Three years after the critically acclaimed The Sophtware Slump, Grandaddy returns with Sumday, which actually sounds more like a "sophtware slump" than their previous effort did. Like The Sophtware Slump, on Sumday the band attempts to reconcile the technological with the personal, both musically and lyrically. Several of the songs seem inspired by the rise and fall of the dotcoms and the Silicon Valley; this could have been a great opportunity for some interesting musical commentary, which is why it's so disappointing that the results are bland and complacent. Musically, the album's mix of chugging, fuzzy guitars; sparkly synths; and tinny drum machines is pleasant enough -- it's a mix of country-rock, soft rock, and new wave that suggests what a collaboration between Gram Parsons and the Alan Parsons Project might sound like -- but it's a little dated, and oddly enough, not as musically adventurous as The Sophtware Slump. Sumday's sequencing emphasizes its failings; the album begins with eight similarly quirky, mid-tempo songs that, on the first few listens, blend into each other so seamlessly that the first two-thirds of the album sound almost like one 30-minute track. That may have been Grandaddy's intention, but unfortunately it does their songs a disservice. Yet it's the songwriting itself that makes Sumday so frustrating. Songs like "The Go in the Go-For-It," "The Group Who Couldn't Say" -- a tale of corporate overachievers so bent on success that they've forgotten what it's like to be outdoors -- and "OK With My Decay" focus on feeling stuck, bored, alienated, and dissipated to the point that they tend to sound that way too. The resigned, cyber-slacker vibe that permeates the album also adds to the impression that it's a relic from the recent past; the songs involving robots and e-mail, such as "I'm on Standby" and "Stray Dog and the Chocolate Shake," feel downright quaint. Sumday does feature some worthwhile songs, however: the opening track, "Now It's On," is bouncy and engaging, while "Lost on Yr Merry Way" and "El Caminos in the West" manage to make the emotional leap from resigned to poignant. Not coincidentally, the few times when Grandaddy writes songs about relationships rank among the album's highlights. Sumday's overall complacent sound actually suits "Yeah Is What We Had," a lackadaisical look at a blasé relationship; "The Warming Sun" is a sweet apology to an ex that is among the most heartfelt songs the band has written; and "Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World," with its rolling pianos, layered harmonies, and lovelorn vignettes, is much more evocative than most of the album, and sounds a bit like the Abbey Road-era Beatles performing "Mr. Bojangles" to boot. Even though the album rallies in its second half, by the wannabe-epic closing track "The Final Push to the Sum," it's hard to escape how much effort was expended on these mostly disappointing songs about stagnation. It's also unfortunate that Sumday comes out in the wake of the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, an album that handles similar, the-world-is-shutting-down themes much more poetically and passionately. Thought-provoking and a bit of a downer in ways Grandaddy probably didn't intend, Sumday isn't a totally empty experience, but its ambitions and results don't add up as well as might have been expected.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares