Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now
(2009, Guided by Voices Inc.)
Four years after the 2nd and ten years after the first 100 were dropped on the world, Pollard returns with the 3rd collection of 100 unreleased tracks (Discs 9-12 in the series). After the rather disappointing and altogether tedious collection on Suitcase 2: American Superdream Wow, the latest addition comes back slightly stronger but, nonetheless, still bloated and diluted. But one must remember, historically, unreleased tracks generally remain unreleased for a reason, one day properly filling out CD reissues making bootleggers sweat. In this case, one can't expect too much as these are unreleased tracks so a strong healthy dose of bullshit is to be expected. Still, this third go-round mostly feels... draining. But as every GBV hoarder knows, you don't need to ask. Just accept.
Suitcase 3 relies heavily upon recent Pollard solo LP outtakes, primarily cuts rejected from 2009's Elephant Jokes LP. Prior to Suitcase 3, a rumored compilation, reportedly titled Tug of War At The Faithful Center, featuring unused tracks was passed around online as a potential Pollard solo release, but was eventually shelved. Most of the tracks wound up on this third box-set installment, in turn. Many of these Todd Tobias produced leftovers (from post-GBV first-run life) are nothing to drool over, there are a few pop gems among the madness.
The remainder of Suitcase 3 remains par for the course, and comparable to previous collections. Late '80s GBV tracks, extended basement instrumentals, poor man's psych, and discarded early baby voiced Pollard cuts. The collection does over saturate with far too many unlistenable, minute long track of psycho-mumble, and desolate demo tracks that doesn't deserve the plastic it's burned on. Another fault of Suitcase 3 is the lack of extensive recording info and liner notes that accompany the first two collections. Packaging wise, this is a trimmed down collection, making pinning down recording times and personnel involved a difficult task.
The greatest appeal of the third Suitcase is the inclusion of Disc 12's material. (Click here to read a brief write up on the treat given to the fanatics on Disc 12.) Casual listeners and obsessives alike get to eavesdrop on an improvised acoustic think-tank session between Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, and Robert Pollard during their Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes days. A relic worthy of hearing, and some of the melodic riff-raff is quiet infectious, showing the ease which material was flowing at the time. Some it just flat out sucks.
Disc 9: The Door Is Much Smaller, You See
Building A Castle- 2 Begins with the same reverberated organ noise that makes an appearance on "Ester's Day" and "At Odds with Doctor Genesis." Perhaps this is from the same sit down session. This is a 32 second opener that isn't breaking down any doors, and isn't particularly good or bad. If nothing else it has a familiarity that makes you go "Oh, I think I know this song..." but then ya don't.
Tired of Knocking- 3 Hi-fi, door-kicking in kind of rocker. Decent melody throughout the song. I think Pollard is singing real words? Kind of cool. A short blast that was an outtake from his solo LP Elephant Jokes
Together/Apart- 4 Mid '80s home recording. One clean guitar, bass and drums. The song has a mid-60's Brit feel to it. Pollard sings accent free on this one. In the scheme of these box-sets, this is practically lost gold.
Away With Driver- 1 Single, staccato acoustic strums on an acoustic guitar. Four goddamn minutes of this nonsense that eventually breaks into something of a strumming pattern. Pollard sings a sad sack melody that may have been able to do him some good if this song was pursued. But as a four minute post-it note, and nothing more, it's best left unheard.
Trash Truck- 1 Poor man's grunge trash. Pollard howls something over this extremely lo-fi track. The bass trumps percussion on it to the song's own detriment and drags on for three minutes.
Dropping The Bomb- 4 An airy, gliding pop number that's shrouded in melodic layers, and fay acoustic plucks. Another Elephant Jokes outtake. So positively blissful that a few repeated listens might warrant a place for this in the soft spot of your brain.
What's So Safe About You?- 2 Pollard bangs away at the acoustic guitar, and sings some semi-literate stuff. Gets a 2 because it doesn't suck nearly as bad as some of the regular acoustic/vocal boombox stuff.
Troopers In Town- 3 Murky, full band recording from sometime in the mid-'90s. Track takes its time to build (it's nearly a four minute song). Certainly not the best, but quite interesting to consider why this slow-burner, with its downer lead riff, didn't make an appearance elsewhere. Worth a spin!
Gas- 1 Distant and distorted guitar with ripped to reverb shit vocals, and a random drum hit once in a while. 30 seconds of steady beat poppy kind of song. "And I can smell it... gas." These are real lyrics, mind you. Mildly intriguing.
Watchin' Em Diggin' Up the Road- 2 Pollard strums the guitar and sings pure babble throughout, with the exception of him stating the title. The real damn shame here is that I think I'd fucking love this song if it were actually finished!
Coastal Town- 4 Wait.This sounds slightly familiar. Harmonica and dual harmonies are placed over gently strummed guitar, you may eventually realize is a prototype for "Closer You Are" off Alien Lanes. Killer artifact. Fascinating, and not so bad at all. Surprised this didn't resurface sooner.
Escape From Kama Luka- 1 Mid-'90s (?) acoustic demo. The tape sounds as though it has a bit of age to it. However, it's nothing but a solidly strummed, melancholy and fairly subpar acoustic demo. If there were any vocals, I think I might be able to at least give this a "2."
The Annex- 1 Devo-lite. Drum machine backbone, seesaw guitar work, and robotic vocal styling. May have been better suited for a Circus Devils LP. Nearly 4 minutes! Another Elephant Jokes outtake.
Green Ivory Cross- 2 Pollard plays a skipping, hammer-on acoustic riff and sings a forlorn melody while doing so. Nothing crazy, but a rainy day demo you can at sink at least one tooth into.
Janet Wait- 3 Sounds like a late '80s GBV outtake based on the singing and overall sound quality. Tremolo guitar buzzes over a casual drum beat. Pollard lays down a lazy vocal melody that kind of fucking rules!
Independent Productions- 1 Sounds like Pollard is about to take a shit, then drops something, then literally blows his nose. This is followed by silence, then some melody he sings. After this he whispers, there is more silence, a little mumbling, and the tape cuts short. One whole minute. What in the fucking world is this? Really though, you gotta hear this.
Thee White Flower- 2 Mitch Mitchell, Jim Pollard, and Bob all met in the basement and there is a damn good chance this is them doing an Acid Ranch early session. Steady drum beat with Woodstock-hippy-dippy vocal chanting. Bizarre nonsense, but in this case it is calculated nonsense.
Juggernaut Vs. Monolith- 2 The original demo of what was eventually adopted by Pollard's band Boston Spaceships on Let It Beard. Not much to this demo, other than a slightly interesting monotone hook.
Feels Good- 1 Nothing feels good about trying to listen to this fucking song.
Candy Machine- 1 Rather short, hi-fi steadfast pop number with a little muscle behind it. Another Elephant Jokes outtake. Unfortunately, the vocals were either overdubbed later, or this was Pollard's only take as it sounds like he's in a constant drunken mid-burp, and always left of center of being in tune.
Air And Also A World- 2 Sounds like a dank Acid Ranch outtake from the early '80s. Grab your sitar and give in to the alluring church of Pollard, but don't dive too deep into this one.
Back To The Navy- 4 Acoustic song track with solid vocal delivery. Sturdy song with a mid-90s GBV feel to it. Gotta hang with this one. Not sure what era this might have been recorded in (mid-90s?/'00s/), but there was serious releasable potential for this one. The bridge, of all things, is exceptionally fucking awesome, by the way.
Speak Like Men- 5 Sounds like an early version of "Not Behind the Fighter Jet" off Mag Earwhig!, but with different, jangled choruses. Originally supposed to be included on the aborted GBV LP The Power of Suck. BUT HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Put this on any GBV mix. A hidden gem in the rough.
Hi, I'm Kelsey- 2 Answering machine bullshit with a sped-up woman's voice, or perhaps some kid's, declaring that they farted. Always hilarious, of course. Pollard plays oddly tuned, back porch, honky-tonk guitar slides over the machine. Not a song, but LISTEN TO THIS. Kind of a rad sound collage. All in good fun.
No Trash Allowed- 5 Jangled, morning hangover sunshine guitar. Short, sweet and should have been on any early GBV EP. Whoa! Listen to on repeat. One minute of pure early GBV lost wonderment, akin to "Hey Aardvark!" Lovely.