David Grubbs

Album Title: A Guess At The Riddle
Release Date: June 15, 2004
Genre: Indie Rock
For a guy who wallowed for years in the goo goo muck of Chicago's experimental underground, David Grubbs sure does sound… uh, rootsy on his latest effort A Guess At The Riddle. Maybe we can chalk this one up to his semi-virginal NYC digs or maybe he's reached his Carlsberg years. Either way, this disc is a #1 corker—put that in your coppers! For the uninitiated, Grubbs has played with some of the crĖme de la crĖme of indie rock royalty: Will Oldham, the Red Krayola, Squirrel Bait and Gastr del Sol to name but a-four. However, between the buttons, he managed to squeeze in a number of solo efforts that allowed him to take the reigns and spew forth at will. Riddle showcases Grubbs' prowess as something of an anti-folkie with folk leanings, if that makes sense. Listening to mid-tempo numbers like "Knight Errant" and "Wave Generators", I found myself trying to peel back the layers in search of avant-weirdness or at very least, some naughty language. But no, Grubbs keeps things on the straight and narrow, and comes out of the affair with a guitar pick in one hand and a calloused thumb print in the other. It's not until electro-freak Matmos shows up on "You'll Never Tame Me" do the proceedings veer left. Atop a series of beeps and bloops, Grubbs ventures into Van Morrison territory with a nard-y soliloquy about something or other. The headtrip spills over into the piano dissonance of "Your Neck in the Woods" before righting itself with "One Way Out of the Maze", a great little moff-tempo rocker bathed in some classic indie guitar fuzz. Grubbs doesn't break any new ground with A Guess At The Riddle but that's the beauty of it. This Riddle doesn't stone you with some smart-ass punchline. Rather, it's content to offer just a generous helping of ace guitar playing, plantiff vocals and a whole lot of heart. You can't play the weirdo all the time, y'know?

Writer: Cameron Gordon

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