Saddle Creek | Sebastien Grainger | Reviews


Sebastian Grainger and the Mountains

Author: Kiran Aditham
11/10/2008 | | | Album Review
While his mustachioed ex-Death From Above 1979 cohort Jesse F. Keeler toils in disco with his MSTRKRFT project, Sebastian Grainger has opted to take the indie rock route with his own post-break-up solo outing. Following the American Names EP, his first release for Omaha staple Saddle Creek, the vocalist/drummer has surrounded himself with a new band, The Mountains, and concocted a sunny synth- and guitar-fueled pop confection.

Everything from Weezer to Cheap Trick comes to mind on Mountains, especially with the breezy opener "Love Can Be So Me." Filled with the churning guitars and a glorious keyboard hook, the track is a far cry from the dirge-y discord of his DFA 1979 work. Yet, Grainger still manages to channel his inner Nile Rodgers on "Renegade Silence," an unflinching dancefloor number that grooves with siren tones and a funk backdrop that wouldn't be out of place on a Chic record.

No question, the album's track list is packed with an arena-like sound fit for compression into a mid-sized theater. "American Names" is a fist-pumper corralled with Grainger's overwhelming croons, hand claps and sliced riffs that try to recall the blue-collar blues of Springsteen. "(I am Like A) River" meanwhile favors the 1980s dramatics of Corey Hart, centering on Grainger's gravelly delivery and new-wave histrionics. Because of all the disparity, the record seems to lose focus at times, but ultimately Mountains never wavers from its anthemic manifesto. Cock-rock solos fill in tracks like "I Hate My Friends," but the Torontoist Grainger can still offer sobering, sad bastard tales ala Leonard Cohen and Elton John, as on the piano-driven "Love is Not a Contest."

While inconsistent and at times monotonous, Sebastian Grainger & The Mountains maintains a glowing alure that DFA 1979 sometimes lacked. Grainger's passionate vocals and angsty disposition, not to mention the melodic soundtrack, is a welcome re-introduction to a man whose former band flamed out well before their time.