic ends; this is what marks out these five burly blokes from Modesto, California.

'Under The Western Freeway' is Grandaddy's debut: 11 songs and a load of chirping crickets at the end. Lazier critics will probably call it lo-fi, given that there's a certain frailty to the way they sound, that they recorded the album themselves, and that they're American. In truth, though, it's way more sophisticated than that.

Check the very start, the song known as 'Non Phenomenal Lineage'. As fuzzy heavenly choirs drift away into the ether, layers of guitars and keyboards are delicately measured out and dropped into place and Jason Lytle locates his voice from somewhere deep inside that beard. "Surely you understand," he sings in the sort of quavering falsetto that is eternally, and necessarily, compared to Neil Young. "Only gifted hands will receive the chance to touch down on fortune."

Yep, gifted. For Grandaddy have the rare knack of juggling the fairly familiar into attractive new formations. The most apposite contemporary reference point is probably Sparklehorse: there's a similar mixture here of stealthy but twisted takes on country (notably 'Collective Dreamwish Of Upper Class Elegance') and freaky little pop anthems (notably the storming 'Summer Here Kids').

So sure, it's a bit quirky. Sure, those song titles are a f??ing mouthful. And, yes, sure, three of them have small ornamental hedges attached to their chins. Now get over your aesthetic hang-ups.

'Under The Western Freeway' is a strangely excellent album and, in some tiny but profound way, the future of rock. Also, Grandaddy play a warp-factor version of 'Fun Fun Fun' live and Jason Lytle uses/invents the excellent word "imdumbivivity" during 'Summer Here Kids'.

All of which deserves an

at the very least. Outta here. 8/10

John Mulvey