A Singer/Songwriter/Shredder You Should Know: Waldo Grade
May 17, 2018 | by Jocelyn Hoppa
Waldo Grade is the moniker for multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Braden Towne who hails from San Francisco. Towne has been in a number of local SF bands over the years, everything ranging from metal to Americana. Eventually the time came for him to set off making his own record, writing and recording songs from his kitchen table (or hall closet as he told me in a recent conversation), and emerging with a record where you’ll hear hints of Wilco, Pavement, Big Star, possibly some Badfinger. And just because Towne is making the kind of music he wants to hear doesn’t mean Eureka is some snoozer retread — quite the opposite. Eureka is infused with Towne's own hard-won experiences that showcase zeal and fury, love and loss, remembrance and gratitude, the basics of what make living and rock ’n’ roll so fucking great and worthwhile.
Aside from "Bob Nick" playing drums, and the fantastic outro track “Simple Son,” (which was written with friend Matt Tritto), Towne impressively plays every other instrument on the record — guitar, bass, other percussives, harmonica, keys, indeed probably other things. He uses the LP real estate here so purposefully the record never drags via careful and creative uses of his knack for instrumentation, bringing the listener around to lush, fully formed aural landscapes throughout. Taken from a sheer sound perspective, Eureka is rock album mastery by a mostly unknown musician outside of the Bay Area (for now), who finally laid all of his talents, and heart, on record.
For every rollicking tune here ("Please, Obsolete," "Eureka and the Money Mill," ) there are heart-rending ballads ("For Real"), straight rockers ("Captains of Industry"), as well as a psych/folk instrumental jam ("Petrolea") offering a delightful reprieve from some of the heavier lyrical material found on this record. On that note: While Towne has clear command of instrumentation, his instincts for crafting lyrical content is just as deft and obviously coming from someone well-versed in the written word. Take the seven-minute track "Side Two," in which Towne delivers the following lyrics with no intention of masking the suffering from which the sentiments surfaced: "Give it to me / Say it to me / All I want from you is the truth." It's a chilling, blunt moment on a record full of poetic prose and turns of phrases.
The other thing: Towne knows exactly when to tear apart all of the prevailing discontent by shredding it out on guitar, found in all the right places that beg for it, sealing the deal on Eureka as a proper rock album.
Waldo Grade's Eureka is self-released and can be found on Bandcamp. Get on this one, folks.