Thursday, April 11, 2013

Under the Bushes Under the Stars (1996)

Under the Bushes Under the Stars
(1996, Matador Records)

Concluding the classic trilogy of LPs, among most fans, Under the Bushes Under The Stars remains a much celebrated pop battle cry among fans, critics, and loyalists. The 2nd Matador Records LP following 1995's Alien Lanes, and last of the classic line-up, Under The Bushes Under The Stars remains the end of an era for many GBV fans.

Initially recorded with celebrated engineer and musician in his own right, Steve Albini (Big Black, Shellac, Rapeman), much of the LP was said to be recorded at his famed Electrical Audio in Chicago (several tracks were recorded in other locations including Dayton's Cro-Mag Studios,Pollard's stomping ground). It is then said to have been taken back to Dayton, and remixed on 4-track to give it a grittier, lo-fi aesthetic the band had now become known for. Whatever the case, the LP is another strong outing, and a solid listen from start to finish.  Gone are the barrage of snippet tracks that had infested Alien Lanes. UTBUTS ushers in a mix of short, surrealist pop bursts, and fully formed, basement rockers that resonate deeply in the hearts of many a GBV fan.

This LP saw release on CD and LP, with the LP containing 2 discs.  The 2nd record in the LP set contains 6 tracks.  


Man Called Aerodynamics- 5  Explosive, squealing, and ultimately bombastic. Amazingly upward moving opener with hazy, surreal projected vocals, and gigantic hooks.  Case study in how to blow the lid off an LP right off the bat.

Rhine Jive Click- 3 Cowbell, oohs and ahhs,  and “Crowded gymnasiums.”  Simple, 4/4 strummed song that acts as a anchored bridge gap before that classic opening of…

Cut-Out Witch­-  5 One of the most unmistakable openings for any GBV song.  Uptempo, steady, attitude served without brutish force.  Sing along, shake a fist, don’t go outside all day.  Perfect soundtrack for all the above.

Burning Flag Birthday Suit- 4 Eerie, surreal with distant reverb guitar, and spiraling piano.  Breaks apart into an open aired, lo-fi arena rocker.  Classic formula proudly on display here.

The Official Iron Man Rally Song- 5  An epic song that harks back to memories of endless summer days and regretful nostalgia. One of those soundtrack to a life songs. Excellent verses flow into even better choruses.

To Remake the Young Flyer-  4 Strung-out, psychedelic easy listening from Tobin Sprout.  Unsettling, yet hopeful and intimate.

No Sky- 4 Fairly bare track, with irresistible Pollard bellowing of “COULD YOU KEEP A SECRET FROM ME?”.  Tough not to yell out at inappropriate times when song unexpectedly pops in one’s head.

Bright Paper Werewolves- 4  Beautiful hushed acoustic number that explodes into over the top dynamic section with some great lyrics. “Gold Heart Mountain Top…” part 2 if you will?

Lord of Overstock- 3  Mid-tempo heavy pop-rocker. A little flat, lacking the "big hook", or that dynamic jolt when compared to some of the gems on this album.

Your Name is Wild- 5   Excellent uptempo, bright melodic punk- pop song.  One of the brightest gems to grace this era.

Ghost of a Different Dream-  4 Ultra-pop, high energy song with tremendous vocal hooks. If you find a bed, put this on and jump off it immediately.

Acorns and Orioles- 3  Acoustic, dark. Surreal folk with a touch of mid-60s Lennon.  Dig that full-room drum smashing.

Look at Them- 3 Big clamoring vocal hooks ensue while simple down beat guitar strums and surreal pulsating play out in the background.

The Perfect Life­- 1 Strange noises bleed into “The Perfect Life” as some boombox tape recorded piano is played. Ambient gap track, something GBV had not done up to now. Not really a song, but works well when considering the context of the entire LP listening experience.

Underwater Explosions- 5  Hugely infectious, steady mid-tempo punk-pop. Infectious verses progress into choruses catchier than the common cold.

Atom Eyes-  4 Tobin Sprout’s uplifting, ‘60s pop track with syrupy sweet choruses.

Don’t Stop Now- 5  Originally an acoustic demo on King Shit and The Golden Boys compilation This version gets the fleshed out treatment of dynamics, cello intro, and unique guitar swirls in the bridge.  Still, this song remains quite intimate, nostalgic, and beautifully sad.

Office of Hearts- 3 The verse of this track has some awkward melodies. Song on a whole is also unremarkable through and through considering the trail of potent numbers and blazing pop melodies that have served as its predecessors.

2nd 12''
Big Boring Wedding- 5  Slow burner with big rewards. Pollard allows the melodies to take their time, throwing huge repetitive hooks in after grandly haunting verses with some of the coolest lyrics in the GBV catalog.

It’s Like Soul Man- 5 Incredibly easily digested hooks compliment this high-flying Sprout pop number.  Incrediably infectious. An true unsung classic that waves its flag in the territory of greatness. The Lo-fi, original version of this song later appeared as an exclusive unreleased track on 2004's reissue Bee Thousand:Director's Cut.

Drag Days- 4 Similar sounding to “Your Name is Wild” but with repetitive guitar jangle. Happy seemingly carefree verses are followed by urgent choruses.

Sheet Kickers- 3  Post-punk bass lead plodding with big choruses. A bit run-of-the mill, and lacks a great melody.

Redmen and Their Wives- 2  A staple of some live shows, but far too long and uninteresting. Slowly rolls out from trudging guitar strums to full-band drag with relaxed, unmemorable melodies. The high point is the sweet lazy lead guitar lick that closes the song.

Take to the Sky-  3 Pre-Bee Thousand EP sounding acoustic rambling track. Not much of note here. Toddles along on a shaky leg with some stream of conscious. Lo-fi in the mid-range.


  1. Man, I love this album. "official Iron man..," "ghost of a different dream," "underwater explosions," and "don't stop now" are the stand-outs for me. on balance, I prefer this alien lanes.

  2. No brainer: a 5-rating to all tracks. I know that Bee Thousand, Allien Lanes (and probably Propeller) are better albums, but THIS is my favourite GBV record of all time.

    1. A true classic dissected track by track. I can let this play through and call it an all-time great nonetheless.

  3. How can you be indifferent to Redmen and Their Wives?

    1. A wildly unpopular opinion, I know. Never been my favorite but certainly a fan favorite.

  4. listening to side 2. haven't listened to this in a long time. can't get over how good this is.

  5. IMHO you are too critical on some of these tracks. There is nothing below a 3 on here and your 3s should be 4s.

    1. Fair enough. There are a few I’d change today.

  6. I would love to know which songs you've since realized are 5's (not just on this album, but others as well;) and which songs you've since realized are not 5's, like "Man Called Aerodynamics", which is at best a 3. One thing we can all agree on: this is a great GBV album.

  7. "the perfect life" deserves at least a 3. i'd give it a 4.

  8. I like the guitar solo on "sheet kickers." it's not great, but it never gives up.

  9. About a year after my GBV immersion, this record was released. I cannot tell a lie: it disappointed me. I found it both less carefree and less daring that the sonic revolution of the peak low-fi period. I almost expected GBV to keep pushing boundaries and changing music, so it was disappointing to hear them become 'only' a great rock band. I've come around on this album in retrospect and realized that if Pollard hadn't wanted to be a rock star so badly, there would never have been a GBV. Still, it was the first time I saw the limitations.