Grape-A-Don and Lord Grunge are Grand Buffet, a self-described “American rap group” from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are white, and a MiniDisc player serves as their backing band. For many, that’s reason enough to stop reading. But open your mind: This is a seriously slept-on act from a seriously slept-on town.
Ostensibly, Grand Buffet is hip-hop. Lord Grunge and Grape-A-Don rap over beats. Really, though, the group is an amalgamation of all the possible influences a person who grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s could have. Huey Lewis, Ice Cube, Nelson and Slayer are equal in stature to these guys, and it’s all filtered into the band’s own sound: an alliance of squiggly electro beats, unidentifiable samples and non-sequitur-laden lyrics that serve as absurdist comedy and social commentary, coming from the perspective of prodigal children who spend their time eating junk food in a secret tree house.
Five Years of Fireworks is specifically designed as the neophyte’s introduction to the group. The duo has built a small but rabid cult following over the past half-decade, touring relentlessly (most recently with Magnolia Electric Co.) and self-releasing its debut full-length, Sparkle Classic (2000), in addition to three EPs collectively referred to as the Pittsburgh Trilogy. These discs have been hard to come by. Five Years of Fireworks compiles twelve remastered tracks from those records (and one new track) in addition to a career-spanning DVD of live performances.
Tracks such as “Americus (Religious Right Rock)” typify the Grand Buffet sound. Here, amidst a landscape of cartoon-ish sound effects and often nonsensical lyrics, the duo positions itself as a righteous American savior in a world of injustice. “We’re coming to save you from those who enslave you,” the emcees exclaim, moments after bragging about owning “a shirt made by a little girl’s hands, in a little warehouse on a little island” and positing that abortion “is pretty fucked up./ If you don’t want a kid, then don’t be a slut.” On the bouncy “Oh My God You’re Weird,” Grape-A-Don stops the proceedings midway through to proclaim “A lot of people … are ragging on the president. You think you could do his job? Show some fucking respect.”
On songs such as these, Grand Buffet subverts the shrill, self-righteous anger of frequent tourmate Sage Francis, slyly taking the other side of the argument in order to highlight its absurdity — and to fuck with people. Much like grunge-era cult icons the Frogs, who wrote impossibly catchy songs about nun-rape and slavery, these guys are dead set against taking themselves too seriously, an instinct that is coupled with an almost pathological need to sabotage their own marketability (the album’s catchiest song — an ‘80s-influenced call to the dance floor — is called “Murderfuck”).
And then there’s the live show, in which self-deprecating hype-man Lord Grunge plays the perfect foil to Grape-A-Don, the detached, impenetrable speaker of the truth. The two interact on an almost supernatural wavelength, improvising bits of between-song banter as if they shared the same brain. Watch the DVD to see for yourself. Then go see them live.
“You’re on Fire” (Sparkle Classic) (MP3)
"Murderfuck" (Cigarette Beach EP) (MP3)