There’s a restless sense of energy and fun that undergirds the ten tracks of The Grand Undoing’s latest recording White Space Flavors and Parties on TV. Drawing from elements of sound that range from David Bowie and Frank Zappa to roots country and Americana, Seth Goodman, the artist behind the moniker, crafts a sound that is altogether more bright and sunny than his lyrical outlook. And it’s that artistry that keeps you dancing.
The album deals with a heady mix of themes: calling out the plastic nature of modern culture as we hide behind our keyboards and cell phones, longing for connection but finding that we lose more and more of ourselves each day. The result is a set of lyrics that deals heavily with themes of painful disconnect and despair. But brave listeners need not fear being brought down by this because Goodman does all within his power to juxtapose those heavy ideas against a backdrop of sound that is pure delight.
“New World” kicks things off with a Bowie-tinged vocal and swells of strings and guitar when then explode into a rocking jam while “Cross Over Now” finds Goodman’s pitchy vocals holding sway against bright notes and a thumping drumbeat, accented with some killer electric guitar. Goodman’s vocals are in and out throughout the record but somehow manage to lend something more honest and vulnerable to these tracks, the occasional off-note is welcome rather than cringe-inducing.
A jangly guitar line informs “Piers and Anderson,” while “Song in B” draws together some subtle country notes, a discordant fiddle running throughout. “Long Are the Hours” is a jumbled ballad of sorts, a track laden with gentle textures that ebb and flow. But “The Shadows Still Draw Me In” picks things back up, a melodic jam with Goodman in one of his finer vocal performances, even as “Cold of the Iron Gate” is alternately moody and buoyant, with some more stellar guitar work setting the tone. The “Ballad of Alan Gordon” is pure musical sunshine, bright notes all around and with “Drag It Out a Little Longer,” Goodman seems to close things with a “wink-wink, nod-nod” bit of humor; his dark lyric screamed out in what feels like almost abject parody of itself.
White Space Flavors and Parties on TV is certainly not an easy listen and will no doubt be instantly shunned by those looking for Top 40 fare but for those in the market with something a bit more avant garde, The Grand Undoing delivers. Intelligent lyrics and energetic arrangements abound here and make for a compelling, if an occasional confusing, listen.