Grand National: A Drink And A Quick Decision

Grand National's sophomore release, On A Drink And A Quick Decision , doesn't wholly depart from Kicking The National Habit —why would it, given the multiple strengths of the coming-out?—though it does announce some significant differences. The good news is that Lawrence ‘La' Rudd and Rupert Lyddon perpetuate the debut's formula—polished songwriting and suave vocalizing wrapped in meticulously crafted arrangements and served up with infectious energy—but generally shake off the major influence that dogged the debut's steps: The Police. If the new album falters at all, it's in not including anything that quite matches the debut's trio of classics: “Drink to Moving On,” “Playing in the Distance,” and “Talk Amongst Yourselves.” Though a consistently solid collection and thoroughly credible follow-up, nothing on On A Drink And A Quick Decision is quite as instantly gripping as those three. Having said that, some songs do come close, such as the pumping openers, “Reason to Hide In” and “Weird Ideas at Work,” both of them exuberant electro-pop packed with stately piano melodies, soaring vocals, and percussive thrust. The group's “Old Man” cover is decent enough, though its appeal lies in Neil Young's song more than Grand National's rendering, while raucous rockers like “New Space to Throw” and “Close Approximation” hark back to the debut in spirit and style.

Some hint of The Police is audible in “Animal Sounds” (the drumming, specifically) and ska and reggae influences surface in “Going To Switch the Lights On,” but songs like “By the Time I Get Home There Won't Be Much of a Place for Me” and “Cut By the Brakes” make clear that the new album has more in common with the breathy electro synth-pop of The Junior Boys than The Police. Interestingly, too, the final two songs, “Pack All the Things You Need” and “Part of a Corner” are reminiscent of Mellon Collie-era Smashing Pumpkins in gentle ballad mode, with Billy Corgan's snarl replaced by Rudd's less extreme vocal stylings. Derivative in subtly different ways from the debut, On A Drink And A Quick Decision nonetheless remains a fresh and uniformly accomplished collection.

October 2007