On Grand Lake’s MySpace page, the band describes its music genre as “melodramatic.” With the languid, dreamy sound of the first track on Blood Sea Dream, it’s anything but. “It Takes A Horse To Light a House” is melodramatic in its title, but acts like a lush welcoming mat into what turns out to be a potentially inspiring album — if you could figure out where it was going.

There are a lot of things right about Blood. The 12 tracks by gay founder Caleb Nichols and company range from ethereal to distorted numbers with a whole lot going on in between. The quartet delivers a beautiful ballad with “Our Divorce”  that is worthy of repeat listens. Nichols then offers insight to his demons with “My Father is a Forest Full of Trees,” which details his hopes to confront his inmate dad. Perhaps it is aural voyeurism, but also striking to hear those words out loud.

But then Grand Lake derails into “WTF” territory. The band is easily in the avant rock vein, but when it jars the listener out of one experience and juts them into the opposite throughout the album, it drops any emotional attachment the listener could (and should) have.

After the beautiful opener, which sets a quieter tone, second track “Louise (I Live In a Fantasy)” ventures into alt-rock. For the most part, the shift was acceptable … until it devolves into Nichols shouting and repeating his lyrics, beating my ears into submission.

“Oedipus Hex (Hwy 1 North)” plays with a slightly higher tempo and stronger pop flavor, but then the weird  “Threnody For FA Mesmer” follows which is basically the musical equivalent of the prolonged Emergency Broadcast System sound.

In the final track, “Why Do You Lie To Me (Faggot Blues),” begins slowly like “Horse,” but builds into a screeching angry dirge. Nichols sings about a relationship declaring I’ll be true to you / If you are true to me following it up with the title question, although I’m never sure what the parenthetical title means — and Grand Lake likes them some parentheses!

These bumps start to outnumber the better parts of the album. Nichols and Grand Lake give texture to the realm of gay-created music, but right now, it’s still rough.

— Rich Lopez

Two and a half stars.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.