Sebastien Grainger’s Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains

I see a lot of promise in Sebastien Grainger.
However, seeing promise in an artist who has been around for some time is a bit troubling. And Grainger has been around for some time, probably most noted for being the drummer and singer for the now defunct noise-rock duo Death from Above 1979.
Still, Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains, a solo record almost entirely recorded on his own, sounds a bit amateurish. It only hints at his potential, when the audience knows he is already capable of much more.
It’s not the songs though. As negative as this review may have started off, it’s not the songs. The songs are great.
Grainger has proven himself an apt songwriter in multiple areas, including punk, power pop, fuzz-rock and dance. They all show up on the album in one form or another, and all are as good as the last.
His ear for melody is also great. “By Cover of Night (Fire Fight)” is one of the catchiest songs of the year and “(Are There) Ways to Come Home?” is up there as well. Even the 1:28 minute blast “Niagara” has a great melody.
I cannot emphasize enough that Grainger’s songwriting is top notch. That’s why it is so disheartening to listen to the album and not be blown away.
In the end, it’s the production and playing that holds this album back from being great.
The album would have sounded much better if Grainger had chosen to record the album with a full band who knew their way around their instruments. While he is obviously musically talented, he just doesn’t know how to play every instrument (and of all things, the drums sound the most amateurish. This perplexed me the most, since he was a fairly good drummer with DFA1979).
The production also leaves something to be desired. There is way too much fuzz and hiss, and it sounds as if it was intentionally made to sound lo-fi. There are very few records that scream for a big production with gloss and sheen (and some grime, mind you), but Grainger has made one. It needs to jump out at the listener. It’s holding him back, and I really hope the live experience restores a lot of what is missing on the album.
I can easily compare this album to any recording by the band Supergrass. Both have great songs, a keen ear for melody and always have a lot of energy.
In comparison, Grainger sounds like a poor man’s Supergrass, which he should not have to. With songs this good, they should scream for attention. Instead, they can easily fade into the background unless someone is paying attention.
The price scale: I rate albums more or less by price. Since a fair price for a CD at a store such as Best Buy is around $12.99, Sebastien Grainger’s Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains, I say, stands at a value of $9/$12.99.

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