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 makings 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 Blink-and-you'll-miss-it simplicity here. 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. 




5 comments:

  1. Have barely taken two spins but now already more capturing than ZoC. I really love More Reduction Linda! Great riff and fitting noisy people sound in the background. Cool Jewels and Aprons, beautiful! And I agree with you on Down the Island, a true beauty of a ballad.

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  2. I haven't been keeping up w/ GBV lately, but your review is really tempting me to snap this one up....

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    1. I say go for it with this one. It’s quick, a lot of variety, and gets better with each spin. It’s one of those where even if you’re not too keen on the whole record, you should probably dig at least half!

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  3. Excellent review! I think this is a really great album. Still amazing levels of creativity after all these years.

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    1. Thanks for reading! I really do think this has so much variety throughout, while feeling spontaneous and organic. Love going along for the ride of the GBV ebb and flow through the years.

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