Friday, July 23, 2010

Admiral Radley, "I Heart California" [2010]

I've been playing a lot of Jason Lytle's music lately, partly because of the release of I Heart California by his new project Admiral Radley, formed with Aaron Burtch of his brilliant earlier band, Grandaddy, and two members of Earlimart. The other reason is that Lytle's sister Anna has been suffering from some pretty serious medical ailments, and in order to raise money to help pay the bills, Lytle has opened up his Grandaddy vaults and given fans and supporters the opportunity to download a ton (literally, many many hours) of demos, live tracks, and even entire early self-released Grandaddy albums, all in return for a donation of $30. For Grandaddy fans, it's a goldmine, not to mention a worthy cause; for more details, go here.

Lytle's post-Grandaddy offerings, including 2009's solo Your Truly, The Commuter, have continued his earlier band's obsession with regret, nature's losing battle to technology, and suburban dystopia, and while the topics sound overwhelmingly gloomy, his lyrics are often darkly comical (example: "I Heart California" mentions drugs falling out of diaper bags, long walks on Interstate 5, fake tits and the symphony). Admiral Radley, as a collaborative effort, occasionally suffers from the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen effect, as tracks sung by Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray feel somewhat out of place, not because the songs are bad, but because they don't match Lytle's slightly better offerings. The only weak tracks are the uptempo numbers "Sunburn Kids" and "I'm Fucked On Beer"—neither Grandaddy nor Earlimart were ever convincing rockers, instead doing their finest work at the slower end of the metronome. Fans of Lytle and Earlimart will be on board regardless, but the only major song here is "GNDN", a sad, six-minute meditation on failure in the music industry which is hard not to read as a statement about the go-nowhere-do-nothing fizzling out of Grandaddy. But sad six-minute meditations are one of the things Lytle has always done best, and whether it's soldiering on in music or helping out his sister, Lytle can be counted on to valiantly fight glum with glum.

From I Heart California, here's "GNDN":

And from Lytle's cache of rare material, here's "Call Girl Call" from Grandaddy's 1994 self-released Complex Party Come Along Theories: