In my current efforts to find more meaningful music, it was only a matter of time before I looked into bands whose religious beliefs permeate their work. It is a tentative and exploratory affair, one not only focused on the music, but also on the beliefs that create the context within which the bands created their music.
Released this month, The Grand Undoing’s album White Space Flavors and Parties on TV was one of the first such albums. Bringing together psychedelic rock sounds from the 1970s and the 1980s with country and modern pop touches, the album aims to touch upon heavy themes packaged in upbeat, uptempo melodies that aim to lift the listener’s spirits.
Had someone told me this was an old vinyl they had found in their parents’ garage, I would have believed him or her. Starting with the name: What does it even mean? The first thought that came to mind was the contrast between the perceived richness of the flavors and parties seen on television, when in fact, the world of television is an empty, white space.
The release opens with a sequence of three high tempo songs. “New World” starts deceptively slow and simple only to bring in the heavy artillery very early on in the song. The following “Cross Over Now” is inspired by a life lived on the fringes of society, with swellings of anger punctuating it, while the mournful elements of “Piers and Anderson” discuss reaching across a great divide.
Things slow down with the following two songs. The many layers of vocals, guitar, and other instruments in “Long Are the Hours” make it an interesting listen. “Song in B” starts simple, only to introduce an increasing number of elements such as female vocals and a crescendo of instrumentation. The somewhat sombre violins underline the sadness of the narrator going through rough times and feeling lonely in his despair.
Then comes the ballads. The first two are of the slower type which you would hear closing off a high school prom in the 1970s or 1980s. “The Shadows Still Draw Me In” has a certain artificial cheer to it, demonstrated at its best in the sing-along feel of the chorus, contrasting with the rather heavy subject of darkness drawing someone in. This contrast is reminiscent of the shiny objects purchased all the time to hide the darkness of despair felt deep inside. “Sparkle Sunday Blue” yet again uses the formula of simple beginning and increasing number of elements added. The next two more upbeat ballads are more of the kind you listen while driving, with “Ballad of Alvin Gordon” being tinged with country flavour.
The closing “Drag It Out a Little Longer” does exactly that. A cheery, mishmash of an ending to the album, it brings together its various sounds in the most psychedelic offering The Grand Undoing has to offer. Just like with the rest of the album, the vocals are confident and the feeling, relaxing.
This record definitely will not appeal to all listeners, but to those who like this style, it will offer 40 minutes or so of well delivered nostalgia.
More information is available on The Grand Undoing’s website.
First published here on Blogcritics.