Guided by Voices / August by Cake|
Reviewed: DJ Stace
Perhaps the greatest indie pop band of all time, GBV, returns. Actually, apparently it was written, played and recorded entirely by Robert Pollard, but is there a difference, really? He claims it’s his 100th release, but who’s counting (or even could?). A solid GBV album full of indie pop songs that don’t belabor their point to death. The one complaint you can have about a GBV song is that when it’s got a great hook, it often doesn’t last long enough. Something funny about releasing an hour and 15 minutes of 2 minute songs. This will satisfy the GBV fan but won’t win new ones, like Alien Lanes or Do the Collapse. Essentially an album full of classic GBV songs, somehow without the hooks that make you want to listen to them over-and-over.
FCCs on 25.
Favs 3,9,12,16,18, 22, 27, 28 32
1. Bob Intro 0:10 - “Ladies and gentleman…” Intro leads into the next track…
2. 5 Degrees on the Inside 2:27 - **Fanfare horns and plodding beat is a punchy GBV opening track. Handclap, big guitars, lots of orchestration.
3. Generox Gray 2:03 - **Slow, guitar droning, anthemic, with classic Pollard tenor as baritone delivery. Brief pipe organ at the end leaves you wanting more.
4. When We All Hold Hands 2:03 - Mid-tempo drum machine beat accompanied by that twangy bass and driving GBV guitar rhythm.
5. Goodbye Note 3:00 - One of the longer track on the album. Another head nodder with a driving mid to up-tempo beat. Intro reminds me of The Earthlings “Saving up for my spaceship.” Nice GBV lead guitar work, layered vocals.
6. We Liken the Sun 2:20 - Pollard and his signature straining tenor. Low tempo with strumming at first. Simple beat. Sounds like GBV. Get’s anthemic at about 1:30 and then ends.
7. Fever Pitch 1:08 - Super fuzzed out reverbed vocals and acoustic accompaniment. Great for that last 60 seconds you can’t fill at the end of your show.
8. Absent the Man 1:39 - Garage surfy little thing with not Robert Pollard singing, I think. Sounds like an FCC, but he says “Shake down”
9. Packing the Dead Zone 2:47 **- “We’re creating a society of cell phone crazed marijuana smoking zombies” starts this rocker. Actually reminds me a bit of a White Zombie tune in the intro. Hooray consumerism! Big GBV Guitars, batshit crazy lead guitar. I like this one, thoug it never really goes anywhere. One of those GBV tunes that would have benefitted from a chorus.
10. What Begins on New Years Day 2:10 - Vocally centered with the classic GBV acoustic guitar strumming accompaniment and little else.
11. Overloaded 3:32 -
12. Keep Me Down 2:40 ***- Groovy little Rolling Stones like joint. Fuzzy, blues guitar and cowbell! I like this one. Gets a little chaotic in the middle with some Randi Rhoades BS lead guitar, then returns to form. Sounds amateurish and cool. Play it.
13. West Coast Company Man 2:00 - Starts mid tempo then slows down to a plodding rocker with big, epic, echoey vocals. Back to the Mid Tempo. Guitar reminds a bit of Big Star, maybe.
14. Warm Up To Religion 2:00 - Somehow, there are probably about a half dozen song types you could class all GBV songs into. This one is definitely part of one of those classes. Slow to mid tempo start with jangly GBV guitar and Pollards talk singing, increasing in intensity to a climaxing (but still slow) end.
15. High 5 Hall of Famers 2:16 - I like the vocal harmony at the beginning, and the catch line. Vocals sound like he’d been singing all day. Good beat and classic low-fi guitar. Simple and all about the lyrics. Nice bass line, too.
16. Hiking Skin 1:54 ***- Soaring vocals and crashing drums with epic guitar work. All standard GBV. Nice.
17. Sudden Fiction 2:50 - **Somehow this one’s vocals remind me of Jesus & Mary Chain, in a good way. Up tempo rocker with driving beat and guitars. I like the refrain.
18. It’s Food 2:56 ***- Twangy guitar intro with Pollard vocals. More of what you’ve heard before, but not in a bad way. Rocks out in the crashy strummy way only GBV can.
Holy crap, another 15 songs left to go?
19. Cheap Buttons 2:16 - Bright guitar hook and the sort of anthemic lyrics work.
20. Substitute 11 2:34 - Slow, plodding weird authoritarian sounding oddity. Robert Pollard talking narrative weirdness toward the middle, then rocks out for the remainder.
21. Chew the Sand 3:44 - Droney throb of a rhythm and spacey guitar noise with sparse, unintelligible Robert Pollack lyrics. Your Imaginary Friend’s favorite track on the album, I predict.
22. Dr. Feelgood Falls Off The Ocean 2:04 ***- Drum machine track, in a good way. Driving and upbeat. A pleasant experience for GBV fans.
23. The Laughing Closet 1:38 - Brief, lovely with strings and jangly guitars.
24. Deflect Project 2:37 - Punchy guitar hooks, breaks into a breathy, head-nodding rocker.
25. Upon the Circus Bus 2:19 FCC “Shit” “Fucking” and more, probably - Having spent some time around carnies in my day, it certainly sounds like RP clandestinely recorded some of the gnarly conversations you would hear on a bus full of drunk carnies. FCC’s are audible in the backing track. Unremarkable track, other than the cursing carnies.
26. Try It Out It’s Nothing 1:48 - Boilerplate GBV Epic, Anthemic rocker with nothing to make you want more. OK, Maybe the horn section at the end, but is it enough?
27. Sentimental Wars 2:54 ***- Mid tempo, sweetly strummy bouncer. One of the better songs on the record. You’ll sing the chorus in your head over and over.
28. Circus Day Holdout 2:07 *** - Big, power-chord weirdo rocker. “Crank up your monkey and organ without me….”
29. Whole Tomatoes 1:17 - Brief GBV Acoustic anthem about eating whole tomatoes.
30. Amusement Park is Over 2:23 - Another plucky acoustic start works it’s way into a lightly rocking head nodder. I sense a theme. Maybe the circus came through Ann Arbor sometime last year?
31. Golden Doors 1:56 - Gary Numan meets GBV beginning. Drony, strumming acoustic with RP doing his talk singing thing.
32. The Possible Edge 2:12 - Unassuming and undemanding. Mid-tempo Meh. Robert Pollard signing harmony with himself.
33. Escape to Phoenix 2:03 ** - Up-temp little rocker. Nice end to an album that’s about 15 songs too long, even for GBV. Reprises the “Crank up your monkey and organ…” refrain from Circus Day Holdout,… fade to end.