One of 1999’s most disappointing developments was the disappearance of L.A. drama-rock purveyors Grant Lee Buffalo, the missing link between Roxy Music’s romantic flights of fancy and The Band’s understated tone portraits. Singer/guitarist Grant Lee Phillips’ first solo outing possesses a miniaturized, stripped-down sound that could pass for a latter-day collection of GLB home demos.
It’s intriguing to consider how these nine tracks would sound given the fully-blown Buffalo treatment. There are echoes of GLB’s trademark sonic cinematography on the vibe-punctuated “Heavenly”, while the honky-tonk key-plinking of “You’re A Pony” hearkens back to the band’s Mighty Joe Moon-era tendency to place still-life essays in grander, more embellished settings.
Flying above all this is Phillips’ frozen-breath tenor, which lends immediacy to even the album’s more lightweight material such as “Squint” and “Lonesome Serenade” (both examples of how Phillips’ gifts are capable of elevating songs that aren’t quite up to his standards). By the time he closes with the Catholic sensibilities of “St. Expedite”, Grant Lee has thrown a ray of hope in the direction of the Buffalo faithful.