Friday, September 11, 2020

THE CLUB IS OPEN... An Introduction

WELCOME to An Earful 'O Wax, the Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard; Song Documentation Database. Here, I attempt to provide a write-up accompanied by a numerical review (for what it's worth) of every song written, performed, or related to one of rock's most prolific songwriters; Robert Pollard.

If you have found yourself on this site, you probably know a bit of the story and history of the Dayton, OH band. If not, welcome! May this be your newest haven for a crash-course in the subject, and hopefully this can aid in your quest for the perfect mix tape.

This idea to delve into this project came to be in early 2012 while talking with a friend about the intricacies of the myriad of Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard LPs, EPs, side-projects, box-sets, 7'' singles, official bootlegs, and compilation tracks. I know as a true GBV fanatic, this conversation happens often. So I decided it was time to make my madness somewhat concrete!

The original sole purpose came about when I decided to try to log a rating to some of the more obscure Pollard related songs in my library for my own reference. How could I forget how good "I Am Decided" was off the top of my head? How was it that the closer, "Blue Shadow," off Pollard's side-project Keene Brothers' LP escaped my memory when thinking about the breadth of the catalog? Official documentation began to accumulate over a few months, and only grew from there. Once the wheels started turning, I found it increasingly difficult to operate the brakes. The determination to review every Robert Pollard related song was in full swing, scribbled in notebooks and sporadically typed out.

What presents itself on this site is just that; my quest to track down, consume (multiple times), and review (if only briefly), every song that came out of Dayton, OH's pop-psych mastermind, Robert Pollard. It's been a rough and bumpy road over many beers, research, and late night phone calls to friends on the matter.

SO, how do you read this and what is it? 
First off, every Robert Pollard related band/solo outing/side-project is divided into headers at the top of the page for quick reference.

The set-up of the free space does not provide for ample scroll-down-and-enjoy reading. I encourage all to click on the links above to track down each LP, EP, 7", and compilation to find said song, or to simply browse the nature of each beast.

Also, each LP is accompanied by a brief to somewhat-extended introduction into the release, garnished with facts and opinions. Treat them  as a short review. Treat them as garbage. Do as you will.

What is included?
Any and all Robert Pollard related material is included for mention and review on this site. That is, every Guided by Voices, Pollard solo outing, Pollard solo collaborations, or side-project. Several side-project bands are listed above in the same tab due to restrictions here, not importance, or lack thereof.

There are still plenty of off-shoots of the Pollard/GBV family tree; Tobin Sprout solo material, Doug Gillard solo LPs, Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde, fig. 4, Terrifying Experience, etc. While many of those releases are definitely worth tracking down, (especially Tobin Sprout's frequent and brilliant outings) I have not obtained all at this time.

Also, not EVERY single record is listed on this site. Some singles and box sets simply contained songs that had previously been released. I included each record, in which each song made its earliest appearance. If you'd like a complete discography of everything GBV related, check HERE.

In addition, there are a plethora of bootleg releases with alternate titles to track that were eventually released on the Suitcase box-sets. Also, there are seemingly endless unreleased instrumental outtakes, alternate bootleg takes, internet released demos, and unreleased live cover songs that have not been included. In time, they might see the light of day. Such is the case with Pollard's TWO "comedy" LPs of spoken word, Relaxation of the Asshole and Meet the King: Asshole 2. I've got 'em, just don't know where they fit in this puzzle, but maybe one day.

Additionally, as long as I breathe and maintain functional hearing, new releases will continue to be updated in the future. Please check back.

The ratings assigned numerically differs, in context, for each band.

It should go without saying, but a Guided by Voices perfect song rating does not always reflect the same as, say, a great Circus Devils song, decent Acid Ranch, etc. Two different recipes, two different results.

Also, it's a 1 to 5 system. Don't have a stroke that something didn't get 10.

And finally, LET IT BE KNOWN!:
It should go without saying that I am a fan. Not to dive too deep into the sappy end of the pool, Robert Pollard has been an even more enormous influence on me than I can really every say. Who else would do such an arguably stupid thing if not a fan? Nevertheless, what lies ahead may offend, enlighten, educate and shock some as I have given reviews to songs that some hold deep in the ribcage; wedding songs, the break-up tune, the perfect song for a funeral, your favorite drinking singalong melody, etc. So please know that every bad review still comes from a place that still gives even the slightest wink of admiration, and I mean no offense to the fellow listener in the following reviews of everything, and encourage an open discussion about said topics. Such is the way of the world, and shouldn't need mentioning. But it bares repeating when dealing with something as sacred to so many.

May Pollard continue to write, record, release. The army of the shambolic have spoken and, sorry mainstream press, he does NOT need an editor. What we want is what we get, and so forth.  And for the casual, or beginner, may this be both a guide and valuable lesson.  As Pollard has said, he relies on his Four "P's"; pop, punk, psych, and prog (which will be referenced throughout the site), in his song writing. May the best of those styles continue to rain down, for better or worse. One man's "Gold Star For Robot Boy" is another man's "I Can't Freeze Anymore" and vice versa. But hopefully you get the picture.  Read on, enjoy, and detest if you must. But remember, "Life is short, GBV is long."*

Additional thanks to the project goes to the following:  Jeff at Guided by Voices Database (, for his his helpful correspondence and for his stellar website of meticulous fanboy info. Kevin Oliver, for guiding me through a cerebral discussion of Suitcase 2 and its inconsistencies back in the day. Fid, for his enthusiasm, tri-state brotherly support, and providing me with a couple of hard-to-find GBV releases on loan while I was dead broke. Christopher Thomas Brown for talking GBV with me at length and for kind of kick starting this whole idea. And to K. Gogan, my best friend for encouraging me to finish and for helping edit a portion of this mess.

*- gbv

**all photos taken from the fabulous world of google search. If you have a problem with a photo being up here, say the word and I'll take it down. I honestly don't know how to credit you!

***background collage by Robert Pollard, entitled "Brought To You by Real Nice Scientist" 

Mirrored Aztec (2020)

       Mirrored Aztec

(2020, Guided by Voices Inc.)

When Pollard resurrected the name Guided by Voices in 2016 for his essentially solo effort Please Be Honest, I was skeptical. GBV had always been the moniker for the Uncle Bob goods, or at least, the guise of a fully fledged band. Pollard playing all the instruments himself and calling it GBV just didn't feel legitimate (this judged on a guy's merits who has a universe of fake band names cataloged in his brain, and more actual LP artwork from said fake bands in boxes in his basement). 

But thankfully, dusting off the GBV name brought us an actual band. And what a band it has been. With each LP, through warts and all, this solidified lineup of Kevin March, Bobby Bare Jr., Mark Shue, and Doug Gillard continue to churn out the usual Pollard pace at a remarkably high standard. This is also largely thanks in part to unspoken 6th member, engineer and live sound man Travis Harrison giving this era of GBV its own unique stadium sound at the everyman American lager consumed club level. 

Enter August 2020, and it's not the first time we've seen GBV during this tumultuous year. While in the can well before 2020,  February's Surrender Your Poppy Field both in moment and hindsight felt much like a product of the times. Released during the gloom of winter, the LP opens with Sara Zade-Pollard declaring "the high today is 20!," before spilling into an anarchic patchwork of cut and paste style rock songs of every conceivable style. Pollard sings "and now it's because of you, you got me thinking Rock and Roll won't always be around," as Covid-19 became reality, shutting down clubs, record stores, bars, society. "Woah Nelly" felt like a late album reminder of the eeriness that was the norm instead of a rehashed b-side. The un-GBV like dirge "Next Sea Level" felt like we were all left in the balance with no life raft; a country divided, a planet melting, directions to "shelter in place," from sea to sea, while some continue to scream to ignore it all.  

It's with all this in mind that GBVs 2nd LP of 2020 (of the proposed 3) couldn't have come at a better time. Hitting just before Labor Day, it's a stark end cap to the season. From its eye popping artwork (Pollard handing off his usual visual duties to artist Courtney Latta) to its lighter tone, the record feels like a proper brighter horizons GBV check-in in the middle of unbalanced uncertainty. A tightly packed collection of pop hooks and guitar wallop from Gillard and Bare, the band adds another bright spot in what is now clearly the greatest era of a "band" in their 34th year of recording. Mirrored Aztec makes a strong case as being a top tier contender in this renaissance period that thankfully appears to have no end in sight. 

With everything up in the air, it's another reminder that there is one constant you can continue to count on. 

Life is short, GBV is long. 

I Think I Had It. I Think I Have It Again- 3 Pollard, the king of opening tracks, takes his time here with a song that shines but not too brightly. In a measured attack, this opener is a mid-tempo tune that plants an earworm or two but doesn't steal the show. The opening guitar strums provoke the feeling of waking up to brush the early morning dew out of your eyes.  A quick rock-edging-out-sheer-pop tune; one with a solid backbone, setting up a record and a first side of showstoppers. 

Bunco Men- If you are a GBV nut then you might think this song sounds familiar, and yes, you'd be correct as the original appeared on the first Suitcase boxset. An outtake from UTBUTS (as the lyrics slyly suggest), this is a lost classic that got away. Here, in full band rendition, this song pops as a melancholy anthem with underlying hope. Pollard makes the slightly off-kilter hooks shine under big band production, resurrecting this old gem once left to wallow in obscurity. 

Citizens' Blitz- 5 When GBV nails that particular sweet spot of the post-punk slant, they usually hit it straight on. Angular, jarring, and cloaked in an industrial sport coat as it takes the dance floor. Similar in feel to "Sleepover Jack" off Half Smiles of the Decomposed, this may be an acquired taste track to some. Regardless, the song's really brought to life by Harrison's production. Pollard's hallucinatory bending vocals are fantastic in this oddly catchy winner. 

To Keep An Area- 5 "To Keep an Area" is such an easy shoe-in for classic GBV song that it seems unfair. It's basically anything a college kid with an acoustic guitar can come up with in the quad on a sunny day, but it's flaunted and catapulted into the stratosphere of heartstrings here. The slight off tempo endings to the verses, Gillard's emotive guitar bridge leads, and Pollard's incredible finish make this a returnable track of sheer unfettered warmth.

Easier Not Charming- Following "To Keep an Area," this is perhaps the best 1-2 punch on the record. And all at just a shade under a minute and half! Feeling like an Earthquake Glue/UTAC style pop nugget, the verses shift into infectiously simplistic mini choruses. It's the kind of pop song you don't realize has sunk its teeth into you and continues to bite until you find yourself humming, whistling, reminiscing at unexpected times during your daily routine. 

Please Don't Be Honest- 4 Kevin March and Gillard work out a jittery main opening as Pollard drops a perfectly droll lyric "Skeleton. Stick figure of myself." This song may be a skeletal pieced together demo (as further revealed in the Hot Freaks weekly releases) that was well deservedly beefed up by the band. Another wonder piece of Harrison and the GBV guys patchwork. It feels like the prize that got away from Surrender Your Poppy Field. The bridge sticks out like a sore thumb of pure gold. 

Show Of Hands- On its own, this song is such a grand sweep; a powerful statement written too late to be a hit off Zeppelin Over China. Pollard is forcefully declarative here with the band hoisting him up on their proverbial shoulders. It almost does a disservice in sequencing being behind the equally as good, somewhat similar in feel (at least the former's bridge) to "Please Don't Be Honest." A layered pieced together type track that is a sneak attack on the senses, leaving you dizzied with crescendoing outro for the ages! 

Lip Curlers- The first true filler track of the LP, "Lip Curlers" has the misfortune of following a streamroller of hits. This feels like a Tobias-era Pollard solo cut with cloying hooks in the strike-a-rock-stance choruses. Lines and toe tapping continue to invade my thoughts to slight amusement at random moments. 

Math Rock- 3 Leave it to Robert Pollard to write a math rock-esque song (although not post-punk enough for the math rock I mainly enjoy, as I adjust my math rock lapels), that supposedly "drives[s] Doug crazy." This song is as fun as it ridiculous. The idea for this sounds almost as if it'd be a drunken late night phone call to the band, or a demo sent out that left the band scratching their heads over how drunk Bob actually was that night?  Essentially, the Kevin March conducted Montclair School of Rock (Hell yes! New Jersey!) kids chorus' saves this with a grounded ending. 

Transfusion- 4 A slow drip rock song as the title implies, this is a (SLOW) leak from a sapling tree in a dying forest (hey, "dying worlds make Dinosaur bones"). This is about as close to doom rock as Pollard can get. Lumbering but joyously hypnotic opener to the second side that pumps the brakes on a killer opening side. Grows with repeated listens. The type of track that just hits in the right spot after you let it take its hold. 

Biker's Nest- 3 Like "Lip Curlers," this one may be the actual filler track of the LP. Feeling like a leftover demo from Circus Devils' Stomping Grounds LP, this is a guitar chug along that really goes nowhere. Except, I find myself quite enamored with the actual guitar chug of this song! Pollard's single tracked vocals don't lend any service to this rather hookless effort, but it's a fine run-of-the-mill song to pull out of one's backpocket in a pinch. 

A Whale Is Top Notch- 4 A simplistic riff riding, blip of anthemic pop bliss on side B. A sneak attack of fist pumping and hard swings for a rambunctiously short time. At just over a minute, GBV delivers an infectious piece that's easy to miss. A quintessential gap track that's worthy of a stiff finger point of acceptance on its own. 

I Touch Down- 2 Speaking of gap track, this stands as the official dud of the LP. The only purpose I can see of this song in sequencing is the closing track references "touch down" several times? It has its hypnotic qualities that become more appealing with repeated listens but still...  Other than that, it is a rather quick but murky track that drags you through the muck before making a wonderful transition into... 

Haircut Sphinx-  A completely barebones garage rocker, this song harkens back to old school GBV mentality of a "Buzzards and Dreadful Crows" type; here's a riff that could be metallic in style, drums that stomp about, and vocals carrying it with some cocksure sense of direction despite how nonsensical they may seem. 

Screaming The Night Away- A meandering late LP track that feels like more of a filler gap track than an actual winner. Is Pollard growing tired here, unleashing a simple rhyme to be reckoned with over guitar pummel? Either way, it's a sturdy quick albeit lifeless punch near the end of the record. If only there's was something to pump a little life back into this record... 

Thank You Jane- 5 Where in the holy goddamn did this late LP surprise come from? A spiny guitar lead mid-tempo track that feels like straight breaking sunshine coming through closed blinds on an already decided clouded day. Reportedly a shout-out to actress and activist Jane Fonda, a great Pollard tip of the cap to someone who should keep inspiring us, as he says "I think the time is now for us to all step up, I think we know" (and don't forget to keep "working out"). This winner bleeds into... 

The Best Foot Forwards- ... before you know it you're already drowning in Kevin March's drum roll filled assault as this quick penultimate track sucks you under. A brief, blunt track that goes for the jugular more on guitar riffs than vocal hooks. A perfect quick set up to the afterparty of an LP finale.

The Party Rages On- While you're still catching your breath from the all out band attack jumble of "The Best Foot Forwards" you're escorted into the short after party where you may have time to grab a glass of flat champagne. More of a slow walk of reflection and "farewell and thanks for the memories" trot than a "raging party" stampede.  A perfect nightcap for this mid-year GBV LP, Gillard's fiery solo sparking up and fading out just over the 2 minute mark... "We'll see you later this year," it seems to call. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Planet Cake 7" (2020)

Planet Cake 7" 

   (2020, Guided by Voices Inc)

The second EAT installment in Robert Pollard's solo catalog, here is another collection of "never needed to be released, but happy to have another 7" on my shelf" record from the master. Like it's predecessor, Eat 15's (Dislodge) The Immortal Orangemen 7" this finds Pollard alone on his boombox, hammering out musical accompanying pieces to his collage work in the beautiful layout of his literary book, Eat 16

To be owned for the 237 pages of artwork WAY more than the record, I'll take another piece of Pollard wax for the turntable. Unfortunately, it's another non-essential piece of collector fun that keeps the diehards, myself included, foaming at the mouth. Oh to have another Pollard solo LP one day...

Limited to 1000 copies.


Strange Angels- Here, Pollard fumbles around with a couple of strings before going off into a down stroking rumble on a detuned chord (string?) while speak singing. 

They Don't Play the Drums Anymore- Hey, is that some drumming on the acoustic guitar I hear? Pollard expands his horizons. This actually has a fairly strong melodic Pollardian bellow to it. Hey, sign me up.

Good Luck To Ya Mutha- 1 Nothing to see here folks. Pollard thinks it up while being recorded. On to the next side. 


When Growing Was Simple- 3 A variation of "A Salty Salute"? The one's a haunter. Feeling like it might have some purpose at first, it eventually goes off into stream of conscious with some pretty decent surrealist lyrics. 

Game Cocks- 2 The poppiest of the tunes here, it's features some trademark uncle Bob scatting at the end. 

Blogs on Toadstools- Spoken word piece ending with warbled voiced Pollard sounding almost prophetic. Being that he's released not 1 but 2 comedy records, I'd buy a spoken word/poetry LP from him at this point.  

Bonus Track- Pollard fiddles around with a toy flute/recorder for about 10 seconds. Not a song, even a little bit but so be it. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Surrender Your Poppy Field (2020)

Surrender Your Poppy Field
(2020, Guided by Voices Inc.)

Robert Pollard is well known in his circle of fans as the King of the 4 P’s. Whether by pop hooks, punk ethos, psych spirit, or prog leanings, Pollard has made a career by careening from style to style, ingesting the entire history of rock, and redistributing to the world through his own eyes. It’s with his vast knowledge and appreciation of the subject that makes his own output so tantalizingly kaleidoscopic. With this in mind, we find Pollard and his refreshed band of brothers taking broad strokes on the open canvas that is Surrender Your Poppy Field.

On the 7th re-reunion LP finds Pollard’s tightest line-up on full display, running through a gamut of styles and concepts. Each song feels different from  the next. The chord progressions are unwieldy at times. Pollard goes full on experimental vocals throughout, sometimes bellowing with the best of his run, other times bending his voice into new and less charted territory. Even the audio quality jumps from track to track in a way that's wholly refreshing compared to recent GBV LPs. Sometimes all of these things happen in the exact same song!

 Surrender Your Poppy Field feels like the most fun this group has had constructing a record to date. One can imagine Pollard giving a half finished demo tape to the band with nearly illegible scribbled notes, instructing them to run wild. This also applies tenfold for stalwart engineer Travis Harrison, producing some of the most profound and eyebrow raising moments of his tenure with Pollard. Everyone involved sounds like they're having the times of their lives-and it's all captured on tape.

 While Poppy Field is at times immediate, there are moments that beg for revisits, again, sometimes within the parameters of the same song. It is a moody album, flailing wildly with reckless abandon. There are swings and misses scattered about, but when it hits, it hits hard. A bold and exciting record 34 years into the universe of Pollard recordings.

Year of the Hard Hitter- 5 What happens when Bob Pollard sends his most scatterbrained demo recording to the band to figure out? They come up with this patchwork of 4 minute nonsense that somehow turns out to be one of the coolest GBV songs in the catalog thanks to its sheer massiveness alone. Is this a clusterfuck or actual genius? Constructed of nearly a dozen parts, this opener is an unwieldy gem of no-fi, psych, doom metal, sheer pop, all complete with unnecessarily long guitar bridge, and fireworks worthy guitar solos. A dizzying exhibition, and one wallop of an opener, not necessarily for the faint of heart. 

Volcano- 4 The greatest '90s song GBV never wrote. Sounding unnervingly unlike GBV and instead resembles an incredible slew of college slack rock hits you can almost put your finger on. Shoegazy, lush, impactful, complete with beautiful Bob melodies. However, misses the classic mark for almost being too... derivative? 

Queen Parking Lot- 4 After throwing back to other alt/indie 90s bands, Pollard throws it back to some simplistic glory day GBV territory with this short pop laden tune. Warbles about in mid-fi range, Pollard crushing it vocally. One of the sunniest spots on the record, that hooks with ease. 

Arthur Has Business Elsewhere- 5 A grand sweeping gesture from Pollard and gang ready to knock you on your heels. Meanwhile, revel in the potent production by Travis Harrison, some of his strongest work put to record yet.  Uncle Bob is in waltz mode, calliope bopping eerily about. Is this a circus fever dream we're stuck in? Empowering, triumphant. Play it loud.

Cul-De-Sac Kids- 2 A song with so much potential. Starts off brittle and reflective before kicking into mid-tempo, fairly standard Pollard 70's rock. However, the cheesy lyrics and vocal choice from Pollard make this more thorn in side than an actual winner. Is he mocking the lyrical stylings of Craig Finn? Does he sing with an intentional lisp at one point? Hearing "boy those 'sac kids throw good parties" makes my skin crawl just a tad. So many questions to a song with such a gorgeous start and outro.
Cat Beats a Drum3 Speaking of intros, what an incredible one to this song! However, this song is only stuck in intro mode. A two minute run that starts and never really gets anywhere, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Minimalist incidental indie music. Uncle Bob goes for some strange vocal stylings on this as well. However, as a whole, it's perfectly meditative, carried by Gillard's prickly descending guitar line that it fits unobtrusively in the back pocket of your brain.  

Windjammer- 3 This is the product of trying to squeeze The Who's entire discography into a 3 minute song. "Windjammer" is a dizzying mash-up of pop buried under Townsend strumming and Moon-like drum bashing, all mixed in a mid to lo-fi disorienting fashion. A grower that sometimes feels like a breathtaking headache. Pollard may have just invented kitchen-sink pop with this one.

Steely Dodger- 2 Moody, mysterious; a somewhat weak opener to side B, although intriguing. This song snakes along like a low hanging cloud. Grimy and subtly hooky, it occasionally begs for a revisit. Unsettling ground all around. 

Stone Cold Moron- 2 My new favorite Circus Devils' song. I refuse to believe Todd Tobias isn't manning these instruments. Complete with Pollard-the-cop voiceover at the end, this screams like a leftover track from Stomping Grounds. A mildly irritating stoner metal jam where Pollard gets to flash some classic constipated vocal intonations. It also has strong potential to get stuck in your head for unknown reasons, so it's got that going for it. 

Physician- 4 A pop gem that continues to get better with every listen. Dynamically, it rides the same wave length for a somewhat lengthy 3:38. But the song is so incredibly solid, from the blatant to its sneakier hooks. Gillard lights the fuse for another signature smoldering solo. One of the stronger tracks of the record.

Man Called Blunder- 3 The second single of the LP, "Man Called Blunder" is a simplistic three chord basher. Pollard shines vocally, pushing through this song like a double tracked bulldozer. Unfortunately, in an LP full of sudden surprises, this one feels almost too safe for its own good. 

Woah Nelly- What happens when Tom Waits meets Magnetic Fields? This haunting minute long tune sounds like it's projected from a busted gramophone in a cemetery. A haunted lullabye of sorts. Also, it's a "cover" of a song Pollard previously released on Lithuania Bombshell 7'' under the ESP Ohio name in 2016. It was great then, but it may be even better now. 

Andre the Hawk- 1 With a name like "Andre the Hawk," you could almost smell this stinker coming from a mile away. A downer of a waltz, this song is almost 2 minutes of a lifeless blank canvas with some fairly crummy lyrics as the finishing touch. Pollard's strong vocal performance goes nowhere on this gray blob tacked on at the tail end of the record. 

Always Gone- 5  What's this? After dozing off to the "Andre.." get ready to get a jolt with this minute plus GBV classic-lineup type rev up.  Could've been an UTBUTS outtake! Sunny nostalgia wrapped in a perfect minute and a half. Pure Pollardian gold. 

Next Sea Level3 And now after you've woken up with "Almost Gone," drift back to sleep with one of Pollar'ds most go-nowhere songs in a while. Reminiscent of something off Circus Devils' Five LP. Pulsing bass tones lead us in for over a minute before switching to half-assed 2 chord rock. BUT WAIT... this closer is so trancelike that after a few deep listens, this one begins to sink its teeth in. One of the most simplistic of all GBV songs, it's an eerie and fitting end as we float back out again into the unease of these modern times.

Man Called Blunder 7" (2020)

Man Called Blunder 7"
(2020, Guided by Voices Inc.)

One of two 7" singles released in support of Surrender Your Poppy Field. Limited to 1000 copies, the A-side contains the single, while the flip side contains the 7" exclusive cut. Here, GBV give their updated rendering of 1986's "She Wants To Know."

Man Called Blunder- Same track appears on the full-length LP Surrender Your Poppy Field. Check out the review over there.

She Wants To Know [New Version]- For whatever reason, Bob and the boys decided to dust-off this self proclaimed "classic" all the way back from 1986's Forever Since Breakfast EP, the first GBV release in the catalog. Unfortunatly, it's the weakest track on that original LP. Here, 34 years later, it's slightly better! Perhaps it's the production or the addition of Gillard's refined leads. This once ho-hum, overlong tune feels less cumbersome ho-hum song. Worth a passing glance. 

Volcano 7" (2020)

Volcano 7" 
(2020, Guided by Voices Inc.)

One of two 7" singles released in support of Surrender Your Poppy Field. Limited to 1000 copies, the A-side contains the single, while the flip side contains the 7" exclusive cut. In this case, GBV present a Kevin March solo track appropriate for the times. 

Volcano- Same track appears on the full-length LP Surrender Your Poppy Field. Check out the full review there.

Sun Goes Down- 4 Chilling. Kevin March takes the lead here on this sparse piano track. Sounding like he's sitting in an echo chamber, this song holds the power to send chills down one's spine. Almost over before it starts, it's a haunting gem begging to be excavated in the GBV solar system.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Sweating the Plague (2019)

Sweating the Plague
(2019, Guided by Voices Inc.)

It's like 2012 all over again! Guided by Voices, with continued second reunion line-up forging ahead without end in sight, have released their 3rd LP of the year; enough to leave even the Pollard-addicted fans even somewhat satisfied with the sheer bounty of output!

To close out the 3 LP run of 2019, Guided by Voices decided to release their shortest LP to date; a 12 track affair of prog-heavy rock songs that take their time to unfold. It's a batch of material meant for you to sit with. It's also a dozen tracks meant to be played LOUD!

From it's brevity in tracklisting to its dynamic mid-song shifts, it's unlike any GBV LP of the past, perhaps having more in common with some of Pollard's side projects. Think the bottom heaviness of Zeppelin Over China blended with Universal Truths and Cycles/Earthquake Glue era prog. Then add in the gray-skies rock of Ricked Wicky's Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair, blended with dashes of the rock-centric moments in Circus Devils' Stomping Grounds. It's a downer of a record, but one that never feels too heavy a burden to bear. In fact, it manages to be one hell of an uplifting rock record, despite all it's angular jabs and surprises. With each spin, you may find yourself turning the record up to maximum listening capacity.

One of the key highlights of the record (which is so strong on LPs like Space Gun, and felt sorely lacking on Zeppelin Over China), is the sheer force behind Pollard's voice. He sounds determined, on-key, demanding. His harmonies hit in all the right spots (often hiding in these songs rather than immediately jumping out in a trad "pop" chorus). Engineer Travis Harrison continues to delight in the recording process, perhaps doing his best work yet. The band (Gillard, Shue, March, and Bare Jr.) really flesh this record out, turning Pollard's sketches into a bracing GBV record that truly rewards the listener with each repeated listen. 

33 years into his career, Pollard has perhaps succeeded in something he's never done before; creating the most unconventionally infectious GBV record of his expansive discography.

Downer- 2 The strangest GBV opening track of any LP in the canon, and for that, part of me wants to praise this song to the high heavens. Unfortunately, it's not a great song. Still, "Downer," is a post-punk/krautrock track that relies on feel but with addictively simple moments sprinkled about. Way more of a mood piece than song, but a jarring way to start off the record, setting the pace. Begs for (and gets) relistens out of sheer curiosity. 

Street Party-3 Originally slated to be the titlet rack of the LP, "Street Party," is more traditional to the GBV formula, but still left of center at times. A steady rocker that falls into "average" territory. The most arresting moments are scattered about in the song, both instrumentally and in Pollard's verses, rather than the fairly bland chorus of "It's a street party. And the heat is insane." 

Mother's Milk Elementary-4 Warbled acapella Pollard opens this up, brittle and beautifully. When the band kicks in with its slug-slow rock, this turns into a hulking haunt of tune. The even more haunting instrumental interlude into the bridge becomes spine tingling after repeated visits. Grows on you like a slow acting mold. 

Heavy Like the World- The first and lone single released for the record, "Heavy Like the World" is a Do the Collapse/Isolation Drills callback number. Really feels partially like a mash up of several GBV greatest hits moments. Fortunately, I don't sicken of these harmonized moments of joyful melancholy. Epic and beautiful. 

Ego Central High- 4  Feels partially like a paint-by-numbers hard rock riff song, but damn this song sinks its hooks in. The band takes their time, laying down an almost hypnotic crunch throughout. Dig that Circus Devils-like pounding bridge, into double timed pogo-punk part. Pollard comes off reserved, busting loose vocally during the doubled chorus parts. Like the entire record, it's best played at top volume. 

The Very Second4  Seemingly random acoustic strums eventually bursts into cocksure guitar rocker that gets better with age. The song keeps its foot firmly planted on the octane all while building throughout, going from big to bigger! Pollard sounds incredible on this track. The guitar work of Bare Jr. and Gillard really shine. And that brief hyper-charged outro? Oh, my heart. One song that begs for a stadium sized setting. 

Tiger on Top- 3 Rickety intro again bursts forth as the band delivers a start-stop progged up rocker. Begs for a crank of the volume nob. A bit uneven, even for a record bursting with uneven transitions, and surprises. A grower for sure, but possibly one too many twists and turns for its own good. The "tiger on top" part scorches, though! 

Unfun Glitz- 3 Bottom heavy, crunchy with some potent Pollardian pipes. Perhaps a little too by the book at times, "Unfun Glitz" is above average at best song, but one that elicits a fist-raising response. The band is locked in, and pushes it over the top but like it just falls shy of the mark. 

Your Cricket (Is Rather Unique)- 5 Demoed as track 98 on the Suitcase 4 collection, this song was originally released as the B-side of the You Own the Night 7'' released in 2018. The same track returns for its proper LP debut, drummer Kevin March taking lead vocal duties. As proven in August By Cake, March as a downright killer voice. Beside that, this proves to be one of Pollard's most beautifully written songs. Anthemic, heartfelt, complete gorgeous melody. Travis Harrison's production (combined with Gillard's guitar jangle, and March's tick-tock drumming in the verses), make this one of the great GBV moments of second reunion run. 

Immortals- 5 A steadfast hard rocker that stays the course, building in the choruses.  Guitar heavy with solid backbone and stiff upper lip attitude that never feels like posturing. A confident Pollard shines, sounding honest and potent, shooting from the hip. The repeat anthem outro is forcefully hooky below the surface, really standing as shining moment in GBV rock. 

My Wrestling Days Are Over- The throw-away of the LP is still interesting (and short) enough to continue to revisit in all its strange glory. A true Circus Devils moment if you will. Pollard boom-box demo-like beginning with overdubs is downright haunting. When Pollard sings the title, it actually hurts. Unnervingly, this song leads out with downbeat stomping and unfettered guttural screams. 

Sons of the Beard- Pollard has written a few of these multi-faceted, rock-operaesque songs throughout his career to varying results. Admittedly, I'm not much a rock opera fan so perhaps I come off biased during these moments. However, "Sons of the Beard," really delivers. It feels like an amalgamation, a condensed recap of the entire record crammed into one song, riding on feeling and pure sonics alone. Fittingly, the song ends with the same chords that opened the record, an endless circle that is Sweating the Plague

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Heavy Like the World 7'' (2019)

Heavy Like The World 7''
(2019, Guided by Voices Inc.)

Released approximately 2 months before GBV's 3rd LP of 2019 Sweating the Plague, this lone single from the LP comes in limited form with exclusive B-side. Unlike some other singles of the reunion era that feature other GBV member's song, the B-side is a Pollard penned exclusive. 

Limited to 1000 and released on black vinyl. 

Heavy Like The World- Same track as on Sweating the Plague. Read review in link. 

Silent Army- 5 Pollard has a way of hiding some of the best GBV tracks as B-sides of exclusive singles. Often, Pollard's turned to Gillard, Shue, and Bare Jr to contribute, including putting some excellent Sprout songs on B-sides in the past. This go-round, Pollard buried one of his own pure gems in one of the hardest to find spots. How this was left off the LP, I'll have no idea. I guess it's just another small piece of building the legacy. "Silent Army" is 2 minutes of late '60 harmonizing over nostalgic, slightly melancholy guitar pop. Pollard sounds exceptional all around. When it's all over, it's nearly impossible not to move the needle back to the beginning. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hold On Hope [Promo] (1999)

Hold On Hope [Promo]
(1999, Creation Records)

It seems like 4,000 different EPs, singles collections, and promos exist for "Hold on Hope" and everything little thing ever possibly thought up for the LP Do the Collapse. I could spend 4 lifetimes reviewing all of the "Hold on Hope" (radio remixes) that were released off that record, but I won't... yet.

But as reader Lucas Gelati pointed out, I had missed the review of the "Teenage FBI (DEMO)" exclusively released on this UK only promo for the LP.  I wrestled with even reviewing this, but decided what the hell... this is as legit as any "demo" released on any of the Suitcase collections. Without any further ado, possibly the last of the missed GBV officially released songs I have overlooked on this site?

Found another? Drop a line.

Teenage FBI (Demo)- What do you know, it's "Teenage FBI"? Is this basically one of the best GBV songs ever. YES! Released on this UK only single along with "Hold on Hope" and "Perfect This Time," this remains the strange, lone place to hear this track. Is it essential? No. Is it the same as the version on Wish In One Hand...? Maddeningly, of course it's not. Pollard's vocals are WAY up in the mix, and it's a bit faster than the WIOH version, more comparable with the Do the Collapse version, minus those cloying synths. If anything, this MAY be the best version? 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Loose Shoes (2019)

Loose Shoes
(2019, Bomb Record) 

Are you fucking kidding me? I have to do this shit again? 

Welcome to the THIRD release from Cash Rivers and the Sinners. Now I say third release, but really, it's the FOURTH release if you count (and you should) Cash Rivers' solo 7'' She Laughed I Left. Already, I can tell my mind is a warped pile of gelatinous gloop because I have just referred to Cash Rivers as if he were a real person.

Fortunately, he's not. However, I'm sure we all know someone like Cash Rivers, and luckily, like these extremely limited releases, they hopefully rarely make it into your home. 

With that said, let's dive into the (alleged) LAST album from Cash Rivers and the Sinners. I know I said the same thing with the rather incredible double LP Do Not Try to Adjust Your Set I Am the Horizontal and Vertical. I only say “last”, because that's what camp Rockathon had said before announcing this limited slab. In the world of Cash Rivers, things are never as they seem.

Marketed as a bootleg record, this collection of 32 "songs" in 27 minutes is reportedly all the leftovers of Cash and his Sinners. Now, if I may get out of fantasy land for a minute, Pollard and gang had originally planned for a CD box set of all Cash Rivers tracks, including this very bonus material. Instead, the good people at Rockathon pulled the plug on the idea and released this ultra limited LP (500 to be exact), to drive the collectors up a wall once again, and pump more Pollard drunken comedy into the world at inflated 3rd party prices. 

Are we better for it? At this point, fuck it, yeah sure? Is this good? No. Is it better than Blue Balls Lincoln? Maybe? Listen to this as a whole while munchin' on LSD and freebasing corndogs. 

In conclusion, stick a fork in Cash. He's fuckin' done. 

On with the show. 

See Alice- 3 Did I laugh? Yes. Again, like Do Not Try To Adjust... why does this sound so good? A real boner of track. That streamboat at the end kills!

Shemaho- 1 Street-walkin' cock rock straight out of the '80s. You know this stinks when the shining moment comes courtesy of eagle screeching sound effects complimented with neighing horse accompaniment. 

What?- 2 So incredibly stupid that I continued to sit on my couch laughing at how fucking stupid this was, while reaching for my beer. Another step closer to hip-hop territory for Pollard. 

2 Fisted Drinker- The "Tacoma intro" is worth price of admission. The rest is complete nothing, as Pollard Rivers repeats the title over a Bonanza type rodeo jam.

Wanna Do a Shot?- 4 Busted a gut. There's completely fucking ridiculous and then there's this. Comedy meets bar metal. 

Better About Myself- 1 So stupid I wanna cry. 

Party Hearty- 1 Did I already write the line "so stupid I wanna cry"? Yes... yes I did. Well, this is worse. 

White Wine Woman, Red Wine Man- A rootin-tootin good time. Cowboy bar rock that sounds tooooo real. Good for a quick chuckle and then best left on the shelf to be forgotten. Nearly a real song at 2 minutes, this one even sports a freakin' bridge! 

We've All Been Drinking- A '90s alternative throwback, could've been an updated theme for a sitcom, perhaps Cheers? Oddly catchy slack rock 

9:49- Clap and stomp bar chant pumps out of the speakers courtesy of a head-in-the-toilet Cash Rivers. This song makes me realize that my willpower is for shit, because I find this song funny. 

Green Beans- 1 Speaking of crap... this maybe be the most steaming pile of it on the record thus far. 

No Prob Limo- 1 Stupid promo track... can you call this a track? 

Tickle and a Twenty- 3 Fuck, Pollard really wrote a catchy goddamn tune here. Tex-Mex countrefried goodness. Really lacking in the lyric department, but this has sing-a-long potential. Damn if my toes weren't tapping. 

Two and a Half Tanks- 1 Piano nonsense at under 20 seconds. What? 

Buzz Clip- 1 I'm not laughing, I'm crying, and not because I'm laughing. About 12 seconds long. 

Brown Bottle Flu- 1 I don't understand this.... get me another beer. 

Better 2- Alright! A 5 SECOND reprise of the song "Better About Myself." Did you need this in your life? Well, too fucking bad. At this point, I've already typed WAAAAYYYY more than this song deserves. Again, it's 5 seconds long. Still typing....  I can type forever... 

Out- 1 But I won't, because I have to move onto the track "Out." I've come here to say this is all spoken word and it stinks! Goodbye. 

Dick In a Knot4 Thankfully, a new Pollard... I mean Cash (forgive me Mr. Pollard), has given us a classic to one day lie in our graves with. Okay, really though, this symphonic motherfolker is one catchy bleepin' tune. And to say nothing of the autotuned laughter and boner noises? 

Bobby Bare Promo- Country music legend Bobby Bare returns from his spoken word appearance on the last record to put his name on new low. 

Holding Hands With Barry Gibb- 3 Rhyming "Barry Gibb" with "very glib" has gotta be worth something? Right? 

SORM- 1 I honestly don't know... fill me in. 

Walking on Clown Shoes- 3 When complete stupidity becomes genius... it cracked me up. And don't it feel good? (originally written by Katrina and the Waves).

Feels Good To Be Loved- 1 What the stink is this? ... best part is the argumentative outro. How often can you say that? 

Athman- A classic lisp track "Athman" is. Subpar garage rock with "ath" jokes dragged through the mud. 

Sundown- 1 Woof! Oh hey! That's a nice little double guitar part. 

Too Much Makeup- 1 Drunk ranting that leads into... 

The Funky Mummy- 1 ... the same spoken drunken ranting over skeletal "hip-hop" drum loop. The Chick Corea reference is good enough for a smirk. 

She's Got Fingers- 1 Piano smashing with Pollard singing about fingers in the time it takes you to let out 3 good sneezes. The fuck? 

She's a Lesbian Now- 2 Almost a song, almost funny... How is it that a song called "She's a Lesbian Now" is a breath of fresh air in the complete massacre that is Side 2 of this record? 

God's Toe Nail- Swingin' no-fi doo-wop that leads absolutely nowhere. 

Strong Lion [Cash version]- 4 Incredible undone-bowtie-Sinatra-karaoke version of song written by a guy named Robert Pollard, complete with befuddled big band backing and all. A small triumph, but yet, a complete wreck, much like this whole fucking slab of wax.