Tag Archives: Guided By Voices

Celebrate No Shave November With “Let It Beard”

November is nearly over, where has all the time gone? This time of year the days grow short and facial hair grows long as hipsters/woodsmen all over the world celebrate the manly majesty that is No Shave November. I myself always grow a bushy beard this time of year, mostly to catch snow and to feel virile. If No Shave November had an anthem, the Boston Spaceship’s “Let It Beard” would definitely be it.

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Boston Spaceships was a side project featuring Robert Pollard and Chris Slusarenko of Guided By Voices and John Moen of The Decemberists. The band put out a few (really great) records before closing up shop in 2011 with LET IT BEARD. The title track is a great gateway to Pollard’s brand of sloppy indie freak-rock. The song features the obvious rhyme of “beard” and “weird” but is otherwise fantastic.

So before the drains of the world are clogged with the sad remains of Movember, let your furry freak flag fly…and let it beard.

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(Un) Joining A Fan Club

At the end of last month I left the Guided By Voices fan group on Facebook after I realized I’m not really a fan. Oh, I love GBV and still regard them as one of my all-time favorite bands, but I’m not a “fan.” The term “fan” is short for “fanatic,” something I only came to realize on August 24th when I woke up and checked the band’s Facebook group. The night before the group had played a live-streamed concert at New Jersey’s famed Stone Pony club. I haven’t seen the footage, but everyone online was chatting about how incredibly drunk/out-of-control lead singer Robert Pollard got as the night progressed.

"How's my drinking?"

“How’s my drinking?”

Guided By Voices is a phenomenal indie-rock band that rides the bizarre line between power-pop and prog rock. They’re known for short, incredibly catchy hooks. But the band is also just as famous for their incredibly drunken live shows. I’ve seen the band four times; twice the band was so drunk it ruined the show. The first time I saw the band was the best, and that was because they drank only a handful of Miller Lites. In recent years, the band has taken to drinking from bottles of tequila and Crown Royal. It’s mostly a shtick, Pollard take a nip and then passes it to the crowd. When I last saw the band live in June, I was relieved that the band was taking it easy as far as the drinking was concerned.

Then the show in August at the Stone Pony happened. Fans on the Facebook group page were clearly divided the morning after the show: some were horrified by how drunk Pollard had gotten, while everyone else seemed to pile on those concerned people and tell them it was “none of their business.” Pollard’s wife even jumped into the fray, defending her husband’s health and state of mind. I was shocked at how angry the thread became, after all everyone in the group likes GBV’s music. I felt like all the comments of concern were valid and made in a respectful way. And yet, everyone who dared ask if Pollard should drink that much was attacked and vilified. The comments defending Pollard’s drunken behavior came from people with really old looking profile pictures, so I knew these weren’t dunder-headed frat boys. Clearly some (but not all) of these people had substance abuse issues themselves. Perhaps that was why the energy of the Stone Pony thread became so poisonous. I love GBV, but so much that it degrades my common sense. And that was when it hit me: I’m not a fanatic.

I have worried for some time that Pollard’s drinking was due, in part, because of fan expectation. The joy of going to see a live GBV show has twisted into a sickening mix of music and watching Pollard get lit. Could we all be enabling a guy to essentially kill himself? Worse yet, were we guilty of killing the goose that laid the golden pop song? I don’t know Robert Pollard personally, so my desire for him to go on living is pretty selfish—I just want him to keep making albums. Death by booze is both a rock cliché and a terrible thing for fans to thrust upon an artist. Pollard is an adult, older than myself by several decades, so what he chooses to do to with his mind and body is up to him. I can let Bob “be Bob,” but I discovered I couldn’t take part in the online GBV fan community. I’m not a fan in the truest sense of the word—I’m not a fanatic. I’m still able to think for myself and form my own opinions. I love GBV but I can still view them objectively, both as musicians and as regular people. Robert Pollard is not an infallible pop demigod (Pop Zeus, if you will); he’s flesh and blood. I can’t make Pollard stop drinking, but I can remove my voice from the chorus of people online chanting, “Chug! Chug! Chug!”

The older I get, the less fanatical I am when it comes to musicians and authors. I respect a lot of bands, but I no longer feel the need to (angrily) defend the actions of people I’ve never met simply because I like their albums or books. I’m taking a measure, adult approach to my appreciation of all art. I judge the work by itself and I don’t judge the (wo)man who made it at all. Every online fan group/webpage I’ve frequented seems to hold only two camps: people who hold their idols far too high and people who derive pleasure from antagonizing the first group. I don’t fall into either category. I’m not in anyone’s fan club.

 

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USE YOUR WEAPONS by Valley Lodge

Valley Lodge Band Use Your WeaponsValley lodge came to my attention last week via podcaster Dave Slusher.  Prior to that, I’d never heard of the band but was quickly impressed with their song “Go.” I looked them up online, and it turns out Valley Lodge has a pretty impressive pedigree. The band formed in 2005 and features members from such diverse acts as Satanicide, Sense Field, Sons of Elvis, Cobra Verde, and Walk Mink.  The Cobra Verde connection really piqued my interested because that’s a band that has ties to Guided By Voices, one of my all-time favorite bands.  So how had they escaped my Sauron-like gaze for so long?  Well Valley Lodge, like most power-poppers today, is more famous in Japan than they are here in the States.

I love a really catchy, stupidly simple song.  For me that’s the essence of power-pop: taking something pretty basic and making it infectious.  Valley Lodge has crafted one heck of an earworm with their song “Go.”  It’s goofy but incredibly catchy and I’ve been unable to go a day without listening to it at least once this past week.  Once I got over the initial sugar rush of “Go,” I decided to check out the rest of the band’s latest album.  Would the rest of USE YOUR WEAPONS manage to live up to that first song?  Being a “glass half empty” guy, I was certain the rest of the album would be downhill after such a stellar opening track.

Thankfully I was wrong, USE YOUR WEAPONS is a solid album.  Less syrupy than you’d expect after hearing “Go,” USE YOUR WEAPONS pays tribute to British invasion-era pop but with a dash of snarky-grit.  The band compares favorably to California rockers TSAR, who also inject a whole lotta fun into their hooky, sometimes-dark songs.  Valley Lodge, like all great power-pop bands, owes a lot to Big Star whose influence can be felt throughout the record, especially on “Make Up Your Mind.”

Lead singer Dave Hill is a comedian as well as writer/blogger, so it’s unsurprising that Valley Lodge’s songs are funny, but don’t mistake the mistake of writing the band off as a joke—these songs seriously rock.  Even though USE YOUR WEAPONS is fun, there’s a darkness peaking out from the corners on a few of the albums tracks, especially on “Pretty Thing” and “Waiting in the Rain.”

Not everything on USE YOUR WEAPONS is perfect; I didn’t care for the semi-grating bubblegum of “Gimmie Gimmie” which is a shame because it has some great guitar work.   I also think that the band’s sound feels only partially formed, and that the songs have a disjointed quality, as though they were cobbled together from a couple of different bands rather than one.  That said, I’m really glad I found this band and look forward to exploring their back catalogue.  I’d say if you were intrigued by “Go” you should definitely check out the rest of USE YOUR WEAPONS.

A fun throwback, I’d definitely recommend Valley Lodge’s USE YOUR WEAPONS for fans of Big Star, The Raspberries, and Fountains of Wayne.

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My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Why have end of year lists have grown in popularity over the past 10 years? What does it say about us as a species that we clamor for and around arbitrary lists created by people we don’t know? My own personal theory is that the popularity of end of year lists serves two functions:

1. Validation. Obviously we like having someone tell us that our opinions are the right ones, and seeing our favorite things on someone else’s end of year list does that. It’s comforting to know that we agree with others but it’s even more comforting when that other is a critic of stature like David Wild or Roger Ebert.

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2. Facilitating our laziness. Why go out into the world looking for the best music, books, films, or art when someone in a black turtleneck can do all the heavy lifting for us? End of year lists distill a year’s worth of media into an easy to consume morsel. I’ve met people who base all their film watching on top critics end of year lists.

I’m guilty of both: I like looking at end of year lists to see my own personal tastes validated AND I like to use them to discover things I was too lazy to find on my own. I don’t think there’s anything evil or wrong about end of year lists, but they do tend to get out of hand this time of year. I think reading end of year lists are an okay use of your time…but I think making one of your own is a far better way to kill a few hours.

Why? Well, I think a great end of year list functions as a kind of yearbook. When I sat down to write my Top 10 Albums of 2012 list I started to simply list all the albums that really knocked my socks off this year. But then I started to consider things like “Am I still listening to these albums?” and “Do I see myself still thinking about/revisiting these albums in future years?” That made things a little more difficult, which I rather liked (I always do fancy a challenge).

So once I had my albums that moved me (or whatever) and then removed the ones I wasn’t still listening to, I found I had a much shorter list. I took that list and compared it to my blog for the past 12 months, chiefly–how many of these albums did I get around to writing about? What did I say? In the case of one album in particular, I found that I wrote about it A LOT. I factored that in when arranging my list from #10 to #1.

What was the most difficult part of making this list? Figuring out what actually came out in 2012 and what came out in 2011 that I only discovered this year. There were a TON of really great records that came out at the end of last year that I sadly only discovered this year—meaning they could not appear on my list. The record I most wanted to put on my list was Metronomy’s THE ENGLISH RIVIERA. That was probably the album I enjoyed the most this summer, but wouldn’t ya know it? It came out last year. I ran into a lot of that while making this list.

Please read this list, compare it to your own personal tastes (feel slightly validated) and then use it to lazily fill-in the parts of 2012 you overlooked or missed. Once you’ve done all that, jot down your own best of 2012 list, I think you’ll find it’s an interesting mental exercise and a fantastic way to reevaluated the music you’ve heard this year. Maybe even slip me copy of your list in the comments section below (I won’t judge).

With all that in mind, I present my Top 10 Albums of 2012:

10. HARMONICRAFT by Torche. Arguably the stupidest genre name of all-time is sludge metal. I don’t even know what that means. Torche’s album HARMONICRAFT is supposed to be sludge metal, but to me it just sounds like awesomely melodic hard rock. “Roaming” and “Kicking” are brilliant hard-rockers that sound like Jane’s Addiction meets The Cult. The album is dark and has a rough edge while still being catchy and fun. If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a hard rock that isn’t super-stoopid or endless banshee screaming: HARMONICRAFT strikes a nice balance between hard rock and pop. The guitar work is great, and so is that Brony-filled rainbow wonderland on the front of the album.

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9. COBRA JUICY by Black Moth Super Rainbow. I’m not really into electronica, but every now and then an artist comes out that manages to combine the best of rock/pop and dance music. Experimental music is really hard to like and even hard to recommend, but Black Moth Super Rainbow really pull it off on COBRA JUICY. It’s a neon-rave-up that’s got rock soul. Songs like “Windshield Smasher” and “Hairspray Heart” are what the second Sleigh Bells album should have sounded like: aggressively noisy yet super-groovy. Worth noting, this one was waaay off my radar, but was pointed out to me by my super-cool friend over at TAKEN BY SOUND, which is a really cool indie-rock music blog.

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8. WRECKING BALL by Bruce Springsteen. I know, I’m just as surprised as you are that Bruce Springsteen is on this list. I was listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Little Steven (who is more than a little biased, being in the E-Street Band) talked up the record and played “Easy Money.” Before I could dismiss WRECKING BALL outright, I heard “Easy Money” and became instantly hooked. The whole album has a very electric-folk/Old-Timey feel to it. WRECKING BALL is Springsteen’s recession album, which while not much fun, does provide an excellent palette for a rough and tumble artist like The Boss. “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Death To My Hometown” are great, hardscrabble songs that could work for The Great Depression or the late 2010’s. Through it all, Springsteen remains a symbol of art nourishing us through the hardest of times. These are the times when a bard of his stature is most desperately needed. He didn’t disappoint.

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7. SLOW DAZE by Blonde Summer. Technically these 5 songs are an EP and not an LP, but after listening to SLOW DAZE on virtual infinite repeat this summer: I’m promoting it to full LP status. Blonde Summer’s amazingly breezy, super-fun album reminded me what it feels like to be young and just enjoying the warmth of summer: and that was just the title track. The rest of SLOW DAZE is top-notch indie-rock that’s fun (“Robots on Command”) and heartfelt (“Walking in Space”). Minimal and echo-y, SLOW DAZE is like a short romp with an incredible lover—it doesn’t last very long, but the warm glow it gives you lasts and lasts. Hell, I’m still tingling from the noise-rock of “December,” and it’s actually December now. SLOW DAZE owned my summer and has made me super-eager to see what these guys do next. But for now, we’ll always have this summer.

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6. LONERISM by Tame Impala. Pound for pound, LONERISM has more cosmic-freak-out-otherness than any other album on this list. If you’ve ever wanted to get high without drugs, grab a pair of headphones and take this album into a dark room. Close your eyes and prepare to go on adventure. Imagine Oasis and The Flaming Lips doing a shit ton of LSD and then merging into one band: that’s LONERISM. “Endors Toi” and “Elephant” shatter your mind and then blow away the pieces. I really liked BEARDS, WIVES, DENIM by Pond, which is essentially Tame Impala, but overall I think LONERISM is the stronger, more accessible record. But don’t take my word for it: go sit in the dark tonight with this album.

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5. CLASS CLOWN SPOTS A UFO by Guided By Voices. One of my all-time favorite bands came back, and they came back in a big way this year. Not only did the original GBV line up return to tour, they released not one…not two…but three incredible records. When was the last time a band came back after disbanding and put out ONE good album? Exactly. Robert Pollard is a rock ‘n roll Jesus (sorry Kid Rock). Picking which of the three albums to put on this list was hard, but also kinda easy: of all their 2012 records, this is the one I rock out to the most. The title track is probably the greatest GBV “single” in a decade. “Keep It In Motion” and “Forever Until It Breaks” are icing on the cake. All GBV albums have short, micro-songs that many people dismiss, but CLASS CLOWN SPOTS A UFO has the best short Pollard nuggets I’ve heard in a long time (“Roll of the Dice, Kick in the Head”). And don’t get me started on the awesome, Who-like “Billy Wire.” Okay, I’ll get started on it: “Billy Wire” fucking rocks my socks and makes me feel like I’m a badass Mod seeing a super young/virile Who tear up a small English nighclub. Long live GBV.

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4. MAJOR by Fang Island. Fang Island does what Torche does in that, they offer up heavy riffs with strong melodies. The difference is that Fang Island is more indie rock than mosh pit. “Sisterly” is so hard-charging but at the same time sweet. I don’t mean “Dude that’s sweet,” I mean little kitten hanging on a clothesline sweet. Fang Island are so cool they don’t care what you think of their earnestness. These guys are serious musicians, too. Even if you don’t usually go for instrumental rock, you’ll dig their instrumental “Dooney Rock.” It’s an interesting, tasteful, non-wankfest that will win over even the most jaded music fan. Fang Island is equally heavy and gentle; it’s hard indie rock for sensitive hearts.

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3. LOVE THIS GIANT by David Byrne & St. Vincent. Who knew that teaming up the dude from Talking Heads and that weird indie-chick St. Vincent would yield such a good harvest? The bombastic lead track “Who” is real stunner, but it’s the one-two-punch of two unlikely freaks getting together and letting their freak flags fly that elevates LOVE THIS GIANT beyond “Who.” This is Byrne’s strongest post-Talking Heads work, hands down. It wasn’t that I’d written him off so much as I just didn’t bother to really think too much about David Byrne at all. LOVE THIS GIANT re-establishes Byrne as a relevant artist with a lot more to say. I wasn’t super familiar with St. Vincent prior to LOVE THIS GIANT, but I’m learning. That she’s half his age and still manages to hold her own in the presence of such a legend is no small feat. I still get chills every time I hear “Optimist.” So, in summary: the triumphant return of one of rocks most unlikely superstars plus a rising indie-songstress plus crazy horns equals LOVE THIS GIANT. It’s a record that you put on and feel refreshed, challenged, and puzzled by.

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2. A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH by Van Halen. Nobody thought that a new Van Halen album was going to be a dismal failure more than me. Go back and check the endless jaded, negative, anti-Wolfgang posts. I’m a big man, I can admit when I’m wrong. Sure, “Tattoo” fucking sucks. It’s the worst song on the album and it’s slightly embarrassing…but everything else on A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH works. Maybe the songs are recycled from decades long since past, but so what? They were still re-worked and recorded by the Van Halen of today, and they don’t disappoint. It’s like it’s 1984 all over again: big choruses, crazy solos, thumpin’ drums, super-bravdo, etc. Van Halen don’t reinvent the wheel so much as get it rolling again, and thank God…because rock was starting to get so dismally boring. “Blood and Fire” recalls the pure adrenaline of “Panama.” “You and Your Blues” is like an update of “Unchained.” Van Halen shouldn’t work in 2012, but somehow they do. My favorite track, the one that gets the most play at the gym is the stupidest: the frivolous “Stay Frosty.” Why does “Stay Frosty” continue to get played? Probably because it’s a straight up rocker that’s fun and funny. While I was busy being jaded, Van Halen was busy partying. At a certain point, it’s easier to just give-in and love them. So you win guys, A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH rules.

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1. PSYCHEDELIC PILL by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I am completely and utterly in awe of this album. Long, meandering, and epic, PSYCHEDELIC PILL was the one album this year that could have been released in 1968 or 1970 not no one would have blinked. Not because it sounds like it’s from that period in time, PSYCHEDELIC PILL is truly a record out of time: intensely personal and yet also very distant and spacy. This is a folk record. This is a jam-band record. This is a singer-songwriter album created by a full band. “Walk Like A Giant” is the work of an incredibly powerful wizard, hurling lightening bolts of rock. I had no idea Neil Young still had it in him to create such a potent work of pure genius. This doesn’t even sound like a comeback it sounds like he never left. Those who scoff at the albums longer cuts, of which there are a few, are missing the point. Like I said in my original review: “the album opens with “Drifting Back,” a 27 minute-long song that’s acts as a kind of sonic air lock, decompressing the listener into the album’s atmosphere. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be that’s a time machine. I like that better because PSYCHEDELIC PILL sounds like lost 1970’s record, with the lengthy “Drifting Back” serving as a trippy time tunnel to the past.” The free flowing extended jams are the destination, not the journey. PSYCHEDELIC PILL is an intricate album that I predict will endure as a kind of sonic evergreen, which will be studied and appreciated for decades to come. Do yourself a favor and check out this once-in-a-generation masterpiece.

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“So High” by Guided By Voices

Have you ever fallen deeply in love with a song?  I think we all have at some point in our lives.  I’ve been head-over heels in love with “So High” by Guided By Voices for months now.  It’s not on any of their albums, but rather was released as a B-side to the “Doughnut For A Snowman” single.  I found it one day while trolling around on Spotify, as I often do to kill time.

GBV is one of my all-time favorite bands, so it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that I feel so strongly about one of their songs…but my love for“So High” feels strange because the song is less than one minute long.  If you know anything about lead singer/songwriter Robert Pollard, you know that length is not one of his strengths.  His tunes, which are catchy as hell, are nearly always tragically too short.  In fact, the rather tossed off, unfinished nature of the band’s songs is probably the #1 reason they’re not a household name.

“So High” indeed.

The A-side of the single, “Doughnut For A Snowman,” appears on the band’s first comeback album LET’S GO EAT THE FACTORY, which came out earlier this year (side note: can you believe has put out 3 awesome albums this year?).  That song begins with a gradual fade-in of what is actually the tail end of “So High.”   For whatever reason, “So High” didn’t make it onto the album.  The song seems to be related to “Doughnut For A Snowman,” so why was it left off the record? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Anyway, maybe it’s my love of cast-off, discarded things, but strange fact that a (very) small part of the song is on the record really piqued my interest.  So I listened to “So High” probably 10 times in a row, and before I realized it: I was in love with it.  The song has a cozy, campfire feel.  I love the cheap, plastic recorder/flute in the song, I think it’s adorable.

The lyrics, while nonsensical are also very charming and full of warmth.  As you’re hearing it, the song seems to be about something, something really philosophical and important.  But it’s not.  Which is pretty funny because that’s kinda what it’s like to actually be so high.

Dashed off in under a minute, Pollard’s “So High” is like a short hug from a long lost friend I never knew I always missed.   The song is like roasting marshmallows on the banks of a glow-in-the-dark lake with your best friend while John Lennon drunkenly plays you an unfinished Beatles song.  It’s chocolate cake on the beach.  It’s probably my favorite song of 2012.  It’s 43-seconds long.

Please take a listen:

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Your Next Favorite Band: Guided By Voices

It was the summer of 2001 when I discovered Guided By Voices.  I had just graduated high school and was working as a cashier at a drugstore.  The job was pretty lousy, with even lousier piped-in music to add insult to injury.  Anyway, the one perk was the magazine rack.  Every day I’d take my break in the employee lounge and read a magazine.  At the time REVOLVER magazine was a real rock magazine and not the rag it’s unfortunately become–anyway I was leafing through an issue with REVOLVER that had a feature on a guy named Robert Pollard.  What I discovered  from reading the article was that Pollard was some kind of prolific songwriter and that his indie-band, Guided By Voices, was about to release it’s second “mainstream” album on a major label. It was a pretty standard article and it didn’t do much in the way of make me curious about Pollard or his band, until the very end.  At the end of the article, the author compared Guided By Voices sound as “The Who performing an arena-shaking rendition of The Beatles’ Nowhere Man.”

As a dyed in the wool  Beatlemaniac, I was intrigued to say the least.

That comparison launched a love affair with GBV and Pollard that goes beyond mere fandom.  Robert Pollard is not the greatest songwriter of all time. Guided By Voices is not the greatest band of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply love Guided By Voices, but it’s not just the music that makes them so special.  The band is a symbol for what it means to be an artist–I mean that in the broadest sense of the word, not just a musician but as a general creative force.  That the music is awesome  only cemented Pollard’s position as my personal rock hero.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  In order to talk about all of this you need to know a little bit about Pollard.

Calisthenics are an important part of the Guided By Voices experience.

Robert Pollard was a 4th grade school teacher in Dayton, Ohio.  He was on track for a pretty ordinary, average life but something was missing.  If you’re an artist and aren’t creating it causes all sorts of problems.  Pollard needed an outlet so he started jamming with friends on the weekend.  Pollard also liked to write very (very) short little songs.  Maybe “song” isn’t the right word, these were almost pieces of songs, snippets.  They were catchy as hell.  Using very primitive home recording gear (like a boombox with a cassette deck and microphone) Guided By Voices was formed and Pollard starting making albums.  The band became critical darlings in the mid-1990s and Pollard was able to quit his job as a teacher and became a full-time rock star.  The band went mainstream for two albums and were then promptly dropped when the band didn’t catch fire and sell millions of albums.

Now, that story probably makes Pollard a hero in the eyes of many, but it was what he did after being dropped that makes him MY hero: he kept making music.  Pollard made a LOT of music.  So much music that he started other bands, a solo career, and recorded GBV albums.  I know a lot of people say they’re prolific, but Robert Pollard is the real deal.  The closest mainstream person I think of who seems to be like Pollard is Jack White.  But whereas Jack White puts out an album or so every year, Pollard usually releases 3 to 4 albums a year (sometimes more).  He also designs his album’s artwork and writes poetry.  Being prolific makes him special, but he’s my hero because he never gives up.  If we all turned out backs on him I know he’d keep writing and recording albums because he’s an artist and that’s all he knows.  He could have done what most people do and give up, push aside childish things like making art, but he didn’t.  As someone who wishes he was a writer and not a office drone, Robert Pollard is my  hero.

But the music is good.  It’s really damn good.

Just like the REVOLVER writer pointed out years later, Guided By Voices sound a bit like The Who and other British Invasion-era rock bands from the 1960’s.  Pollard, born and raised in Ohio, even sings with a bit of a British accent.  However, GBV wasn’t an ordinary rock band playing ordinary rock songs. Pollard’s songwriting generally consists of taking his little song snippets and fusing them together.  A lot of it is very poetic and very catchy, some of it is just bizarre.  Pollard’s songwriting leads GBV to the precipice of art-rock and progressive (“prog”) rock.  In fact, I would say Guided By Voices often sound like The Who meets Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on occasion.  The songs are pretty much 89% hook and chorus.  A major criticism of Pollard and GBV is that the songs feel undercooked or too much like a snippet.  An argument could be made that Pollard and GBV never found massive success because he wrote 20,000 two minute songs instead of 14 killer 3-4 minute polished gems.  I can’t argue with this criticism completely, but I can’t dismiss Pollard’s genius either.  He’s written so many amazing songs that might not exist if he didn’t throw everything at the wall and then run away.

The aesthetic, in regards to recording, can also be criticized.  Back in the 1990’s people didn’t have a lot of options when it came to recording, being “lo-fi” was less a conscious artistic choice and more of a necessity.  Many long time GBV fans became hyper-critical when the band joined a major label and recorded in a proper studio.  I can listen to both era’s of GBV and appreciate it but I can definitely recommend that newbies start with the newer albums and work back to those prehistorically recorded classics.  Since being dropped from the major label TVT, Guided By Voices has adopted a nice balance of lo- and hi-fi sound.  As a true lover of the band I’m perfectly fine with this, but it’s still annoyingly cool to bitch about GBV not being homemade.

Robert Pollard knows that hydration is a key ingredient to successful rocking.

I keep talking about Robert Pollard because he really is Guided By Voices.  I read once that Pollard estimates over 100 different people have been in the band at one point or another.  I’m not sure how accurate that figure is but it seems accurate enough.  For a while guitarist Doug Gillard (from Cobra Verde) was an integral part of the band, but that partnership ended in 2004 when Pollard inexplicably shut GBV down.  He claimed that it was also his plan to stop recording when the band made a “perfect” album.  A lot can be said of 2004’s HALF SMILES OF THE DECOMPOSED but a perfect record it was not–and Pollard must have realized this because in 2010 he reformed the band.  Pollard  didn’t retire during the brief period when Guided By Voices was dormant, he recorded a shit ton of solo albums.  I am a pretty big fan and I can honestly say that I have not heard (or heard of) about 45% of Pollard’s output.  There are simply too many songs.  Too many records.  I haven’t even heard all of the Guided By Voices early stuff (most of which I’ve heard is a bit unlistenable).

You pretty much need to buy this. Right. Now. Don’t make Bob cast a spell on you.

In 2003 Matador Records did newbies a huge favor by releasing HUMAN AMUSEMENTS AT HOURLY RATES: THE BEST OF GUIDED BY VOICES.  They also released, at the same time, a pretty hearty boxset HARDCORE UFOS.  I guess the best place to start is the greatest hits compilation.  I don’t usually recommend that to people, but it’s the best way to dip your toes in the world of Robert Pollard.  From there I recommend you check out MAG EARWHIG! and UNIVERSAL TRUTHS AND CYCLES.  The former being the last album before going to a major label and the latter being the first one the band released after being dropped. The band’s major label albums are not terrible, they’re just a not the best place for newbies to start.  You have, in fact, probably already heard one Guided By Voices song and not even realized it: “Hold On Hope.”  The song comes from the Ric Ocasek (the weird dude from The Cars) produced album DO THE COLLAPSE.  The story goes Pollard did not want to do “Hold On Hope” but because he wanted to play ball with the record company (and get on the radio) he did it.  It’s not a terrible song, it’s a nice ballad.  Anyway, it’s been featured in a bunch of indie-minded TV shows and films (like SCRUBS).  It’s the kind of song a lot of bands would kill to have and it’s nowhere near as good as 99% of  GBV’s other songs.

Guided By Voices is a band I’m seriously passionate about.  On one hand the catchy, weird-ass songs delight me on a pure visceral-level but as an artist, I find I love and respect Pollard for chasing his dream and pursuing his own unique vision of  song and song-writing.

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GBV on CBS tonight

Guided By Voices one of my all-time favorite bands has reunited and released a new album! In celebration of this momentous event, David Letterman has kindly invited the band to perform this evening. GBV is one helluva live act.  I can honestly say that the two times I saw them were the greatest night(s) of my life.  Lead singer Robert Pollard is white-headed now but I’m sure he can still swing a microphone with the best of ’em.

So if you’re suffering from insomnia tonight why not watch Letterman? You could seriously do worse…I’m looking at you Jay Leno.

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