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David Grubbs, ‘An Optimist Notes the Dusk’ (Drag City)

SPIN iconBy: SPIN Staff // September 19, 2008

Is David Grubbs post-rock’s godfather (as founder of Bastro and Gastr del Sol) or a stuffy professor moonlighting on guitar (he now teaches at Brooklyn College)? It’s hard to tell on his first solo album since 2004’s A Guess at the Riddle, which maddeningly fluctuates between the cerebral and visceral. Bookish lyrics (referencing Ambrose Bierce and Thomas Merton) overshadow the otherwise fiery core of “Gethsemani Night” and “An Optimist Declines”; but Grubbs’ carefully measured guitar (with spates of trumpet and drums) seriously impresses when he lacerates empty space, as on the glowering finale “The Not-So-Distant.”

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