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Great Grandpa - Plastic Cough (Album Review)

Monday, 10 July 2017 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Buggo Vigor

There’s a song on Great Grandpa’s ‘Plastic Cough’ called Fade. It’s about being confronted with the same stuff time and time again and yearning for a jolt of excitement. It’s also a neat summation of what this record does so well; namely remind us that gritty, power chord-happy indie-rock can still be vital and thrilling.

Take inventory here and you’ll find many aspects of Great Grandpa’s sound that have become part of the furniture thanks to their repeated use elsewhere. You’ll notice the gnarled riffs and knotty melodic sensibilities of Speedy Ortiz, the chaotic-yet-precise rhythms of Jawbox and hulking slabs of noise that might as well be wearing a flannel shirt and shredded jeans.

And while it's a lazy start to disassemble a band’s sound in search of genre cause and effect, it’s hard to skip that step when discussing ‘Plastic Cough’.

That’s because the use of these constituent parts could so easily induce an eye roll. It is to Great Grandpa’s vast credit that they make them sound absolutely, unabashedly alive.

At the heart of that is the interaction between vocalist Alex Menne and guitarists Pat Goodwin and Dylan Hanwright. The idiosyncrasies of Menne’s delivery - a delay on one syllable, another drawn out to wrap around a riff - are reflected back by the barbed output of her bandmates, who have a watertight rhythm section, bassist Carrie Miller and drummer Cam LaFlam, to prop up their more adventurous decisions.

Great Grandpa don’t often miss a chance to push the envelope in terms of the record’s dynamics, from the punch of Teen Challenge’s chorus to No’s giddy handclaps and warped doo-wop, and it’s deeply enjoyable to submit and let them take you down the rabbit hole. Equally, Menne’s lyrics are poetic and open to multiple readings, allowing us the luxury of revisiting the songs with fresh eyes.

By the time Fade bounds into its chorus its words have taken on a reflexive bent. “Wore down this shine,” Menne sings. “As looping back seems to make it grow duller.” Not this time. Not by a long stretch, in fact. ‘Plastic Cough’ is a loud, confrontational record that does great things thanks a generous side of wit and subtlety. That’s not likely to get old.

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