It’d be wrong to deny that Grandaddy’s breakup left a little hole in the indie-rock universe. That band’s love-hate relationship with California’s meth-addled middle resulted in some of the most gorgeously bittersweet anthems about impoverished white America since Woody Guthrie’s day. So if Jason Lytle proved with his solo album that Grandaddy goes on with or without its name or other members, where does that leave guitarist Jim Fairchild? On his second album as All Smiles, the now Chicago-based ax-man-turned-singer injects his old group’s subdued tunefulness with a little psych and vigor.
The best songs on Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go aren’t afraid to sprawl. The opener, “Maps To The Homes Of Former Foes,” sports some minor-chord melancholia à la Elliott Smith, but it also works up a healthy drone that eventually expands into a kaleidoscopic roil. Likewise, the late entry “Brother I Know My Way” whips the interplay between acoustic strums and electric chords into a woozy backdrop for ghostly choral bigness. The chugging, ELO-reminiscent epic “The Brightest Beyond” treads similar psychedelic ground, but it also displays this record’s prime weakness. The pop muscle that Fairchild flexes here—on the Weezer-checking “I Was Never The One” and the Wilco-esque “The Ones I Want To Live”—too often lands him in alt-rock blandness. All Smiles does make small gains in identity, but lost is the subtlety that saved Grandaddy from ever seeming vanilla.