Grandson: A Modern Tragedy Vol. 2 – A Change of Pace
The Modern Tragedy Series
On the 15th of June, 2018, Jordan Benjamin, who goes by the artist name of Grandson, began his pre-album series, A Modern Tragedy. Over the span of around a year and a half, he had released three instalments of the 5-track EPs which are to kick-start his movement as a politically and socially charged alternative rock artist. Each song in each collection is to highlight a particular issue which plagues the US and often the modern world beyond it. I regard Volume 1 as a social commentary masterpiece and you can find out why in the link below. Yet the second instalment begins to steer this voyage of political rebellion into a different direction. Now a single question stands: is it effective?
Volume 2 Synopsis
On the 22nd of February, 2019 came the second instalment on this road-map of change and exposition. As with Vol. 1, fans and followers were reacquainted with a familiar track which was released as a single a mere few days before the EP dropped. This time around, it was just the one: Apologise, leaving us with 4 fresh tracks to sink our ears into on the day of release. Lyrically, it tackles effects of American gun laws, challenges within the capitalist music industry, the struggles of advocating political change and other equally important topics.
This 5-track collection has many strong points and fewer weak ones. It is a welcome addition to Grandson’s concise collection. Each track is unique when placed next to one another, retaining that ever so important diversity within this miniature album, and for the most part, it manages to keep within that grungy rock style which is instantly recognisable as Grandson. It blasts out some of the craziest EMP base drops to date in Darkside, has some marvellously chaotic crescendos in both Stigmata and Is This What You Wanted? all while balancing a grounded realism with ominous metaphors. That is where Vol. 2 shines the brightest. As well as gaining from and building upon the solid foundations of its predecessor, Volume 2 also loses some of the factors which made A Modern Tragedy so great. Track diversity has been taken over the line. But more about this later.
My Best: Is This What You Wanted?
As I mentioned before, this EP is the starting point of change for the artist and Is This What You Wanted? is at the forefront of that. The first time I encountered this track, I was listening to it with another Grandson fan and follower. After around five seconds into it, we both looked at each other, confused and disappointed. The vocals were Grandson, the guitar was Grandson but the lyrics and style were far from it. Having played it in the background and letting it continue as we ran the A Modern Tragedy Vol. 2 over and over, it turned into a track I would skip. The first-ever Grandson track I would skip. It was a sad day.
At this point, my friend had given up on the track and I almost did too. But I decided to sit down and truly listen to it. Every song before this had a rich meaning and I refused to believe that the crux of this one was Benjamin’s girl having ‘a pic on her IG with a new man’. He wasn’t. I had never been so wrong about a song.
Half of the lyrics of this song are satire directed towards popular music in the industry. I felt as if the shock and disappointment I experience listening to this song before this realisation was deliberate on Grandson’s behalf. It demonstrates the pressures placed on artists today by large, employing music companies, suggesting many artists are forced to make typical songs with typical lyrics, and if those pressures weren’t there, more music would be capable of promoting issues and change like Grandson. (Learn more about this song on my Wattpad @MitchellLakin)
If this is the new direction Grandson is taking, count me in. It’s a shock but for all the right reasons. The meaning of Is This What You Wanted? toys with us as readers in a clever and considered way. The music is raw and uncensored which pairs perfectly with the lyrics which seem to ooze genuine, personal frustration with sins of the music industry. A masterpiece which seems to get better with each play.
My Worst: The EP Itself
As you may have gathered from above, every song in its own right is executed incredibly well. It would be wrong of me to choose a track for the sake of fitting into this category. Instead, I believe the greatest flaw of this EP is the way it is composed. As I mentioned above, each song clearly harbours that signature Grandson style yet their clear definition and place within the collection is lost. Vol. 1 had this superb essence that every song belonged on the EP. It was well thought out and clever. Vol. 2 has lost this. If I wasn’t a follower of Grandson, I would say each track has been selected from different years in the artist’s music career. It just doesn’t feel whole. With Fallin (Temptation) and Is This What You Wanted?, it occurs to me that Grandson is opening up a slightly different course in which his music can take. It is an outward spreading of style. A good thing. Especially as it is executed well. However, A Modern Tragedy Vol. 2 seems to be in the crossfire of this change and the result of that is a mixture of old styles (Darkside) and potentially new ones (Fallin).
So there you have it; A Modern Tragedy Vol.2 – a valued addition to Grandson’s anthology as well as my own collection. I rate it very highly yet there is one thing stopping it from reaching the level its predecessor and that’s its togetherness. Vol. 1 had a deliberate selection of varied but related music styles. Vol. 2 doesn’t seem deliberate. And that is the difference.
As of before, you can find Vol.2 on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes etc. It is certainly worth your time. If you have any suggestions regarding more albums, I would be more than happy to share my thoughts and opinions on here. Find me @Mitchell Lakin on Facebook if you’d like to share thoughts or recommendations.