Every once in a rare while you find a band like Grandkids, one that inhabits such a range of sounds and emotions it's hard to pin down what they are at their core.
Pumpkin Dungeon begins with a mathy rolling rhythm with a ripping lead from guitarist Evan Metz that continues through most of the song in call-and-response with Vivian McConnell's terse, stacatto vocals and complementary to her intricate fingerstyle rhythm guitar. Phil Sudderberg and Adam Gorcowski on drums and bass rip through time signature changes with a variety of different feels, none of which seem to settle into any sort of traditional groove; they embrace novel textures over familiar. After a couple roaring verses and choruses, the song falls into a mellow bridge with chimey guitar and shimmering cymbal rolls, but the respite is short-lived.
The band rarely settles into anything for too long; their songs are bursting with ideas and giving too much time to any one of them could easily turn their tracks from well-structured, innovative, melody-driven songs into proggy indulgent jams; Grandkids' tounge-in-cheek self-designation of "Humblecore" and "not-multiple-floor-tom band" would suggest that they are conscious of this balance and are purposefully moving ever forward.
The beginning of Gold Rain plays like a running jump into a lake: an upbeat intro, as straightforward emotionally as it is melodically, abruptly dives into a half-tempo shoegaze-tinged verse, all the melodies suddenly smeared and moving in slow-motion. And that's all before the vocals come in. The band settles into a bobbing equilibrium that ebbs and flows with intensity, continually flirting with completely breaking loose but never quite losing its mooring. Vivian's vocals, when present, are understated and broken in rhythm, as if she's figuring out how to express the emotion she's feeling as she's feeling it for the first time. She intones the refrains differently each time; at one point a barely-audible whisper, another confidently belted.
These recordings definitely merit multiple spins to catch everything Grandkids pack into their songs. Their sound may be hard to describe, but it isn't hard to listen to.
- Adam Gorcowski
- Vivian McConnell
- Vocals, Guitar
- Evan Metz
- Phil Sudderberg