Grandma’s Boyfriend/The Steadys // Split EP
Dirty Rabbit Records
Recommended Track: Dirty Surfboard
Grandma’s coming to town and she’s bringing her new boyfriend. He’s in his twenties, wears leather jackets from the local Goodwill, rides around on a Sportster and listens to late 1970s power-pop on his Panasonic 8-track player. Grandma must have met him at the antique store or something. But while I once considered the idea of Grandma beginning anew and reliving her youth as a very positive thing, I’ve been sorely disappointed. Her boyfriend just lacks the quality, originality, and dedication that Grandma truly deserves. Which about sums up my feelings when judging Grandma’s Boyfriend, a four-piece power pop group out of San Francisco, California. Recently released on S.F.’s Dirty Rabbit Records is a split 7-inch with three tracks from Grandma’s Boyfriend and two provided by the Japanese rock outfit The Steadys.
The opening track “Hearts Feelin Lo’” is a straight-up, point-blank shot of power-pop describing the unfortunate pains of heartbreak, a popular staple of the genre. The vocals are energetic but a bit nasally, a sort of less refined and more high-pitched knockoff of The Beat’s Paul Collins. The track plays it pretty safe for the entirety of two minutes, apart from the standard guitar solo towards the end. Strangely, the second track “No Thyme” has a particularly different and lower sound quality from the rest of the record. It would be too nitpicky to get into the technical details when the difference is noticeably apparent. As for whether this was poor mixing or a purposeful effort at mono and the inevitable lo-fi aesthetic, the track definitely sticks out. The final song “Dirty Surfboard” opens up with the all too familiar boom-bah-boom-cha but ends up being the catchiest tune on the A-side. It definitely has nostalgic appeal to it in a Cheap Trick sort of way.
In contrast, the B-side is an interesting blast of clean pop punk all the way from the land of Mt. Fuji and ramen shops. “Dancing In My Life” and “I Run to Ray” are fun and enjoyable if you can get past the unoriginality and heavily accented English. But The Steadys are obviously not trying to reinvent punk rock, they’re definitely doing it for the love of a genre that’s unique to their own culture. The split overall ends up being a hodgepodge of two bands playing genres of the same family but are strikingly different due to a difference in polish and consistency. Grandma’s Boyfriend carries the lo-fi tag, but “lo-fi” shouldn’t be used as an excuse for lazy mixing or recording. However, I believe that a fair assessment of a lo-fi band can only be made after seeing them live, so until then I’ll just have to unwillingly tolerate Grandma’s new romantic interest.