The Grand Undoing seems fit right onto dark and nearly warped vinyl. Though the musical moniker of Seth Goodman sounds like a total unraveling of all that has preceded it, it comes across more as a celebration of classic country and rock as a whole. The Grand Undoing released White Space Flavors and Parties on TV, the oddly titled eccentric record, his second full-length release. It seems hard-pressed into a bygone era where experimentation was not relinquished to the dark pits of indie hell. Mainstream artist experimented, and they got a chance to, and they were darn good at it. The Grand Undoing is channeling the spirits of 60’s rock ala everything from Frank Zappa to the Byrds to Brian Wilson.
But there is always a strong sense of art embedded into his work. For every attempt at pop, it appears like the artist wanted to wash it in seedy overlays and MORE noise. Some songs take a very opposite approach, such as Song in B. Though it begins as a quant country number, it gets larger and larger, introducing female vocals and even louder instrumentation. “The Shadow Still Draw Me In” begins as a deliberate little sing-a-long, but quickly falls into off-time beats cascaded by Goodman’s drawling vocal yelp.
It is the vocals that are so intriguing. The Grand Undoing contains the vocal accentuations of Elvis Costello with the baroque nature of his 70’s material, such as This Year’s Model. But, and this might sound crazy, but he may even be weirder than that particular pop master. He brings a bit of that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cynicism to the table. But he also has a bit of punkish sensibility like Frank Turner in Poetry of the Deed. It is really a mixed bag of influences, though Costello may ebt eh quickest point of reference.
And like many of those artists, the Grand Undoing is a very poetic project- when you can hear his words. He mostly likes to layer his contemplative angst in thick splashes of chimes, multi-layered guitars, and partially aggressive drumming. “Cross Over Now” is possibly one of his best tunes. It’s angry at all the right times, showing appreciation for the English late 70’s group, the Damned. “Long Are the Hours” may be his best vocal performance, but there is no ignoring the subtlety of the guitar and how it seems to add these extra layers of tension and distress even though the song is approached like a sweet reflective love song. There is something else going on here, and the best songs in history have played on that balance between dark and light.
The artist has a vocal approach similar to David Bowie, in that when he wants to shine he can blow the roof off the house. But he mostly likes to tiptoe over the guitarwork and weave in and out as a ubiquitous presence. The Grand Undoing is certainly not a tightly crafted pop artist where every beat seems intentional. As a matter of fact, everything Goodman does seems unintentional, like he is wandering around in his own mind trying to find some ground where no ground is left. It leaves for an eccentric and hard to swallow record that pays off for those that dedicate the time to its eccentric mysteries.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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