Sunday, October 19, 2014

More Lies From the Gooseberry Bush (2014)

More Lies From the Gooseberry Bush
(2014, Guided by Voices Inc.)

Wow, Robert Pollard started a side project and followed it up with a second album? We haven't seen the likes of this since the glory days of.... um.... Psycho and the Birds!!!? And what casual Pollard fan can forget them?

It's not every side-project Pollard decides to dust off and ship out again. There's been the more steady vehicles (Circus Devils, Boston Spaceships), but one wouldn't be remiss to think Force Fields At Home was a one and done affair. 

Pollard's follow-up Teenage Guitar album sounds, at times, like some of the scrappier tracks off Cool Planet. In fact, if you think this LP has a bit of the GBV Cool Planet feel to it, you're not far off. Unlike, Force Fields At Home, this sophomore effort was recorded at Cyberteknics in Dayton, OH with Phil Mehffney; the same condition as GBV's swan song LP. 

Teenage Guitar continues to be about spontaneous playing and layered improvisation with Pollard handling all the instruments. A few tracks here though do feel more formulated some tracks off Force Fields At Home. Still, the combination of atmospheric shambles and great vocal lines made the debut a fairly strong outing while More Lies From the Gooseberry Bush feels a little unfinished and haphazard in spots. Nevertheless, nice to see Teenage Guitar stamped onto a new LP so all 300 of us can get excited.

Go Around (The Apartment Dwellers)- Moody downstroked opener. It buzzes, rattles away in its monotony making it sounds pretty psych. Solid Pollard vocal hook. Reminiscent of "Alex and the Omegas" off GBV's Motivational Jumpsuit with the vocal hooks. Excellent repetitive ending as Pollard howls away. 

Spliced At Acme Fair- 4 Opens with a circus music snippet that is AWESOME! Cuts off and breaks into a languid waltz. Downtrodden and with a slow burning vocal hook. This one's a grower. Keep at it.

A Guaranteed Ratio- Sounds like a shitty Radiohead sample at first before the very familiar Pollard guitar jangle enters. Unfortunately, the song doesn't really go anywhere and the promising guitar intro never really expands. Vocals out of tune in spots. Not bad but feels like a wasted opportunity. 

Good Mary's House- Pollard's back on that piano he's been pounding away at the past couple years. And like so many of Pollard on the piano tunes this one finds itself in the stinker department. Vocal range wobbles all over the place. Building outro into the organ almost saves it, but still feels like a missed chance.

Skin Ride- Another Radiohead drum machine opening, huh? Industrial pounding with crunched guitar hammering away. A filler track as Pollard harmonizes "Skin Ride" over and over. Meehhhh.

Full Glass Gone- 1 Jilted, sloppy on purpose track that feels part late period GBV, part Suitcase outtake. Well, at any rate... 

All You Fought For- Pollard in neo-bluegrass form. Murky acoustic plucks and crooning also sounds reminiscent of Suitcase outtake but this is pretty cool. Overall sense of dread throughout. Part elfin, part swamp blues.

Gear Up- A bunch of cheap bongo banging and harmonica blasts ramble about behind Pollard's acoustic strums. Nothing memorable as we fade to Side B...

No Escape-  Tape machine rewinds, Pollard laughs like a creepy dude... Humdrum guitar stabs over rudimentary bass... Sounds off but Pollard holds it together with a rather powerfully melancholy vocal line. 

Matthew's Ticker and Shaft- How 'bout that grandpa title on this one? Also, this song is broken into 4 sections (A. Come to Breakfast, B.The Girls Arrive, C. Division of Swans, and D.When Death Has a Nice Ring). Starts off nice and rickety, somewhere in the realm of GBV EP territory. Cuts to a solemn piano procession, appropriately haunting. Part C finds multiple Pollard shouting over a thin wall of distorted crunch. Ends with a sullen nursery rhyme-esque keys part. A real mess, but a fun mess. Cuts into...

The Instant American- 4 Practically could have been listed as Part E of "Matthew's Ticker and Shaft." In the background, a crowd of people attending some sort of gathering mingle about as Pollard's layered vocals burst forth with no instrumentation. Rather haunting, slightly grating. Another mess but a novelty gem in the Pollard universe.

Normalized- Pollard repeats the word "normalized" while he stabs away at a couple chords and a droning synth noise. Then he sings over that. No thanks. 

New Light- A bunch of rambling slop drums with a shrapnel sounding guitar lays a mess over that. However, the vocal melody is a real throwback to classic era GBV. So close to being great but the mess of instrumentation detracts. 

Birthplace Of the Electric Starter- Crunchy, transistor radio sounding guitar buzzes away as Pollard lays down pieces of interesting vocal melodies, but ultimately the song remains flat. 

A Year That Could Have Been Worse- A different version of this song originally appeared earlier in 2014 as the B-side on the GBV 7'' Males of Wormwood Mars. Regardless of the version, and this one much more of a "rock" version, it is still such an excellent song. 


  1. found this album used for $8 yesterday, and picked it up. I pretty much agree with all of your songs reviews ont his one. Side one does start off well, then goes downhill. "A year that could have been worse" is a damn good song. Amazing to me he didn't put it on a GBV album, Motivational Jumpsuit or Cool Planet could have used it.

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  3. Really enjoying "Go Around (the apartment dwellers)" this morning

  4. Pretty good drumming on "A guaranteed ratio." really wish Bob had hired a real pianist though. "good mary's house" is pretty irritating.