Class Clown Spots a UFO
(2012, Guided by Voices Inc.)
How does a prolific outfit like Guided by Voices outdo itself the year it's released its first LP in 8 years? By releasing two, of course. Duh! And speaking of predictable next steps for a band such as this one, the band would release their 3rd LP of the year a mere 5 months after Class Clown Spots a UFO.
Following the grab-bag, arguably throw-away element of Let's Go Eat the Factory, Guided by Voices had now returned with a jam packed (19 songs), madcap, early-2000's era of lo-fi feel of a record. Pollard delivers most of the material, but when Sprout contributes he ups the ante in comparison to his fairly stale showing in the first reunion LP. The GBV reunion remains rather scatterbrained on this, weaving in an out of styles, and consistently putting the avant in the jangle pop jar, and shaking it vigorously.
He Rises! Our Union Bellboy- 4 Early era GBV sounding tune (talking Same Place... type). A morose bass line plays over rolling toms, slowly building into a decent slow burning, proggy/post-punk opener with some killer, dense melodies. Gets even better with with repeated listens.
Blue Babbleships Bay- 2 Weird guitar guitar bends over scrappy, arena cock rocking as Pollard spills his babbleship (?) lyrics. This song seems to be the result of writing lyrics on a napkin at a bar one night, and trying to replicate the spirit through song the next morning.
Forever Until It Breaks- 3 Mid-paced, Tobin Sprout number chock full of his homemade orchestration. Main riff is fairly grating, and Tobin's usual bottomless bag of great melodies seems to find it's bottom with this song.
Class Clown Spots a UFO- 5 Excellent! Classic GBV hook, partially due to the fact this is a rework of the song "Crocker's Favorite Song" from King Shit and the Golden Boys. Also, for all you seekers of history, the true demo can actually be found on Suitcase 3. The wonderful celebratory, lo-fi horn section is courtesy of the organ. Also, the endlessly enjoyable call and response chorus can't be overstated.
Chain To The Moon- 4 Sparse, haunting dual vocal delay over acoustic guitar. Short, sweet, and classic.
Hang Up and Try Again- 2 Same cement-headed riff played over and over before showing a quick flash of The Who, but then more of that danged cement-headed riffage
Keep It In Motion- 5 Almost so completely stupid, it's brilliant. Or is it so brilliant it's completely stupid? Trying to figure out the answer to this question as opposed to listening to it is what is ACTUALLY stupid. Drum machine beats over a lightly strummed guitar with beautiful call and response vocal melodies by both Pollard and Sprout. WHOA! Insanely catchy song, and with repeated listens it may bring the listener to a nostalgic weeping session. It's not out of the question.
Tyson's High School- 3 "Keep It In Motion" ends and spills into this scraggly, psych rocker that's equal parts lunkheaded, and kind of flat-out cool. The only hook to speak of is pretty cheesy but the song is a purely aged, burnt-out Saturday afternoon garage jam that works.
They And Them- 3 Tobin Sprout number. Short orchestral, Beatle-baroque sophisti-pop. Kind of idiotic, kind of perfect depending on the time of day.
Fighter Pilot- 2 Another Sprout song that's fairly indiscernible. Full of repeated, possible gibberish over fairly haunting pop chords. Works well as a mood piece, but not necessarily as song.
Roll of the Dice, Kick in the Head- 3 Blink and you'll miss it opener to the b-sides brings memories of "Closer You Are", but without the same level of charm.
Billy Wire- 5 Simple, hook-filled tune that combines the best part of classic era GBV quick riffs with some of the more recent Pollard chord progressions, and cut-and-paste pop weirdness. Arguably, this is as "punk" as this LP gets.
Worm W/ 7 Broken Hearts- 2 A much crappier lo-fi version of this shows up on the Class Clown...7'' and got a 1. This gets a 2 for not being that version, at the very least.
Starfire- 4 The strongest Sprout composition to appear on the LP up to this point. Beautifully crafted, simple melody in the chorus followed by hypnotically spiraling string hook (probably a synth). It's Sprout songs like this that make it seem so effortless for him to pen such a powerful song.
Jon the Croc- 4 Moody, weighted, stop-start downer. Hits heavy, and on the slower side of mid-tempo. Soaring choruses that almost fall apart but come together for fist raising results.
Fly Baby- 4 Acoustic Pollard recording with electric lead line jumping in to pull at the heartstrings. Somber, yet perfectly catchy. Bit of a mid-90s radio alt rock sound tucked into this acoustic track.
All of This Will Go- 5 One of the most beautiful Tobin Sprout songs ever. Period. Tear inducing lyrics, with such a wonderfully warming chorus, over Sprout's prickly guitar jangle. So excellent! A must hear. And then a must hear again.
The Opposite Continues- 3 Meandering, noisy pop mess with building vocal melody by Pollard. Swirling and hypnotic.
Be Impeccable- 4 Solo, electric guitar with classic late-90's/early '00s sounding GBV melody. Longer, with some weird chords thrown in for good measure. May be overlooked upon first LP run through, but worth the revisits.
Lost In Spaces- 3 Tobin Sprout composition. Off-timed, double tracked vocals over piano meandering. Really haunting,and fit for a rainy day foray into the unknown.
No Transmission- 4 Big vocal delivery over dread filled rock closer. Heavy hitting. Builds into the grand, repetitive oblivion. Over and out.