SONIC REDUCER Mother’s Day: the primo time to think about reasons why mom rules. So why did I spend it listening to Grandaddy’s new, possibly last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)? I also lost about four solid hours watching Amon Duul, MC5, and Scott Walker videos on YouTube and thinking back to my adolescent years, when my household chores fell by the wayside and dear ole mum would threaten to spirit away a sackful of our 20 or so semiferal "fambly" cats and kittens and abandon them by some desolate roadside pineapple cannery. Thanks, ma!
Really, Hallmark and the assorted commercial pressures that guilt you into shuffling to the post office with an annual tribute to motherhood bring out the absolute worst — namely, inappropriate memories — in me. Though that certain special someone never carried out those acts of probable feline-cide, it’s clear not all of us come psychologically, emotionally, and financially equipped to be parents — just as many of us were not well kitted out to be pet owners. We try: Glance through the approximately 17,000 cat videos on YouTube — John Lennon’s scant 415 refs are no match against the cuddly-wuddly, flea-bitten hordes. The majority are amateurish, dull, full of "aw-isn’t-she/he/it-cute — quick get it on the cameraphone" tumescent adoration.
Still, between the anticlimactic "Puppy vs. Cat" snippets, music fans can kill an entire Mother’s Day watching Magma serenade Catholic padres in some strange French B-movie or study a drowsy Velvet Underground supposedly writing "Sunday Morning" ("They all look so fucked up. Heroin is bad for you," comments one viewer) or check out the most viewed music-related vid that day (perhaps related to the new service that started last week allowing users to upload footage directly from a phone or PDA): a blurry, too-loud, obviously cellie-derived clip of Guns n’ Roses blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 12.
How perfect then that I stumble across a few Grandaddy videos on my YouTube travels, including a slightly oogy bit showcasing, as its maker puts it, "a slug on a cucumber listening to Grandaddy." A comment on the lysergic lethargy embedded in the Modesto band’s tunes? Animals, or rather people in animal suits, operate as stand-ins for nature in the group’s shared videos, representing a star-crossed love for the junky delights of an infinitely disposable, shareable information culture, as well as the earthly attractions of the Central Cali natural world. I can totally relate, dudes.
Sluggish Grandaddy fans who can’t break away from waxing their own cucumbers will be pleased to know that Just Like the Fambly Cat is a suitably great, elegiac outro for the disbanding band (so says songwriter Jason Lytle). A pop symphony to that final solution to dissolution and aimlessness: death. If Grandaddy always seem to teeter betwixt stoner listlessness and slacker lack of focus, the threat of imminent nonexistence and looming loss has brought a sense of purpose, opening with a child’s repeated, lisping, "What happened to the fambly cat?" and closing with Lytle’s grandiose finale, "I’ll never return!" The act of recording melts into biography, as Lytle angrily mourns his broken engagement with all the infectious pop trappings ("Jeez Louise") and then gets lost in dusty, hermetic yet elegant reveries reminiscent of such peers as Air ("Oxygen/Auxsend"). There are, as Lytle sings, about "fifty percent less words" here, breaking from pop formulae, but the writing is more than up to providing the mental visuals for Fambly Cat‘s aural invocation of the last, sad days of summer.
Nonetheless, YouTube comes through with some Fambly Cat imagery, as Lytle has come out from behind the animal costume on a lo-fi video for the "single" "Where I’m Anymore." He bicycles down orchard and suburban lanes, bridging Modesto’s agri and aggro environs, as a papier-mâché cat head jumps into the frame for the slow-jamz chorus of lost-pussy meows. This shy number may have emerged after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s similar catcentric number, but Grandaddy’s easy, sensuous paw tracks promise to stick with you longer, even after Lytle supposedly says good-bye to Modesto, a place tied tightly to another dubbed Grandaddy. After all, Magnet magazine recently reported that Lytle has sold his Modesto house and is moving to Montana, with no plans to perform Fambly Cat songs live ("If we go on tour, somebody’s gonna fucking die"). But perhaps this media-lavished long good-bye isn’t what it seems — and Grandaddy fans can dry their tears — because it appears Lytle will play those tunes after all, at Amoeba Saturday. Like a cat that always comes back, all may not be lost. SFBG
JASON LYTLE OF GRANDADDY
Sat/20, 6 p.m.
Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF