In the process of comprehensively out-OK Computered Radiohead with the stunning The Sophtware Slump in 2000, Grandaddy had gained an enviable reputation for musical brilliance, but that hadn’t really translated into sales. However, with a line of cosmic americana shot through with a thread of melancholy, Grandaddy’s career had organically grown from self-releasing EPs and albums in the early 90s, to the point where, when they were poised to release 2003’s Sumday, expectations were that it was going to be the album that would catapult them towards sustained commercial success.
It starts off well, with “Now It’s On”, a glorious racket of fuzzed up guitars, crashing synthesisers, and an irresistable chorus. Sensibly chosen as the lead single, it deserved to be their breakthrough crossover hit, however “Now Its On” stalled just outside the top 20, having failed to pick up the airplay that would have seen it do better. True, it did better than any other singles they ever released, but it deserved to have been a much bigger hit. Still, it gave Grandaddy their second Grade-A album opener in a row, and one hell of an upbeat one too.
Such upbeat vibes don’t last long though (this is Grandaddy after all), as second track “I’m on Standby” is a prime slice of Grandaddy melancholia. Frontman Jason Lytle is a master of downbeat tunes, and never more so than on Sumday, where songs like “The Go in the Go-for-it”, “Yeah’ is What We Had” and “O.K. with My Decay” underline Grandaddy’s mastery of heartbreaking tunes, though “Saddest Vacant Lot in all the World” is the tune that edges out the others with an extra layer of emotional devastation.
It’s not all misery and heart break though, as “The Group Who Couldn’t Say” is shot through with optimism, as is closer “The Final Push to the Sum”, while “El Caminos in the West” was the gorgeous follow up single to “Now It’s On”, which should have at least matched the success of its predecessor, but sadly didn’t. Regardless of it’s lack of success on the singles chart, it’s as great a pop song as Grandaddy has ever released. Actually, for all it’s downbeat, heartbroken tunes, Sumday is as close to Grandaddy would ever get to a great pop album, because that’s what it is, a great pop album. It’s crammed full of accessible songs, wonderful melodies and some of the most finely crafted examples of pessimistic pop ever to be released.
Sumday deserved to be the breakout success that Grandaddy so richly deserved, quite why it wasn’t is one of the great myseries of popular song.