Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Video: Grails - Doomsdayer's Holiday, a Commercial

A while ago I did this post on the new Grails album, Doomsdayer's Holiday, with some tracks and visuals from their previous two releases, Take Refuge In Clean Living and Burning Off Impurities. In the meantime, a) my copy of the new double LP hasn't arrived yet - although I did manage to spend €27 (!) on the Take Refuge LP in Tower - b) I found, without much difficulty, mp3s of Doomsdayer's Holiday and c) Temporary Residence Limited produced a commercial (above) for said album, including Chevy Chase dressed as a roller-skating rabbi in the 1985 film Fletch and a naked snake charmer with, at one point, '666' written across her chest.

So, eh, not very commercial.

As for b), it wasn't where I found it originally, but you can download the album to try it out at Worship and Tribute, a blog which does a slow but steady line in good post-rock/-hardcore/etc. albums to download. The write-up is interesting, because I don't agree with it wholly:

"Grails' 2004 album Redlight ruled in all possible ways. Their 2007 album Burning Off Impurities did not. They shifted from being a concise post-rock band to a psychedelic jam band that tossed in Eastern instrumentation all over the place. Short of assuming Grails went on a pilgrimage to India and met Ravi Shankar, I'll just say their musical direction changed. Doomsdayer's Holiday does something to reconcile those two worlds. The Eastern influences and jamminess are no longer endless and open-ended and as a result the songs have regained organization and arc. This album comes highly recommended for fans of post-rock, classic rock, or prog looking for something very different."

From listening to it these past few weeks, I don't think that Doomsdayer's Holiday is necessarily better than Burning Off Impurities. The latter would be one of my albums of 2007, other than that I only really found out about it when blend77 drew up his best of 2007 list this February. I've gone back and explored the earlier Grails sound (Redlight and Burden of Hope) and while it's very good, it's the more recent work which attracts me the most.

Clearly if Doomsdayer's Holiday is a reconciliation of those two styles, then I'm coming from the other page. And yet there are some frustatingly long moments in the album where it seems to lose the run of itself, and dissolve into electronic nothingness. Not so much as to detract severely from the rest of the album, but enough for me to be slightly reserved about the release. It'll still probably be in my best-of list at the end of the year, though.

For a), the reason that the LP is so expensive is because it comes in a gatefold cover with a weird set of photo-montages. I'm not sure it's totally worth it - the 'Stoned at the Taj Again' picture is pretty cool, but it's no levitating, lute-playing Jesus from Burning Off Impurities - for that money, but side B does have two of probably the best post-rock songs of the year: 'Take Refuge' and 'Clean Living', which I really wanted to have on vinyl.

For c), I do wonder sometimes just what Grails are supposed to be all about. That mixture of Western irony, Eastern spiritualism, mysticism, kitsch, humour and seriousness. And then I realise it doesn't really matter, that it's just a post-whatever combination of meaning on several levels. It makes for good videos, anyway.


cretin said...

i concur! with your assessment re: burning off impurities vs. doomsdayer's holiday. although I have not yet fully digested either album, and my opinion is thusly subject to change, the former appears to me to be superior in terms of consistent quality when compared to the latter.

personally, I prefer the more psychedelic/middle-eastern sounding Grails than the denser, murkier sound that appears on Holiday.

gabbagabbahey said...

the denser sound is good in some ways... I'm glad they've kept up with the surf-rock/spaghetti Eastern riffage from Take Refuge In Clean Living.

I also have to work out whether the sound of women screaming (which opens Doomsdayer's Holiday) is a good thing or not...

DFelon204409 said...

hey man, it's nick (i write worship and tribute), thanks for the shout out here. i come from redlight town so i can see how we disagree on how/why we value the album. it's that age old problem that happens with every band that changes their style. the people who liked the old stuff are wary of the new stuff and give it a really critical look over, and those who got into the band via the new stuff aren't necessarily keen to the old stuff. either way, sweet post. it makes me want to update more now that i know that people actually check my blog out. peace.

gabbagabbahey said...

hey nick. my copy of the lp just arrived today, so I'm rocking it right now. I must go and listen to Redlight again, too.

I see a lot of what you're saying, and Doomsdayer's Holiday is a lot more of a focused record in some ways than Burning Off Impurities (it's shorter, for one). But I, who is by no means a jam-band fan, found the latter very engrossing.

glad to link to your blog, hopefully even more people will stop by and check out this album and others.