Guided By Voices
Robert Pollard called time on his Guided By Voices vehicle a decade ago – and then just a few years ago the band reformed, did the reunion-tour thing and in the last couple of years has pumped out around a half-dozen albums – and Pollard released this wee gem too – so no fucking around whatsoever. Or loads of fucking around, depending on how you look at – and listen to – GBV albums I guess…
But it’s clear that Pollard is now running a Mark E. Smith policy completely – GBV is whoever he says, him and your fucking granny on bongos if he wants. Guided By Voices’ recent albums and tour have been all about the reformation of “the classic line-up” but that’s been splintering. Again. So, yeah, this is either the last album – or just the last until the next. And I’ve never even tried to keep up with the band – there are probably three more since this for all I know. I do know that I quite liked Class Clown Spots A UFO but this is better – this is murky and messy and charming and disarming, the way a good Guided By Voices record always was, and nearly the way a great one was too. Okay, it doesn’t quite have the million brilliant melodies inside 30 songs within an hour, but it does have liberal lifts of pop classics (The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows reinterpreted as something the Pixies could no longer offer, Jupiter Spin) and there are a small handful of alternative-universe pop gems here too, Record Level Love with its Byrds-ian chime, Difficult Outburst and Breakthrough with its Bob Mould-aping, and the title-line referencing Zero Elasticity.
What I think most when I listen to this album – apart from memories of a half-dozen really great GBV albums that I know about – is that this feels like some strange crystallisation process around The Who’s great but lesser known material; as if Pollard and chums have broken down one- and two-minute chunks of The Who’s best non-hits and baked them in much the same way that Neil Young and his 1973/4 gang made marijuana into honey slides.
Yes, it’s a set of musical honey slides. Another one. And there’ll be more – one way or another. Pollard can’t stop. Won’t stop. He was refreshing his musical browser long before the internet was even a thing, now he’s showing no signs of slowing down. And almost no signs of aging. And when he does sound tired – A Bird With No Name – you know it’s on purpose. Just another weird little snippet, less a song than the pieced together shards of the broken memory of a tune; well, none of this is his or the band’s finest work but there are some gorgeous bits – like Shine (Tomahawk Breath) and Vote For Me Dummy. And Tobin Sprout’s on form too. When Pollard allows him to be.