So for the past seven years or so, Grand Champeen’s been churning out quality rock that overtly suggested an idol worship of the 80’s Minneapolis scene (specifically early Soul Asylum, Husker Du and The Replacements). On the band’s last disc, The One That Brought You, a sprinkling of tendencies towards bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf made for a phenomenal garage-tinged listening experience.
Four years later, Grand Champeen’s back with Dial ‘T’ for This, which, as a whole, takes a few decidedly uncharacteristic musical turns towards the fuzzed out pop of bands like Sloan and The Posies. The opening sub-minute burst of “What It Beats” is a great indicator of the disc, as a quick blast of the ‘expected’ Champeen drops away to a lilting segment of piano, vocals and synth bedding. The blissful “Cities on the Plain” is all clean chords and keyboard sheen, while “Gonna Be the Death of Me” forgoes the usual guitars for piano and pedal steel (albeit in a pop structure). “Different Sort of Story” takes the band’s previous fare and cleans it up, trading barroom hysterics for pop studio sensibilities (tossing in some mean solo riffing along the way).
That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of the old Grand Champeen along the way. “Wounded Eye” is a marvelous little jangle set with a driving rhythm and two absolutely killer guitars that ring back and forth during the verses. There’s a bit of yelling. The chorus comes to a head with a bit of guitar crunch and repeated sets of killer layered vocals on the lyric, “Don’t litter my life with your love.” On “Rottweiler Hair,” the band REALLY harkens back to the Soul Asylum worship to spectacular effect, as the restrained rocker is easily a highlight of the album. The fuzzy throb of foot-stompers “Can I See You Again?” and “To The Ides” (with its awesome ‘anti-guitar solo’ wrangling) also serve notice that this isn’t necessarily a new, permanently shiny Grand Champeen – the old blood is still alive and pumping through this band, even though some of the new material sounds like it’s taken a bit of a bath, in a way.
Despite what initially feels like a radical departure, multiple listens of Dial ‘T’ for This prove that despite a little (a lot) of cleaning up in spots, this new, slightly shinier Grand Champeen sound is still as refreshing and intense as the old standard. Recommended for guitar pop aficionados.