Wednesday 5 January 2011

Clandestine Classic XI - I'm On Standby

The eleventh post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Today's offering is a 2004 single from Grandaddy entitled I'm On Standby. Now I don't know much about Grandaddy - as seems to be a theme with other clandestine classics, today's featured record is the only one I own by the artist in question. But don't let that put you off because there's much to like here, not least Jason Lytle's genuinely distinctive vocals and a hazy, shuffling, lo-fi backbeat. Principally though, it's the lyrics that made me buy this record, play it incessantly, shoe-horn it onto countless compilation tapes, and still mumble the words to myself even now.

The theme of being "on standby" is as contemporary now, in our gadget- and consumer-electronics-strewn life, as it was seven years ago on the single's release. The idea that a person, their life and emotions, could also be on standby seemed poignant to me. It still is. And maybe the fact that this was released at a time when so many aspects of my life felt resolutely on standby meant that it resonated even more. Take a look at these sample lyrics, and tell me honestly that there haven't been times when you could identify perfectly with them:

I'm on standby.
Out of order or sort of unaligned,
Powered down for redesign.
Bye bye.
I'm on standby.
According to the work order that you signed
I'll be down for some time.

Is it about suicide? Sorry to bring a downer, if so. I don't know, to be honest, but it's certainly about feeling stuck, static, out of sync/tune/time, going nowhere fast... and, I think, a beautiful song to boot. Either way, why not read the rest of the lyrics and make up your own mind about their meaning?

According to their entry on Wikipedia, Grandaddy called time in 2006, though frontman Jason soldiers on solo. As well as the old CD single, you can find today's clandestine classic on Grandaddy's album Sumday (sic), if you're so inclined. The less scrupulous amongst you may be interested in this, of which I, as ever, deny all knowledge. If you want to watch Grandaddy perform I'm On Standby live at Glastonbury, you can... and speaking of YouTube, here's the studio version of the song. Enjoy.

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