Chances are, most listeners have would heard everything on Derek Grant’s 2015 solo album Breakdown before - it seems to imitate everything from the driving road music of Jackson Browne to the ballads of Guns ‘n’ Roses while frequently capturing an alt-country vibe that might be unexpected coming from a musician undoubtedly best known for drumming in punk group Alkaline Trio. Truth be told, this record may not be what fans of Grant’s more established project would want – it’s about as far from the world of punk as possible - yet it’s hard to honestly dislike this sleepy little album. Grant seems quite capable of carving a niche for himself as an indie songwriter and musician, and this debut effort goes a long way in establishing his credibility as such.
The album starts with one of its more upbeat numbers in “Holiday Breakdown” which saunters along to a warm acoustic guitar strum and cheerful lyrics. When the singer makes a declaration late in the going that he “thinks [he] needs a breakdown,” it hints at the melancholic undercurrent which flows throughout even the most bright songs here and is especially evident on a handful of tracks. The driving, gyrating electric guitar in “Waiting For the End of the World” provides a feel not unlike an ‘80s Springsteen tune, and “Got a Feeling” strives for more emotional impact with its breathy vocal and pensive melody. Grant proves he’s got a knack for crafting prominent choruses in these tunes, but things are switched up significantly on the rickety and warbly, countrified fourth track “Turn and Walk Away” which is loaded with painful notions of regret.
At its best, Grant’s somewhat fragile voice is reminiscent of John Frusciante’s in that its imperfect but interesting precisely because of that fact. He seems perfectly fine while performing the acoustically-driven “Lucy,” but pushes the envelope dangerously close to the breaking point when performing the high-register parts in “Good Long Look.” Given the nature of the track, a sort of self-reflective piece that finds the singer questioning his existence, the nearly out-of-tune vocals are tolerable and even appropriate, but the song seems to test the limits of Grant’s performance ability. Meanwhile, the bouncy “Love is a Bad Dream” neatly incorporates the sort of Latin flavor and tinny guitar work found in old-time rock and roll. Grant’s vocal here is significantly more confident, and the song’s a good choice as lead single since it seems to sum up many of the album’s main ideas before rollicking bluegrass romp “You Don’t Know” provides an energetic conclusion to the work.
In an era where quite a number of musicians seem to overdo things in an effort to get noticed, it’s pleasing to find a release like this one that suggests its creator is making music just because he genuinely loves doing so.Breakdown handles its business efficiently, showcasing a number of styles of Americana music which Grant pulls off in an almost effortless manner. A solid overall effort full of well-performed if generally unexceptional songs, the album is somewhat fleeting (just twenty-three minutes in length) yet exceedingly comfortable to listen to - especially for anyone who’s ever had the chance to raid and appreciate an older vinyl collection at one point or another. I’m not sure I’d call this one of the outright best things I’ve heard this year, but there’s nothing that should stop any interested person from giving it a listen.
7.0 / 10
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Alkaline Trio drummer Derek Grant has announced plans to release his debut solo album Breakdown on January 20, 2015 via Red Scare Industries. The album was recorded on a laptop ...
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