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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

Album Reviews

Grandpa's Ghost

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

Grandpa's Ghost

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 as well.

 

MAGNET, Dec/Jan 2002

Sound Check

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

List-omania

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.

Tumble/Love Press

Il Baccio Press