Saturday, October 26, 2019

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 blogger.com 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.


In addition, THE RATING SYSTEM:
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 (www.gbvdb.com), 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" 

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.



SIDE A:
Downer- 2 The strangest GBV opening track of any LP in the cannon, 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. 



SIDE B:
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. 

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


SIDE B:
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 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. 

SIDE A: 
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. 


SIDE B:
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. 








(Dislodge) The Immortal Orangemen (2019)

(Dislodge) The Immortal Orangemen 7"
(2019, Rockathon Records) 



Since 2003, Robert Pollard has been releasing collections of poetry and artwork under the collected title Eat. Starting as a modest expansion of the man's artwork, the collections have grown bigger in page numbers, and in scope, much like all of Pollard's output. If you've stopped and taken a look at any volume of Eat, or perhaps go revisit, you'll notice a plethora of LP artwork, both front and back covers, buried in the pages of Pollard's extensive collages.

With 2019's Eat 15, Pollard raised the stakes. His longest collection of artwork to date also featured the return of the Pollard solo moniker for his first showing since 2016s Of Course You Are. A 6 song, no frills one-sided 7'' came with Eat 15, tucked into the back flap. Page 131 of the collection collects the "liner notes" for this exclusive 7''.

Far from essential, this is a fun artifact to behold, perhaps to put on flipping through the pages of Pollard's cut and paste hungry mind, if only for 6 brief minutes. Each track is a classic boombox demo-like track, of similar nature to all 4 Suitcase collections or, say, the Let It Beard Boombox Demos CD. Drop the needle, briefly kick back, and eavesdrop on a man pounding out his legacy on rickety acoustics. 


Late Night Worm- Brittle, seemingly off-the-cuff tune walks a familiar, and classic, GBV walk-down on the guitar. Melancholy and haunting. 38 seconds of mystery, melody, and warbled vocal cords. 

Nurses Smoking Cigarettes- 4 Seems to be some percussion in the rattle here! Is that cymbal crash in the dissonance? Pollard provides a strong melody in between cryptic pauses. Jangly and bombastic, in the no-fi sense. In between the hiss, this is a real winner. 

The Sea Hags Of North Dayton- Acoustic stomp rocker that sounds like it'd fit wonderfully on an early Pollard solo LP if fleshed out. Complete with warped bar room noises, trippy and chaotic with underlying promise. 

Mirror Of The Maniac- 2 Sounds like an acoustic guitar played through a flange pedal, this is a short mood piece that meanders about and never really goes anywhere of note. 

Pain- Driving psycho tune complete with drum machine backbone.  Repetitive 2 chord riff complete with psych riffs. A little slice of art damaged Krautrock via Dayton. An addictive experiment from Pollard. 

Trumpets and Trumps- Sad acoustic ringouts as Pollard barely makes it out of the speakers, crooning lowly in the background. A comedic social commentary if you will, at 2 sentences long. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tractor Tunes, Volume 1 (2000)

Tractor Tunes, Volume 1
(2000, Fresh Cow Pie)

For some godforsaken make-the-collector-sweat reason, Robert Pollard stuffed one ultra elusive track into the depths of record collecting hell. And here it is. Such is the case, that on this site, as I boasted to have commented on all Pollard studio tracks, little did I realize I neglected ONE single track. Hell, maybe there's a few more out there, but I think the lone track under the Kuda Labranche moniker covers it!

The fact that a song by Pollard's Kuda Labranche existed did not escape me. In fact, I've stumbled upon a picture of the cover to Tractor Tunes Volume 1 a few times online. However, the track listed online for the compilation was "My Big Day." Lord knows I didn't need to hear this, as all 3 versions were released on Guided by Voices' Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft. Surely, this Kuda Labranche track HAD to be one of the ones included. BUT NO!.... it was not. (turns out I also ignored the comment by one Lucas Gelati in 2016 informing me "There's yet another version of "My Big Day", credited to Kuda Labranche that was released on "Tractor Tunes, Volume 1". It's the better of the four in my opinion."


And I'll be damned. That IS the case! Presented here is the long lost review to "My Big Day" (the 4th version known to exist).  Released on a CD included with the Fresh Cow Pie zine, this run is supposedly limited to 500 copies and includes a track from GBV alumn Mitch Mitchell's Terrifying Experience. 

Happy hunting for this one! 




My Big Day [Version 4]-  Only to be found on this obscure compilation included with zine, Pollard releases the BEST version of this generally lackluster song. The 3 versions released as one LONG track on Suitcase is enough to make you drool out the side of your skull with boredom. Here, this sounds like a GBV full studio outtake winner that got away. The layered vocal harmonies alone carry this. The crunch and swirl of the guitars enter psych rock territory. All at a minute and a half, this version KILLS! 


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Warp and Woof (2019)

Warp and Woof
(2019, Guided by Voices Inc.) 




In the world of GBV fandom, the course of time moves both forward and backwards, at times seemingly suspended in motion. From Pollard's manic writing pace, to his almost equally fervent output, seasons blend together, memories coalesce. You can forget about trying to pinpoint the exact years on certain releases without stumbling into moments of hesitation and recollection. Through the crackling fidelity, past the timeless nostalgia of the catalog, bolstered by the sheer will for Pollard to continue to press forward with such fluidity and determination (strengthening, weakening, rebounding, resurging, onward and forward), time is but an outsiders construct in Pollard's land. As the man said himself, "Life is short. GBV is long." Perhaps the timelessness has never been so evident as with the release of their newest LP, Warp and Woof.

Only 84 days after their polarizing 32 song tome, Zeppelin Over China, and 13 months removed from the streamlined Space Gun, its enough to make one nearly nauseous with giddiness at the very existence of such an embarrassment of riches. To make matters even more salivating, the newest offering from GBV glides smoothly into the discography, a throwback to the off-the-cuff GBV formula that made them #1 in the hearts of legions.

For this go-round, Pollard and the powerhouse reinvigorated line-up of Gillard, Shue, Bare Jr., and March tried a different approach. Warp and Woof combines Pollard and company's 4 limited EPs (released late 2018 and early 2019), with a revised tracklist order for the optimum lone LP listening experience; one of Pollard's many idiosyncrasies when it comes to fine tuning his art. The new LP begs the question, "What happens when your favorite prolific band releases 4 separate EPs and then rereleases everything as an LP? " Beside dropping a shitload of money on a 5 separate vinyl offerings to get the same songs, the whole experiences makes for an exciting new twist in the listening process that is the Pollard songsphere.

This isn’t the first time GBV released, or rather rereleased a collection such as this. Fans will recall the 10 song The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet; an LP length sized EP constructed of Universal Truths and Cyclesb-side tracks that had previously been released on four 7'' singles. Unlike the aforementioned collection, it's the immediacy of each track, and coalescence of the current band, that makes Warp and Woof feel that much more necessary, and less like a repackaging of previously released material. Presented in this different context, the flow from track to track opens new avenues into these songs, giving them new meaning and feeling.

Warp and Woof straddles the fine line of sharp and loose throughout the entire 36 rapid fire minutes of its grooves. When one idea doesn’t quite gel, fear not, because a new one is just a short track away. Sometimes, those rapid fire ideas are just a couple chords away in the same track. Its that spontaneity that gives the whole album the feel of classic GBV of yore. This collection of free flying melodies, choppy guitar heroics, and warbled Pollard lyrical snippets-and is enough to bring a tear after a few spins. Not everything here is a gem, as is the case with the dense GBV output, but the torrent of ideas runs deep and quick, attacking with such brevity and ferocity that it’s tough not to lift the needle up and drop back at the beginning.  



SIDE A:
Bury the Mouse- 4 The most metal GBVs ventured in a long while? Is "metal" the right word here? A delightful dirge of an opening that gets better with ever spin. A snarled punchy, punk number delivered with deadpanned Pollard stiff-upper-lip delivery, minus the jest. The whole affair is only heightened by the expansively brief bridge. Fans will also lose their mind over Pollard singing "same place the fly got smashed." 

Angelic Weirdness- 4 Case in point of the title defining the entire song. In fact, and I am purely curiously speculating here, this could very well be Pollard flying his Ween appreciation freak flag. If this were on Ween's The Pod or GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, would we question it? With that said, this is not to be missed. Pollard's vocal delivery is off-putting at first, yet somewhat heavenly thanks to studio effect, sounding almost ghostly. Dropped over the acoustic backbone of the song, it's oh-so-sweet, and sinks its hooks into you slowly but surely. 

Foreign Deputies- 4 The absolute perfect stop-gap-track that makes GBV so magical in the first place. On its own, at first, the song is almost a sneeze in the wind. Yet, it's so cryptic, haunting, it keeps you salivating for more. The perfect transition song that lightly fades into...

Dead Liquor Store- 5 Sounding like some mash up of a Sega Genesis game meets caffeinated punk track, the song is tough not to root for through gritted teeth and jittery eyeballs. Between Kevin March's high tension drumming, Gillard and Bare's rope-taut guitar stabs, and Shue's warbling, see-saw bass pummels, it's pure aural gratification. Harkens back to Space Gun's impeccable "Daily Getups" a bit. The tacked on swooning end part of "might get a taste of you, might get a taste of me," seals the deal as new GBV classic. 

Mumbling Amens- Moody and prickly. Like a cold mid-summer's day mist rolling in off Lake Erie  into the industrial compounds of Cleveland, there's beauty here, but perhaps not apparent at first. A breath of air, or one best suited for moments of looking out at the gloom with hands planted firmly in pockets.

Cohesive Scoops-  Has all the ingredients of GBV classic-in-the-making. A thin line keeps this "really good" tune from becoming a "great" one. Pollard's vocals, whether by production or unsteady single take performance, sound off kilter at times. The warbled harmonized lead out, though, comes together as trustworthy GBV gold. Breezy and worthy of a high leg kick.

Photo Range Within- 3 A real blink-and-you'll-miss-it track. Pollard and company roll lightly into whimsical country meets child-like simplicity here. Catchy in an somewhat idiotic way, anchored by Shue's lead bass, and given life by the prickly guitars of Gillard and Bare. Almost sounds like a thrift-store rendition of a passable Pavement outtake, a band that made their living on thrift store ideals.

My Dog Surprise- 2 Musically, this could've fit somewhere buried in Universal Truths and Cycles era, or perhaps a leftover from ZOC. A mid-tempo number lagging in much of note, only dragged down by Pollard's horrid vocal posturing. Still not sure if it's a dog named "Surprise," or titled so as in giving one a "dog surprise." I'm not sure which is worse? A lumbering affair that sticks in your brain for the wrong reasons.

Tiny Apes- 4 Another over-before-it-starts number, one that relies mostly on its surf ravaged guitar bending and scratching. The song goes from surf rock graveyard, to salvageable for about 6 second mid song. Eventually the song finishes surprisingly solid, begging for a replay. Pollard kills it throughout vocally. This is what happens when a dumb soundcheck song become a full-fledged tune, and then continues to somehow become your minor weirdo favorite. 

Blue Jay House- 3 Starts off sounding like this could be one propulsive song! A simple guitar riff we've heard lead off countless songs in the rock universe before. You just know it's gonna slay. Eventually it sort of dribble about over 2 minutes, recalling more of a 90s The Fall feel (backed by acoustics and keyboard jabs), rather than anything resembling propulsion. Pollard's melody and delivery feels too uninspired to make this stick as anything more than a dude singing over mid-tempo repetition. Oddly arresting. 

Down the Island- 4 Is it the thunderstorm effects in the background? Is it the reverb-set-to-11 cloak shrouding the vocals? The harpsichord keyboard noodling? Whatever the case, this skeletal tune gets better with every listen. A real for-fans-only track, perhaps. Equal parts haunting, humid, and hopeful comprise this understated Pollard ballad. 

Thimble Society- Repetitive, low budget industrial-prog guitar and drum backbone holds it together as Pollard lays down a strong double vocal showing. When living on the odder side of life, this one begins to pay off with repeated listens. With low lights at the next GBV show, may you bask in its glory, raise a hand, in a sea of marijuana haze as the guitars wash over you. 



SIDE B:
My Angel-  Instant classic, and perfect way to kick of Side 2. This almost feels like cut and paste Pollard material, but one you're never too tired to revisit. So simplistic, so joyous. The hooks throughout are pure.  Additionally, the guitar crunch on this is fantastic. All at under a minute and a half. 

More Reduction Linda- 4 Guitar wise, brings about dizzying memories of "Field Jacket Blues" off Pollard's From a Compound Eye. Epileptic in both its guitar and tom rolls approach while allowing for momentary 2 chord pop moments. Great Pollard double vocals on the "she always knows" parts, along with top notch Gillard guitar noodling. 

Cools Jewels and Aprons- 5 Perhaps the single greatest GBV throwback to the days of your since anything off Cool Planet or Motivational Jumpsuit. This is straight from Under the Bushes Under the Stars era. A to-die-for descending guitar pattern in the choruses, and short-as-shit verses complete with two-part harmony. At a hair over a minute long, this is Pollard gold. Amazing. 

Even Next- 4 Time to fly the Pollard ballad flag once more. Somewhere between the timeless turning wheels of a grandfather clock and a far off nursery rhyme, you'll find this foggy dream sequence of a lullaby waiting for you. Eventually the wafting tempo  gives way to steadier Kevin March drum part, anchored by Gillard's added strings. Only wish the blown-out ending could last one more measure. All the more reason to make you revisit. 

It Will Never Be Simple- 2 A perfectly fine and harmless track. But in my GBV universe, do I really need to hear a Doug Gillard solo INSTRUMENTAL front and center here?  This two and a half minute track feels like an epic compared to all the other off-the-cuff tunes. Didn't make sense to me on the 100 Dougs EP. Still doesn't make sense to me in the middle of Side 2. 

The Stars Behind Us- 4 Ageless GBV territory here. Bare holds this together with steady guitar chug and Gillard flies off the rails on some twisted leads. The song does feel like it misses the opportunity to cash in on several killer hook moments, but the lead-out is a solid payoff along with Pollard's stony, yet tuneful delivery. Steadfast GBV gratification. 

Skull Arrow- 1 How dumb is too dumb? Every GBV record needs 1 pure dud, I guess? Here it is in all its terrible glory. Feels like it was conceived and recorded in the same brain cell it took for the "skull arrow" to kill. 

Out Of the Blue Race- Speaking of dumb ideas... Constipated Bob is back! As if in the midst of drunken bowel troubles, Uncle Bob digs into his baritone moments for this lackluster guitar boner of a tune. For such short tune, this feels like such an exercise in patience. 

Coming Back From Now On- 2 Speaking of dumb ideas....  This is the only section of the LP where it feels the throw-aways, and worst ideas were banished to skip-ability island.  Here, Pollard announces the track over screaming-fan sound effects. The song awkwardly transitions between mind-numbing rock tune and near high-kick territory. Unfortunately, Pollard's melodies are DOA throughout. 

The Pipers, The Vipers, The Snakes!- 4 Late LP redemption! Clunky mid-tempo rocker that is more wholly familiar GBV territory. Solid harmonies, great delivery. Musically; short on ideas, but rewarding after a few spins on the turntable, bolstered by harmonic vocal outro. Repetitive, hitting all the right spots. 

Time Remains In Central Position- 4 During the recording of Mag Earwhig! and Do the Collapse, maybe... just maybe... Pollard penned this tune, and resurrected it from the boombox tapes. One can dream, but this is vintage mid to late 90s.  Takes its time to unfold at mid-tempo, feeling like it swells, but remains on first raising auto pilot. 


End It With Light- 5 Perhaps not since Do the Collapse's "An Unmarketed Product" has a closer felt so immediate and catchy. Brief, pounding, profound. Top notch LP closer, one that requires  only a minute in change of your time. Like a lost gem from Alien Lanes, "End It With Light," truly does as its title implies, reminding us why GBV is number 1 in our hearts and on our score cards. 




1901 Acid Rock (2019)

1901 Acid Rock
(2019, Guided by Voices Inc.)



On March 29, 2019, round two of the GBV EP saga continued. 3 months removed from the first two entries in the quintet, 1901 Acid Rock and Umlaut Over the Ozone hit stores. Like the first 2, each EP was pressed on black wax and limited to 1000.

And like the first two, each song featured the current line-up firing off song snippet shots from the hip. No place is this quality of material greater in the collection that 1901 Acid Rock, as if vying for greatest GBV EP of all-time!

Each of these songs were collected less than a month later on the Warp and Woof  LP.


SIDE A:
Dead Liquor Store- 5 Sounding like some mash up of a Sega Genesis game meets caffeinated punk track, the song is tough not to root for through gritted teeth and jittery eyeballs. Between Kevin March's high tension drumming, Gillard and Bare's rope-taught guitar stabs, and Shue's warbling, see-saw bass pummels, it's pure aural gratification. Harkens back to Space Gun's impeccable "Daily Getups" a bit. The tacked on swooning end part of "might get a taste of you, might get a taste of me," seals the deal as new GBV classic.

Cools Jewels and Aprons- 5 Perhaps the single greatest GBV throwback to the days of your since anything off Cool Planet or Motivational Jumpsuit. This is straight from Under the Bushes Under the Stars era. A to-die-for descending guitar pattern in the choruses, and short-as-shit verses complete with two-part harmony. At a hair over a minute long, this is Pollard gold. Amazing.

Down the Island- 4 Is it the thunderstorm effects in the background? Is it the reverb-set-to-11 effect on the vocals? The harpsichord keyboard noodling? Whatever the case, this skeletal tune gets better with every listen. A real for-fans-only track, perhaps. Equal parts haunting, humid, and hopeful in this understated Pollard ballad. 


SIDE B:
My Dog Surprise- 2 Musically, this could've fit somewhere buried in Universal Truths and Cycles era, or perhaps a leftover from ZOC. A mid-tempo number lagging in much to note, only dragged down by Pollard's horrid vocal posturing. Still not sure if it's a dog names "Surprise," or as in giving one a "dog surprise." I'm not sure which is worse? A lumbering affair that sticks in your brain for the wrong reasons.

Even Next- 4 Time to fly the Pollard ballad flag once more. Somewhere between the timeless turning wheels of a grandfather clock and a far off nursery rhyme, you'll find this foggy dream sequence of a lullaby waiting for you. Eventually the wafting tempo  gives way to steadier Kevin March drum part, anchored by Gillard's added strings. Only wish the blown-out ending could last one more measure. All the more reason to make you revisit.

Time Remains In Central Position- 4 During the recording of Mag Earwhig! and Do the Collapse, maybe... just maybe... Pollard penned this tune, and resurrected it from the boombox tapes. One can dream, but this is vintage mid to late 90s.  Takes its time to unfold at mid-tempo, feeling like it swells, but remains on first raising auto pilot. 


Umlaut Over the Özone (2019)

Umlaut Over the Özone
(2019, Guided by Voices Inc.) 


On March 29, 2019, round two of the GBV EP saga continued. 3 months removed from the first two entries in the quintet, 1901 Acid Rock and Umlaut Over the Ozone hit stores. Like the first 2, each EP was pressed on black wax and limited to 1000.

And like the first two, each song featured the current line-up firing off song snippet shots from the hip. Umlaut Over the Ozone proves to be a strong EP full of "angelic weirdness" and haphazard GBV ideas tightly packed into an enjoyable slab of wax. The only deterrent is having to flip this gem over, repeatedly.

Each of these songs were collected less than a month later on the Warp and Woof LP.


SIDE A:
Angelic Weirdness- 4 Case in point of the title defining the entire song. In fact, this could very well be Pollard flying his Ween appreciation freak flag. If this were on Ween's The Pod or GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, would we question it? With that said, this is not to be missed. Pollard's vocal delivery is somewhat off-putting at first, yet somewhat heavenly thanks to studio effect. Dropped over the acoustic backbone of the song, it's oh-so-sweet, and sinks its hooks into you slowly.

More Reduction Linda- 4 Guitar wise, brings about dizzying memories of "Field Jacket Blues" off Pollard's From a Compound Eye. Epileptic in both its guitar and tom rolls approach while allowing for momentary 2 chord pop moments. Great Pollard double vocals on the "she always knows" parts, along with Gillard guitar noodling.

Blue Jay House- 3 Starts off sounding like this could be one propulsive song! A simple guitar riff we've heard lead off countless songs in the rock universe before. You just know it's gonna slay. Eventually it sort of dribble about over 2 minutes, recalling more of a 90s The Fall feel (backed by acoustics and keyboard jabs), rather than anything resembling propulsion. Pollard's melody and delivery feels too uninspired to make this stick as anything more than a dude singing over mid-tempo repetition. 



SIDE B:
Photo Range Within- 3 Blink-and-you'll-miss-it simplicity here. Pollard and company rolls lightly into whimsical country meets child-friendly simplicity here. Catchy and an almost idiotic way, anchored by Shue's lead bass, and given life by the prickly guitars of Gillard and Bare. Almost sounds like a thrift-store rendition of a passable Pavement outtake, a band that made their living on thrift store ideals.

Mumbling Amens- Moody and prickly. Like a cold mid-summer's day mist rolling in off Lake Erie  into the industrial compounds of Cleveland, there's beauty here, but perhaps not apparent at first. A breath of air, or one best suited for moments of looking out at the gloom with hands planted firmly in pockets.

End It With Light- 5 Perhaps not since Do the Collapse's "An Unmarketed Product has a closer felt so immediate and catchy. Brief, pounding, profound. Top notch LP closer, one that requires  only a minute in change of your time. Like a lost gem from Alien Lanes, "End It With Light," truly does as its title implies, reminding us why GBV is number 1 in our hearts and on our score cards.