Grandson: A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1 – A Social Commentary Masterpiece
About the Artist
Grandson, the contemporary politically charged artist who hit to the music scene late 2015. During 2016, he released a number of social-commentary-imbued alternative rock singles including Bills and Bury Me Face Down. Not only does he let loose some pretty solid guitar riffs, but he is valued for conveying often angry, anti-establishment speeches and daring social narratives within his lyrics which mainstream music almost always seems to avoid. During 2018, he had signed to the huge music conglomerate fuelled By Ramen, also the record label for Twenty Øne Pilots, and released his first EP: A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1.
The EP is the first of 3 pre-album releases on Grandson’s road map. Volume 1 focuses on 5 contemporary issues that plague America and the world of 2018. Climate change, self-loathing, drug abuse, political racism and the impacts of a collapsing state. Although pursuing a rather critical and cynical approach, all 5 issues/songs can be backed up scarily well with real-life evidence or experiences surrounding each listener. However, it is the fact that we don’t need evidence to believe the messages Grandson conveys through each song as his lyrics are spoken like true stories, with each and every word lending itself to this great spiderweb of emotion and revelation he has thrown before us in trap style guitar riffs.
This brings us onto the second thing we must consider: the music itself. He may have the most impactful lyrics in music history but if the sounds don’t work, the songs don’t work. Fortunately, this is not the case. When it comes down the specific sound of the album, it becomes a bit harder to judge as personal music preference quite obviously plays a huge part here. However, Grandson has achieved such an effective hybrid of grungy rock paired with the bass dropping beats of EDM. But most importantly, there is a certain level of consistency across the album that’s just enough to tie it all into one whilst keeping every one of those 5 tracks completely recognisable and individual.
Now I’ve summarised the EP, I’m going to delve into some of the songs it features. Typically, I will explore the song which I believe is the best and similarly, the worst on the album or EP. A Modern Tragedy 1 put me through an extremely tough time in deciding two specific tracks as the overall quality is just so high. However, my verdict is below.
My Strongest Track: Blood // Water
The initial track, Blood // Water, was the first song on the album that was featured in its own single and after listening to it I understand why. Packed into a mere 3 verses and one monumental chorus is a truthful, accurate but creative depiction of political greed in the contemporary world, plus its ramifications, most significantly, climate change. Depending on the way you personally listen to it, the vocals refer to an overlooking god, the future generation or the tortured planet itself. The track is filled with such rage-fuelled energy. It wants to make you question the idea of morality which we’ve all been forced to adopt and it does just that, certainly for me anyway. If you want to learn more about my own interpretation where I break down and explore almost every lyric as well as the harrowing music video, check out my Wattpad @MitchellLakin. Musically, this monumental melody encapsulates the very essence of Grandson’s style. As I mentioned before, it is the combination of unclean alternative rock with an almost hypnotic EDM-style base drop that makes this track so impactful. Personally, I am a huge fan of music that builds itself up to a dramatic finish and luckily, it does just that. The rising levels of aggression work so well when considering the wrath that swells within the vocals and the guitar drop fits perfectly into the music video, proving how well considered the entire concept of this track really was.
My ‘Weakest’ Track: Overdose
To call this song the worst on the album is such a stretch that it truly just comes down to opinion. Its concept is pretty self-explanatory unlike Blood // Water above which is riddled with polysemy and encourages interpretation. Nonetheless, Overdose is still extremely impactful. The vocals narrate a tale about a man who undertakes a journey with drugs. It takes us through the trauma and realisation of decay that those go through who get sucked into drug abuse and in the end, it contrasts ‘fun and games’ with the harsh reality of the addiction. For me, the highlight of Overdose is the idea that we don’t know whether this is a personal story from Grandson’s own past or whether it’s so well written than we are able to believe it is anyway. On the 17th of February 2018, Grandson released Overdose’s music video on YouTube. Although there’s no narrative focus like Blood // Water and 6:00, the other music videos for tracks on this EP, it is chilling, truthful and leaves no room for confusion. In a grim and dirty fashion that’s key to Grandson’s aesthetic, it consists of a number of repeated scenes paired with facts and figures on drug abuse in America, combining a dark story for the ears with the objective evidence for the eyes. The motive of the song is really hammered down. And I like that.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why this track is supposedly my weakest but with a collection of songs as complete as this, it really does come down to the nitpicky stuff. For me, this lies in the music. In contrast with the other tracks, Overdose aims for a slower, more methodical theme. This adds a layer of variety which is important however my personal issue lies in the lack of build up. As I mentioned above, I am a fan of tracks continue to gain momentum. When considering Grandson’s impactful music style and the tragic end to the story within Overdose, I feel as if the music doesn’t match up with this as well as it could do. It seems to lack certain rage-filled-riffs which the rest of the songs harness so well and that is the only reason why it takes this place.
That is my verdict on A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1. I hope you agree, disagree but most of all, enjoy my views on it if you have listened to it yourself. If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to check it out on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or any service, really. I hope to work on the same style of review for his second EP as it is a huge shift from this one and I have some strong thoughts on how it is achieved. If there are any albums you would like me to explore in the future, let me know in the comments or find me on Facebook @MitchellLakin