CHICAGO READER, May 24, 2002
Grandpa's Ghost, 5/25, Double Door
By Monica Kendrick
I've sung the praises of this downstate band, which welds dark back-porch alt-country to heavy psychedelia in beautifully
implausible ways, quite loudly in the past. But their most recent release, the double CD Stardust & Smog/Early Autumn
Waltz (Upland), is so poignantly good, I've run out of notes. The basic sensibility remains the same, but the set-which
functions more or less as two separate albums-explores almost all its nooks and crannies. Stardust & Smog is sparse
and eerie, every note as potent as the whippoorwills portentous cry in an otherwise silent woods; Early Autumn Waltz
is built on a similarly eldritch foundation but overlays exquisite drones and leans on the accents with a weight worthy of
stoner rock. On past releases the band occasionally indulged in virtuosity for virtuositys sake, but not here-everything is
carefully calibrated for efficient effect. Mike Watt headlines.
Skyscraper, Issue 12, Fall 2002
Stardust & Smog and the Early Autumn Waltz at the Two/Fourteen 2CD - Upland
By J. Wright
Any band that earns the mantle of Best Eclectic/Uncategorizable Band in their annual hometown music awards deserves a listen,
if for nothing else than to hear what it is about the band that defies simple explanation. Hear now, the gospel according
to Grandpa's Ghost, a St. Louis-area band whose fifth album, a double disc, is no mere hallucination, though it would
seem a splendid (and mildly creepy) soundtrack to an acid trip in a rural Illinois cornfield. Sprawling and expansive by any
definition, Stardust & Smog continues the bands journey away from its earlier, more conventional roots in alt-country
into an uncharted kaleidoscope of American-inflected psychedelia. Disc one finds the band at their most traditional-shorter,
mostly acoustic songs with folk/country tendencies dominant, highlighting the quirky songwriting and singing of band leader
Ben Hanna. Sprinkles of harmonica and piano occasionally augment the acoustic guitar and sleepy, intimate vocals, conjuring
up an otherworldly brew of Neil Young, Smog, and Sparklehorse. In this hemisphere of the Ghosts
world, songs, though not easy to sing along to, are still songs. Disc two is "something else entirely," just as their press
release states. Here there are no standard song structures, and tracks routinely unfold across eight-to-ten minutes, with
the longest clocking in at twenty-four and a half minutes. Feedback, drone, and dissonance are not only incorporated into
the maelstrom but are its dominant foundations, drawing from the guitar freakouts of Arc/Weld-era Neil Young
and Sonic Youth. Hypnotic, discordant, at time downright Floydian, weirdness is key for Grandpa's Ghost,
an outfit content only with surprising itself.
AIDING & ABETTING, Issue #222, 9/24/01
Stardust & Smog / Early Autumn Walt at the Two/Fourteen 2xCD (Upland)
By Jon Worley
Subtitled "Part II & III of The Kiss," these two albums follow up Il Bacio. The Chicago Reader refers
to this sound as "psychedelic roots-rock," which isn't a bad description. I think I'd simply lean more toward "heartland ferment,"
though I think thats more confusing than enlightening.
Basically, take a big handful of Neil Young and throw in a few pinches of The Flaming Lips. Piano-driven
or acoustic Neil, mostly, on the first disc. And a good representation, too. Grandpa's Ghost gets right
to the heart of the song and wallows around for a bit. Making sure that knife hits home, you see.
The second disc (Early Autumn Waltz) is generally electric Neil. Gone to seed. All sorts of excess is just
about everywhere. Satisfying on a completely different level. Not better or worse, just decidedly different. And yet, its
not too hard to find a few points in common.
An utterly sprawling and ambitious project. Grandpa's Ghost goes way out on a limb, and the effort pretty much pays
off. Theres a lot of great stuff on these two discs, and when you put all the parts together, the whole is rather impressive
MAGNET, Dec/Jan 2002
By Fred Mills
Grandpa's Ghost brings together radioactive acoustic drone, meandering countrified electronica and pan-fried space
whispers; Stardust & Smog And The Early Autumn Waltz At the Two/Fourteen (Upland) is two CD's worthy of foggy notions
that exist independent of time, space and the suns early rays.
RIVERFRONT TIMES, December 26, 2001 - January 1, 2002
RFT music geeks pick the best recordings of 2001
By Matt Harnish
Grandpa's Ghost, Stardust and Smog/Early Autumn Waltz at the Two Fourteen, (Upland). Zigging when expected to
zag, Grandpa's Ghost skips the usual noise almost completely on the first disc of this twofer, concentrating on heartbreakingly
beautiful acoustic folk. Disc 2 gets back to more traditional Ghost territory, with enough guitar freakishness to bend
even the most open of minds.