words by tom johnson
The zeitgeist is a strange thing. A weird, intangible thing that can make so many of us feel a little closer to each other but also something that can be awkward to convey and talk about, distancing when laid out in straight relative terms. And yet when you’re working through a break-up that’s as sad and uncomfortable and undefined as these things always are, a pop band bellowing out “I know, I know, I know this is your favourite show” can be wildly affecting, properly emotional even. And y’know what? That’s totally ok. We’re living, in-part, through The Netflix Generation™, and while we might wish for something more lasting or raw or deep than Television, the medium has come to mean something to many of us in new ways again, creeping through our cultural veins. Bringing us together via black and white romanticised shots of Modena’s pasta scene, Simpson reruns, or harrowing visions of a none-too-distant dystopia, our favourite shows have a way of bringing us all a little closer than the internet age tends to allow; defining new friendships, reminding us of departing ones.
Whether that’s something Great Grandpa even considered on their wonderful new record is down to them to say but Plastic Cough feels wildly, exhilaratingly of its own time and place, the words, riffs, odd little fragments of our generation packaged together under an umbrella that never once does what you’re expecting but still manages to feel comfortingly endearing. Whether hurtling through its various personal set-pieces and dizzying set of guitar-plays, or suddenly flipping the entire pace/mood/tone of the song with a sumptuous about-turn, this is a record that steps up to the plate time and time again, whether that be via a spit in the face of the patriarchy, a plain-stated chronicle of the mundanity of modernity, or the gang-vocal exultation about zombies attacking at an inopportune time, as found on the soaring, stupendously colossal closing track.
Led with endless fervour and commitment byAlex Menne, Great Grandpa’s sound sits somewhere between Crying’s enthralling giddiness and the more plaintive life admissions of Frankie Cosmos and co. What Plastic Cough achieves so greatly however is the sculpting and refining of a style and atmosphere that is very much their own thing, one that hardens and solidifies with each passing moment of the record; by the time ’28 J’s L8R’ reaches it formidable finale there’ll be no need for pigeon-holing or genre reference points. This is Great Grandpa, brilliantly and beautifully.
Equally adept at both the quiet little meanders and the full-blooded howls at the moon, these two sides to the band are woven together exquisitely, the record’s flow both plainly evident and impressive. “Fade” is a sweet and succinct detailing of relationship fears, and “All Things Must Behave/Eternal Friends” is as close as GG get to balladry and the results are equally endearing; a heavy-hearted anthem for the passively sullen modern age we find ourselves somewhat lost in. On the flip-side “Expert Eraser” is a fervent unravelling, while “Grounded” wraps that ever-gnarly voice around a rabid instrumental backing, that’s an ever-propulsive and wide-eyed companion across every inch of the record.
Records that chronicle the very small moments of a day (whether that be standing up against something that offends, or what you had for dinner last night) often seem to get loaded with criticism of tweeness or brattiness, but if the choice is between that level of idiosyncratic detailing or the faux romantic leanings crafted for male egos to throw guitar shapes over that peppers so much of the indie-rock world then give me Great Grandpa every single time, because for all the wry little moments of colourful unraveling, Plastic Cough isn’t a record that tells you to just shut up and enjoy yourself, it’s one that reminds us that often the best way of writing wrongs is to take a big ol’ gulp of air and throw it back at the night sky with all the joy and exuberance you can muster.
‘Plastic Cough’ is out now, via Double Double Whammy