I can't believe this album actually exists...
Calvin Wood | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...it's just so beautiful. When I try to describe it to someone, I always revert to "OK Computer plus Twin Peaks". Sometimes, when I'm listening to this, I just can't believe someone could create such an album like this one.
From the start, things are good. The 9-minute intro, "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot" starts with an echo-y strumming of a guitar and background noises (birds and electric hums) growing and then cutting off, and then growing and then cutting off. Quite an effect. The intro to the intro ends with someone saying over a radio, "Okay, 1, 2, 3, 4," and then the piece swoops into the fabulous meat of the song, which is lush and full, absolutely packed with electric noises and strumming guitars and the wonderful voice of the lead singer. Somewhere along the 3-minute mark, plinky pianos break the song and suddenly the vocals come through clear and unreverberated, and it's just wonderful.
"He's Simple" carries on for five more minutes, with slow electric violins and the tapping of a cymbal...the piano and the vocals and-...the wonderful orchestration, symphonisation, is just incredible, with backing vocals appearing and flowing over the tune in just the right pitch. I don't think this song could possibly be improved, even after listening to it fourty or fifty times, it just comes off flawlessly every single time. A lengthy synth solo, in the wrong hands, would bring the whole song crashing to the ground, but Grandaddy manages every detail with such finesse, you'd think they were professionals in a multi-million dollar studio with Alan Parsons at the controls.
As the first track fades, "Hewlitt's Daughter" leaps from the speakers, with the singer's voice displaying a sort of Northwestern accent (think Pete Martell, from Twin Peaks, of "Wrapped in plastic" fame). Twangy keyboards bubble along here, supporting the tapping percussion and the happy vocals.
"Jed The Humanoid" fades in with dark piano, electric noises, and a rocket ship taking off through a crackly speaker, it seems. The vocals are softer here than they were in "Hewlitt's". He sings of a robot he and his friends or family built, neglected, and eventually abandoned. The lyrics here are magnificent, with wonderful use of repetition by what sounds like the robot himself. The music here balances on the edge of being distastefully sad, in comparison to the absolutely sunny "Hewlitt's" that precedes. A woman's vocals supplement the strumming and the electric noises beautifully as Jed's owners pay him less attention, and Jed discovers alcohol, and he "Fizzled and popped, he rattled and knocked, fin'lly he just stopped..." Electric noises fade the song to a close.
Suddenly, "The Crystal Lake" pops up from the void and bounces along to happy twinkling keyboards. The way the singer says words like "Duraflames" and "chandelier" in this are just fabulous, and hark back to the "wrapped in plastic" tone of "Hewlitt's". The singer, who's lost his way somehow and somewhere, is accompanied by a splashing brook that's nearly overtaken by the happy guitars and piano and it almost seems as if the sun might burst through your CD player at any moment and shower you with candy and bunnies, even though the lyrics go "I gotta get outta here". The song is just effortlessly wonderful, indescribable. Dark electric guitars flood in towards the end and I wonder how anyone could go through life without hearing this album.
"Chartsengrafs" fades in as "Crystal Lake" fades out, with people crunching through dried leaves and gritty guitars and synthesizer bubbles. Suddenly, the music bursts into your ears and the singer seems angry, without shouting or yelling. Annoyed, perhaps. This song is a defenite grinding shift against the current of the rest of the album, rather like rafting down a fairly peaceful river and suddenly being sucked into rapids. Still, I couldn't think of a Sophtware Slump without Chartsengrafs.
"Underneath The Weeping Willow" fades in with piano noises, everywhere, and the singer comes in...and it's perfectly mellow, sad, wistful. It almost puts the listener right in with the singer, who wants to be able to just fall asleep and wake up happy, away from the sadness he encounters in everyday life.
"Broken Household Appliance National Forest" comes in with happy little electric noises, and until the singer's voice pops up, the song is completely electronic. When the vocals do appear, they're calm, happy, peaceful...with some lovely rhymes about salamanders and conduits. Suddenly, harsh guitars come through and the song shifts from a meadow to Chartsengrafs. The guitars continue for a while, then...they fade, and a second verse about bunnies on toasters fades in, and stays until the guitars make another appearance. I can't say I truly love this song like I do the others. I love the more peaceful parts about the deer in the laundromat, but the guitar bits grate on me...I suppose I'm not too good with such sudden contrast in music. However, once the guitars roll past the three minute mark, it's all good, with a really terrific solo and crashing drums along the way to the end.
"Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" (apparently) features lyrics by Jed himself. He sings about drinking, about past regrets, and it's easy to paint a picture of such a sad individual. The music is dark, and has a gritty, hopeless feeling, thanks to the synthesizer's low drone in the background. This is a very minor-key song, and understandibly so...any song about Jed should be. Somewhere towards the end the music fades to a vaguely nautical piano piece with "aaah"-ing vocals, and it's just lovely.
The song shifts to the amazing "E. Knievel Interlude", which features a soft, crackly fire, a tocking clock, extremely low synthesizer noises, and a peaceful, beautiful keyboard bit. One of the most striking pieces of the album, really...sad, wonderful...sometimes, I swear I can hear a TV on low in the background. The song fades out and the next song fades in on the same note, which is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful effect.
"Miner At The Dial-A-View" is relentlessly beautiful. A miner, looking back through the Dial-A-View, cannot find his friends, his beloved...some amazing, amazing vocals and lyrics here, and this song-...knocks me off my feet every time I hear it. Practically a religious experience, listening to it. Also, it features the most Twin-Peaks-ian mood of all the songs...it has interludes with a woman speaking instructions on the Dial-A-View, and somehow, it works. Relentlessly beautiful, just non-stop, amazing. This actually makes me cry, at the end, when I'm focused on it. The very end sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it. A dreamy song...one of the best.
"So You'll Aim For The Sky" picks up where "Miner" ends...and starts with whistling wind, and background radio rocket-related broadcasts, and beeps, and then the song begins, and I just want to die, it's so beautiful. I don't use the term "Heavenly" to describe a lot of things, but in this case, it is. It is completely heavenly, so well-orchestrated, with such grace, such beauty...so utterly wistful, emotional, it sweeps you along, with lush violins and high-flying vocals. So smooth. As it fades out, a small exchange takes place between a man and a woman, and then it is followed by one of the most perfect endings to any song I know, to any album, in fact. Piano, wind...so beautiful...the total deconstruction of mankind.
So all in all?
The album carries the listener over a wide sweeping epic journey in an incredibly short time, with no filler and only one or two blemishes (however, those can change based on the musical taste of the listener). Similarities can be easily drawn to many albums. To me, it reminds me most of OK Computer, as I stated before. Not similar by way of sounding the same, but similar in that they are both epic and speak of the dangers of modern society, and the hopelessness one can feel when lost in it. However, OK Computer is far more polished and glistening than The Sophtware Slump. The latter is very earthy and textured, while the former could slip by if you didn't listen very hard. A difference occurs here, although this is based on my opinion: whereas OK Computer's two ending songs have a sense of tiredness and are somewhat flat, with nothing to really grip for the listener, The Sophtware Slump's two ending songs are two of the best songs on the album, and the deconstruction ending of Slump, in my opinion, is far better than the great-but-not-good-enough triangle ting of OK.
In the end, The Sophtware Slump remains, to me, a pinnacle in modern music and indie rock, with sweeping vocals and wonderful orchestration, and such a down-to-earth texture about it. I can't help but place it among my favorite albums...and I still can't believe this album actually exists...
A healthy addiction
P. Miller | memphis | 08/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"so beautiful, it hurts...and definitely one of those cds that becomes an obsession the more you listen to it...its certainly mellow, but would NEVER put you to sleep...when you're listening to something that great, sleeping would be like a punishment"
Scrappy space rock from a bleak, commercialist future.
J. Mccarther | Houston, TX USA | 06/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was introduced to Grandaddy as a band "similar to Radiohead", though I'm not sure why anybody would say that. They carry more of the cosmic-garage-rock feel of the Flaming Lips. Not quite as decadent as the Lips, they share the earnest vocals, and simple keyboard grandeur. I like every part of this album, from the epic introduction "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot" with it's nine minutes of morose piano, to the ironic, environmentally conscious "Broken Household Appliance National Forest". The songwriting, and composition are engaging in every part. They're mangy, they're magnificent, they're grandaddy."