Guided By Voices

Followed By Losers
*special introductory paragraph!
*Forever Since Breakfast EP
*Devil Between My Toes
*Sandbox
*Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia
*Same Place The Fly Got Smashed
*Propeller
*The Grand Hour 7"
*Vampire On Titus
*Static Airplane Jive 7"
*Get Out Of My Stations 7"
*Fast Japanese Spin Cycle 7"
*Clown Prince Of The Menthol Trailer 7"
*Bee Thousand
*Split 7" with Grifters
*I Am A Scientist 7"
*Bee Thousand: The Director's Cut
*Alien Lanes
*Motor Away 7"
*Tigerbomb 7"
*The Official Ironmen Rally Song 7"
*Under The Bushes Under The Stars
*Tonics And Twisted Chasers
*Sunfish Holy Breakfast EP
*Plantations Of Pale Pink 7"
*Wish In One Hand... 7"
*Split 7" with Cobra Verde
*Bulldog Skin CD-single
*Mag Earwhig!
*I Am A Tree CD-single
*Do The Collapse
*Plugs For The Program EP
*Hold On Hope EP
*Dayton, Ohio-19 Something And 5 7"
*Suitcase: Failed Experiments And Trashed Aircraft
*Isolation Drills
*Glad Girls CD-single
*Universal Truths And Cycles
*The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet EP
*Earthquake Glue
*The Best Of Jill Hives CD-single
*Half Smiles Of The Decomposed
*Suitcase 2: American Superdream Wow
*Live From Austin TX
*Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now

Come on now, that subhead was just a hilarious gag on my part! Only winners follow Guided By Voices, a band from Dayton, OH that became a huge indie rock sensation in the '90s due to their catchy melodies and penchant for cramming 5,000 1-minute songs on all their albums. I'm not sure why they chose the name "Guided By Voices," but it is an exceptionally appropriate name for two reasons: (1) so many of singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Pollard's songs are centered around memorable vocal melodies that it often seems like the musical accompaniment is simply 'guided by (his) voice,' and (2) you'd have to be following voices in your head to think people want to hear every goddamned 4-second song you've recorded in your basement for the past 20 years.

By the way, I pulled all the band personnel information from the Guided By Voices database (www.gbvdb.com), an astonishing resource of information that you should visit some day, in your car.


Forever Since Breakfast EP - I Wanna 1986
Rating = 7

When vocalist/guitarist Robert Pollard, guitarist/pianist Paul Comstock, bassist Mitch Mitchell and drummer Peyton Eric entered Kentucky's Group Effort Studios in 1986 to record the Forever Since Breakfast EP, little did they know that REM already existed. "What do you mean, there's already a band playing arpeggio-driven folk-rock with a singer who sounds like Michael Stipe. This cannot be," they probably said. But listen up, because I'm only going to say this once:

This is a GOOD REM EP!

Featuring -- you know what? This is a GOOD REM EP!

Heh heh. Little "once" joke for all the "once" fans out there.

Featuring 7 songs in 23 minutes -- with only one track under three minutes long -- Forever Since Breakfast marks a very brief period in GBV's career when (a) they actually wrote complete songs and (b) the lyrics weren't just a bunch of bullshit bouncing around in Robert Pollard's private head.

Pollard wrote every song on this record, and (except when imitating Michael Stipe) already shows a great talent for writing vocal melodies you want to hear over and over again. The gentle loving goes-up-every-once-in-a-while "Let's Ride," the passionate 'dyin'/lyin' bits of "Sometimes I Cry," the Byrdsy beautiful "She Wants To Know" -- I'm telling you, the dude uses the notes of his vocal range to create great hooks in an old-fashioned manner that most post-'60s singers are seemingly incapable of doing. The music is fine, but it's Pollard's vocals that make the best songs powerful, gorgeous and haunting.

Lyrically, Pollard's themes involve the importance of "living" as opposed to just existing, the fact that people rush around in their day-to-day lives with no concern for others, the way that old women try so hard to look young, and how sad it can be when a girl leaves you. No brilliant insights, but at least it's not just a bunch of gobbledygook like he'd be singing in a few years.

In summation, Forever Since Breakfast's songs are just college jangle folk rock of varying speeds, moods and electricality, but they're written by an extremely talented REM fan. And to be fair, most of the songs are strong enough to rise above their obvious influence. However, it's absolutely hilarious how much "Land Of Danger" and "The Other Place" sound like REM. "The Other Place" in particular is such a stupendously obvious REM rip-off that I can't even listen to it without breaking out in a lawsuit. I honestly love both songs (and in fact, most of the songs on this EP), but come on I can't be throwing an 8 at a record that would have been impossible to create without the prior existence of another band. A very, very high 7 it must remain!

Now for some knock-knock jokes, to differentiate my site from those record review sites that do not feature knock-knock jokes.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Michael Jackson!
Michael Jackson who?
Michael, Jack's son just died and he was only eight! When he gets up here, you should molest him.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Farrah Fawcett!
Farrah Fawcett who?
Farrah, faucets don't work in Heaven. Stop trying to make your nipple show through your shirt, you whore.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Ed McMahon!
Ed McMahon who?
No no, I said "Egg McMuffin!" Even in death, it's all I can afford.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
David Carradine!
David Carradine who?
I don't know, but he keeps requesting a length of rope and talking about 'making his own pearly gate.'

Add your thoughts?


Devil Between My Toes - Schwa 1987
Rating = 4

I just had the most amazing idea: if you're planning to record your debut album, write some songs first!

When vocalist/guitarist Robert Pollard, bassist Mitch Mitchell and drummers Peyton Eric and/or Kevin Fennell entered a public restroom with a broken microphone to record their first full-length album, they did so with a depressing paper bag full of underwritten and irritating songs. Perhaps trying to escape REM comparisons, Pollard has completely altered his songwriting style, in the process coming up with almost nothing but half-assed filler -- mostly made-up-on-the-spot instrumentals and dead on arrival experimental pop/rock glued in place by non-rolling drum patterns. It all sounds like first takes and demos, and only three songs have any rhythmic drive at all -- instrumental garage rocker "Crux," gorgeous pop masterpiece "Hey Hey, Spaceman" and blistering Byrds-meets-Ramones closer "The Captain's Dead." Unsurprisingly, these three are by far the most well-written and enjoyable songs on the record. Sweet Christ do I love "Hey Hey, Spaceman." Listen to that vocal melody in the verse! Listen to that rising/falling "doo-doo-doo-doo" part! Listen to that melodic guitar solo at the end! Eat your darts out, Paul McCartney!

Then spit your darts back out because the rest of the album blows.

Featuring 14 songs in 31 minutes -- with only one track over three minutes long -- Devil Between My Toes introduces the regular GBV artistic philosophies: (1) never stop writing; (2) make no song longer than its lyrics and melody demand; and (3) record a song when it's fresh, not when it's perfected. Unfortunately, these songs aren't so much 'fresh' and 'imperfect' as 'unfinished' and 'poorly arranged.' Even soon-to-be-renowned GBV guitarist Tobin Sprout can't save the dull, overlong and ear-nailingly trebly "A Portrait Destroyed By Fire," on which he makes his debut. Actually, I think Bob's brother Jim makes his GBV debut here as well. He receives co-songwriting credit for four of the five instrumentals anyway, which would hardly make sense if he didn't play on them, considering their status as basically improvised garbage.

So here's my message to you, Bob "Costas" Pollard. Get the dick out of your toast and make a album with good songs!

Okay, now I'm going to write some hilarious jokes. Just wait and see! They'll be great!

Why did Robert Pollard cross the road?
He thought he saw a beer on the other side, and he's an alcoholic.

How many members of Guided By Voices does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Hopefully only one, because all the others quit.

Where did Bill put the sock?
Underwear! HA HA HA!

What's the difference between Guided By Voices and Larry Hagman?
Larry Hagman played "J.R." on Dallas, and Guided By Voices played guitar with MALICE!

What do you get when you cross Robert Pollard, a famous advice columnist and a Three's Company actress?
Guided By JOYCES! Christ, that was awful.

This is something real though, that I've said hundreds of times since my friend "B.K." first pointed it out to me, but nobody else seems to realize:

You know how when you turn like 15, you realize you're going to die, and you spend all your time going, "Who cares? We're all going to die anyway!" Well, "B. (Burger King) K." pointed out to me that it is an absolute MIRACLE that any one of us are born in the first place. So fuck death; the fact that you are ALIVe in the first place is astonishing, so how can you bitch and moan about the fact that you're going to die? I've been alive for almost 36 years already! It's incredible! I've no idea why I was born, but I certainly do enjoy music, movies,books, dogs, love, unemployment - GARTRRRAH!

So forget everything bad, and appreciate everything good. If you're born all fucked up though, that certainly doesn't seem fair and I'm very, very sorry for you. Seriously. I don't understand why people have to have autism and cerebral palsy and whatnot like that. My only explanation is this: God of The Bible fame is a asshole. He's all giggling at you as you go "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" and/or try to climb into your wheelchair while all the normal people laugh at you.

Speaking of which, Robert Pollard seems to be an alcoholic, judging by how drunk he sounds on his albums. Like that one where he goes "De Doo Doo Doo, De Dah Dah Dah." Also, Urine.

Here's something I realized: if you learn self-defense, then no psychopath can take your life from you. Seriously, if some stranger walks too close to you, don't question it -- don't go "what's he doing?" -- simply PUNCH THE NIGHTLIGHTS OUT OF HIM. Because that's how psychopaths get away with it - by surprising you when you don't expect it. Why should you expect it? But I'm telling you to EXPECT IT. Because my readers aren't psychopaths, and I want them to survive psychopath attacks. Alternately, carry a hidden knife. I did that in elementary school because I was afraid of being attacked. I carried a gigantic knife in my pocket every day. One day, it fell out in the bathroom and I heard someone go, "Holy cow! Whose gigantic knife is this!?" and I said, "Oops! It's mine," and they couldn't believe it. They were potential bullies, and I was a wimpy little nerd brain carrying a knife, ready to slice and murder the pud out of them if they bucked with me. So they DIDN'T. I'm serious. DON'T LET THEM. Do not let psychopaths and selfish murderers murder you. ALWAYS be ready. Feel free to laugh at me if you want, but I want good people to live, and bad people to fail. This isn't possible if bad people are armed and good people aren't.

I can't remember whether this album stinks or not, but if it does, this stinks! If not, way to go!

Reader Comments

Steve
Congratulations on finishing the GBV reviews. I consider myself a fan and I even have trouble getting through them all.

I began my GBV experience with a handful of albums, but I didn't become a huge fan until I heard the "Box", of which DBMT is a part. Taken by itself, DBMT is pretty much what you said it is, a few great songs and a bunch of half-realized throwaways. It makes more sense in the context of "Box", if only to show where they would realize their strengths a little later on. I do greatly enjoy "Portrait Destroyed by Fire", though, I think it's a highlight of the album - kind of their "ominous prog" entry to the album I suppose. Another favorite which I don't think you mentioned is "Dog's Out", which has a catchy refrain. "Hank's Little Fingers" is a great little cream puff of a song too. I broke in a new guitar by recording a version of that on my four track a long time ago. I'm not so hot on "Captain's Dead" or "Hey Hey Spaceman" though - not bad, just a bit sugary sweet for me. Not that I'd change the channel if they popped up on the radio.

Good job on the reviews. Next stop: R. Stevie Moore!

Add your thoughts?


Sandbox - Halo 1987
Rating = 7

Having read my critique above, Robert Pollard said to himself, "Jeepers Terwilliger, maybe I should write some actual songs before we record another album." And do so indeed they ever! It's back to REM-land, but the darker, rockier Lifes Rich Pageant/Document version, resulting in an album that is equal parts uptempo fuzz-rock, college folk-rock and weird creepy rock. And no slapdash crabgrass. The songs may be short, but they are indeed complete pre-written compositions.

When vocalist/guitarist Robert Pollard, guitarist/brother Jim Pollard, bassist Mitch Mitchell and drummer Kevin Fennell entered a fancy studio to lay down the tracks for their second full-length LP, hardly could they have feared that Mark Prindle would be the only person in the world who liked it, and even then not for another 22 years.

Featuring 12 songs in 27 minutes -- with only three tracks over two and a half minutes long -- Sandbox puts the lie to the lie that Robert Pollard has spent his entire career pretending to be British. No, he is definitely trying to be Michael Stipe here, complete with fake Southern accent. In fact, free of his vocals, I don't know that this record would sound like REM at all! I gotta give him 'porps' for one thing though: he wrote "Barricade" a full four years before Stipe was tossing that term around like an old shoe in "Belong." Weigh Dago, Bob! You outsniped the Stipe bipe, jipe! Fipe! Gipe! Yes, it truly is amazing how many non-words rhyme with "Stipe."

Bobert's voice wavers amateurishly out of tune every once in a while but, as usual, several of these vocal melodies will rip your brain out of your head they're so good. The tough '60s garage Michael Stipe of "A Visit To The Creep Doctor," the top-of-his-range waver-winding Michael Stipe of "Lips Of Steel," and the threatening eerie note-go-round of "The Drinking Jim Crow" are particular winners, but sissy folk fans should also go apeshick over his Robert, Paul and Mary harmonies in "Long Distance Man" and afficionados of sickness will wiggle their happy noses at the majorly FUCT UP harmonies of "Get To Know The Ropes."

This is definitely the easiest to enjoy of the pre-Bee Thousand Guided By Voices albums. It has none of the lo-fi demo shitjobs and experimental dickering around that mar its predecessor and immediate successors; instead, it's just well-mixed, well-written song after song after song. And if you find yourself losing interest in one of them, don't worry -- it's already almost over!

The other night I happened to run across a list of my wife's customer comments on Amazon, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite excerpts with you:

"This is absolutely the most boring and inaccurately portrayed movie of all time. Imagine a Monet painting being shown on film, with no dialogue, for several hours. Boring, right? Even after you checked out the ballerina's breasts? That's this film."

"I don't expect much from the types of movie my husband watches. But then again, there are films like 'Amazon Jail' that pique my interest and make me look. True, the Oppressor Man had a horrible, 1970's mustache, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the film."

"As useless and bland as this book is, it does teach one 2 things: that you never fully recover from anorexia, as exhibited by this writer's thin-obsessions shining through on every page of this book. Also, anorexia must kill brain cells because the writing, organization and tone are all just so awful."

"I was excited to find this book, especially after reading another literary agent's (Frances Kuffel's) fine work about fatness. But finding myself 40 or so pages into the book, I realized (1) the author was never truly fat; (2) the author is not truly crazy or suicidal; and most importantly (3) the author is not an engaging writer. Shame on the publisher for putting out this pathetic, self-indulgent little piece."

"Hate. Despise. F*ing want to kill. is my response to this so-called work of fiction. Do not -- I repeat, DO NOT -- read this."

"I wanted to read this book since I've enjoyed such memoirs as Dry, Wasted, and Drinking: A love story. But page after page about a self-absorbed brat with a pathetically devoted and brainwashed father enabling her 14-year suicide was disgusting, frustrating, and depressing. I understand that anorexia is not a choice, but I don't think this book is about an anorexic. It's more about someone with borderline personality disorder and how effectively that can wear on people's -- even professionals' -- patience. And how effectively it can manipulate the willing, even in getting them to publish sappy memoirs posthumously. I agree that the book brings up ethical questions about psychiatric care that need to be addressed. It made me wish someone would just take her to a shelter and put her to sleep so I wouldn't have to read any more of her whining, false-memory-spewing nonsense."

See? Is it any wonder I love that lady of mine? That lady of mine so dear? Now if you'll pardon me, President Ford (HA HA! HA HA OH! OH HA! OSHA!), I have to get ready to attend a professional baseball game. In fact, I've written a song about it! It goes nothing like this:

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the balls
Buy me some ballsacs and balls balls balls
I don't care if they're brown as Lou Rawls
'Cuz your root hangs over your ballsac
If it ain't big, that's a shame
'Cuz it's one! two! Ballsacs all out!
Balls balls balls balls testicles!

Between that and "The Scar-Tissued Boner," it's gonna be a musical night in the old locker room tonight!

Reader Comments

underebonyshades@hotmail.com (Mark)
Hey Mark,

I always thought this was the most overlooked GBV album by a country mile. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if this LP were released on Homestead or another equally successful big indie label back then, it would have had pretty much instant classic status, since it sounds especially good when compared to most other kinda similar bands from that era (like, I dunno, Big Dipper or whatever). Pretty much every song here is noteworthy in some way, but the ones I listen to over and over again are "Visit To The Creep Doctor", which is just INCREDIBLE perfect power pop, and the awesome "Every Day", which is about as good as blatant REM-influenced jangle pop can get by a band that isn't named The Bats. In fact, if REM was from the midwest instead of a southern college town, they might have ended up sounding exactly like this. Oh yeah, and I also love the gorgeous expansive guitar tone in "Can't Stop", and "Trap Soul Door" was probably the first, and still the best, of their great one minute pop songs (like, actual songs, not just dicking around). It kinda sucks that they wouldn't ever sound like this again, but I think the fact that it is such a unique record in their discography is part of what makes me like it as much as usual fan favorites like Propeller, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Pretty much infinite replay value with this one.

Steve
I have to agree with the comment above - this album really rocks! It has a minimum of experimental stuff that muddies up most of their albums. It starts to drag around the middle of side two though (Trap Soul Door? Common Rebels? pretty weak IMO). But otherwise, full of favorites of mine: "Everyday" , "Barricade", "Can't Stop", "Get to Know the Ropes", "I Certainly Hope Not".... all fantastic. Easily an 8.

Add your thoughts?


Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia - Halo 1989
Rating = 6

I should probably point out that between their first record and Propeller, Guided By Voices played no (or close to no) live shows. Former high school athletic star Robert Pollard from the wrong side of the tracks was a husband, father and 4th grade teacher with papers to grade, so the band was really just a glorified hobby. In fact, all of these early records were originally self-released in pressings of like 300, so they remained obscure as clouds until Bob sent a copy of Propeller to Scat Records -- and by that point he was already 36 years old! That's the age I will be by the time you read this! And you know what THAT means!? Maybe some day I'LL get the chance to be a fourth grade teacher too!

When vocalist/guitarist Robert Pollard, guitarist Jim Pollard, bassist/guitarist Steve Wilbur and drummer Peyton Eric entered a broken refrigerator to lay down a bunch of lo-fi watery-sounding crap with vocals performed through trebly slapback repeat/echo, who knows what the Hell they were thinking. Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia has no musical theme at all, jumping the widest gamuts possible between Velvet Underground doze-snores, straight indie rock, bubblegum psych, experimental rock, early '60s nostalgia, fuzzy pop-rock, acoustic la-de-das, moody bitterness and even heavy metal! The only thing binding the songs together is a demo tape level of sloppiness.

One of the main reasons that Bob Pollard of Guided By Poices is so beloved among aging young people is his ability to pen astonishingly melodic pop rockers that combine the influences of all his favorite music ('60s British Invasion, psych, punk, classic rock and early '80s college rock). Unfortunately, on these early records, those perfect musical masterpieces can be fairly far and few between. This record in fact boasts a total of TWO! "Navigating Flood Regions" and "White Whale." You can certainly hum along with the others, but will likely find your energy stymied by all the clumpy sluggish drumbeats.

Featuring 14 songs in 38 minutes, Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia sounds less like an organized Guided By Voices album than a compilation of outtakes by other bands. How could a single band be responsible for the REM (by way of the Velvet Underground) dirt nap "The Future Is In Eggs," upbeat Blues Traveler influencer "The Great Black St. Canoe Race" (could that awful band have stolen this guitar riff for "Run Around"!? It sure sounds like it!), experimental Fall nightmare "The Qualifying Remainder," long-lost '50s teen idol ballad "Liar's Tale," fey gayfer folk la-de-da "Paper Girl," Black Sabbath belch-pisser "Chief Barrel Belly" and Unrest pulse-pop "Short On Posters"!? Somebody make a note: this Pollard fellow writes too many songs. Some day they'll all look back and say, "Hsay! Mark Prindle was right!"

You'd have to have a pretty wide taste in rock music to enjoy this entire record -- wide enough to encompass the wimpiest of acoustica, the ugliest of metal, the goosebumpingest of fuzz-pop, the most pointless of dicking around, and several points in between. I wish you all the best of duck, and will leave you today with a list of hilarious "Fake Pool Rules." For a real gas, print these up and tape them over the real Pool Rules list at your local swimming hole. The laughs will be uproarious the likes of which the world will never forget!

POOL RULES

1. Welcome to our Pppppppool. Notice there's an enormous amount of 'P' in it.
2. All swimmers must shower before entering the pool, after exiting the pool, and while swimming in the pool.
3. If you swim underwater, do not open your eyes. Tiny eels will swim in and eat your brain.
4. The diving board is for cannonballs only. If you wish to practice any other dive, use the kiddie pool.
5. Proper swim wear is required, which does not include jeans, cutoffs, thongs or swimsuits.
6. It is customary to offer the lifeguard gas, grass or ass in exchange for his safety duties.
7. Inappropriate behavior such as running, pushing, wrestling, excessive splashing, standing or sitting on shoulders, or spitting of water is simply what our manager likes to do. Please refrain from complaining or he will eject you from the pool area.
8. Children under age 12 must be directly supervised by a responsible individual age 4 or older.
9. All children who are not toilet trained must swim in the designated feces area in the middle of the pool.
10. No horseplay, especially if that's some sleazy new term for fucking.

Reader Comments

Steve
This is my favorite GBV album. It's full of dark rock songs that all sound different from each other but still manage to stick in my head. I guess I could do without "Paper Girl" (except for that cool noise intro) and "Trampoline" (which starts nowhere and ends nowhere), and "Slopes of Big Ugly" sounds just like its title. Other than that, though, you've got at least 11 songs that are all top notch. It's an album where the "sloppy" aspect works in its favor. "Chief Barrel Belly" is my favorite. I've tried to figure out how Pollard writes songs like that- my guess is that he comes up with a vocal melody first, and then figures out which are the weirdest chords to play under it while still being in tune. "White Whale" and "Earful of Wax" are wonderful, expansive, and emotionally potent. And "Radio Show" closes it on a high note (another song I tried by myself on a 4 track), though I hate that backwards tape thing they do towards the end. Highly recommend "Box", if only to get this album and "Sandbox".

Add your thoughts?


Same Place The Fly Got Smashed - Rocket #9 1990
Rating = 6

Come on pricks, get a drummer! A full HALF of these songs have no drummer! That ain't right. That ain't right at all. The lyrics are all about self-destructive people: alcoholics, drinkers, tavern vodkas, people who drink to forget their job at an airshow where two planes collided (possibly), people with bloodshot eyes, people who are runaways, people who are too old to party but party anyway, and so forth.

When vocalist/guitarist Robert Pollard, guitarist Jim Pollard, bassist Greg Demos and drums Don Thrasher entered the cheapest, lousiest tape recorder ever sold at Radio Shack and recorded a bunch of lo-fi demos, big did they assume their album would be a hit from west coast to left. But unfortunately, Bob Pollard sounds drunk, hoarse and crackly, the guitar is distorted and chorused, the music is messily sloppy and not melodic, and there's more slapback vox shit.

With 14 songs in 32 minutes -- only 10 of which are under 2:30 long, this album needs a kick in its pants. The lyrics make sense for once and are sad and pathetic, but the music is just half-assed strummy muffled. Track 7 is Wire's "Heartbeat" with new lyrics. Track 12 is very John Lennon/White Albumy. Several are acoustic things with no drums. The first song can suck it. Most of the songs are okay. That's great that I reviewed this with such confidence and force. It only has a few great songs, but they're great. Track 3. Track 8 is a great rock/pop tune. Tracks 11-13 are the best part. And Tobin Sprout plays on one.

Track 11 has a hilarious electric chair buzzing noise because it's about a guy getting kilt in the electric boat. Bob sounds British and gay in the last song. I love the British and adore the gay, but when you put the two together, you get the worst human being ever bred.

Get some drums, you dix! What are you, a rock band or a dickhead in toilet paper? Keep it up and you'll be a Johnny Wassalot in a burnt old sled manger.

Uhnnn! Ooooh! Those are sex noises, so use them if you ever have sex (which is DOUBTFUL because you're an INTERNET GUY).

Remember Pavement? My wife is blasting their bullcrap in my ear so I can't even remember what this album sounds like. It's the first Boston album, right?

Sky Saxon died. You know why? He went in the bathroom to take a dump and wound up "pushin' too hard" and had a heart attack! HA HA! FUCK YOU, DEAD GUY! That's wrong. People should live forever. Hell, for days!

Thank you for your support during these lean years of unemployment and sadness. It is very much appreciated. Every time you watch one of my godawful stupid video reviews and post a note saying, "This is the best one yet!," that encourages me to not just HEY LISTEN! Here's something funny!

There's a song on here called "Ambergris" -- the lyrics are "What are you rubbing on your face? You don't wanna know!" I know EXACTLY what this song is about, because I once wrote a song called "Smearing Sperm Whale Intestinal Secretion On My Face." Because THAT'S what ambergris is! It's an important component in perfume -- and it's sperm whale intestinal secretion! So apparently Robert Pollard reads the same dictionaries that I do!

Say -- do these guys ever get good?

Reader Comments

oldmajorinc@gmail.com
This is a drunk's album. It's the one where the GBV aesthetic of "start drinking and just press record" really works. It's the sound of a bunch of guys jamming in someone's basement at three in the morning on the third case of Milwaukee's Best and they all have to be up in couple hours to teach fourth grade but fuck it this shit is more important. And it IS more important because when he's on his game Bob is a genius with a unique songwriting sensibility and melodies that get in your head and stay there.
This is drunken desperation rock. That's good. And after this album they for some reason decided that every little scrap of song idea they record is worthy of release. That's bad.

Add your thoughts?


Propeller - Rockathon 1992
Rating = 7

Here's a terrific story straight from the heart of my Hollywood celebrity life. (Or should that be 'strife'? LOL! - Ed.) Last night, I somehow found myself on FaceBook telling a top-selling indie rock artist how much I love that funk song that goes "Bum bum boo bee bum bum bow buh bow." He of course had no clue what song I was talking about, so I convinced him to give me his phone number so I could call and sing it to him. And herein is the finest telephone exchange in the history of Southern Bell:

He: "Hello?"
Me: "Lou?"
He: "Yes?"
Me: (sings) "Bum bum boo bee bum bum bow buh bow."

Next thing you know, he's singing along! Unfortunately, though he admitted liking the song as much as me, he knew no more lyrics than I did (basically "It's alright! ALRIGHT! Al-al-al-right!"), and could only guess that it was perhaps an Ohio Players song. Eventually, Yahoo! and YouTube informed me that my beloved song was "Let's Groove (Tonight)" by Earth, Wind And Fire. And sure enough, I woke up the next morning with a hemmorhoid.

I don't know if you young people with the videogames have ever experienced a hemmorhoid, but I must tell you -- it's not nearly as fun as you'd think. I naturally assumed that it would just hang out minding its own business, maybe giving each log a quick high-five on its way out the door. Instead, what I'm experiencing can best be described as "a scorpion with rabies repeatedly stinging me in the asshole."

"But Mark," you're probably saying. "Compared to that friend of your mother's who was diagnosed with lung cancer last week, a hemmorhoid really isn't much to complain about." And you may have a point there. Sometimes the cause/effect relationships of life can be a real bastard. She smoked for decades and developed lung cancer; I sat on the can for fifteen hours a day trying to squeeze out a pebble and got a hemmorhoid. I feel worse for her, but painful for me! I tried Preparation H too, but apparently the H stands for "Hey! This doesn't do anything!" because I might as well have rubbed lip balm on my rose petals for all the relief I'm enjoying.

The bottom line is this: When guitarist/vocalist Robert "Bobby" Pollard, guitarist Jim "Jimmy" Pollard, guitarist Tobin "Toby" Sprout, bassist Greg "Lawyer" Demos and drummer Don Thrasher entered Encore Studios in 1992, they intended for Propeller to be their final record. They began with a hilarious (because it wasn't true!) live crowd chant of "G! B! V!" before kicking into "Over The Neptune," one of their greatest-ever rock anthems. This song then turned into the Bowie-esque theatrical glammer "Mesh Gear Fox." Then Bob sounded exactly like David Gilmour in the bitter pre-Dark Side homage, "Weed King." Then, (*describes every other song on the record, in order*). I couldn't believe it, and neither will your ears!

With 15 songs in 36 minutes -- 8 of which are under 2:30 long -- Propeller finds Bob's voice getting gravelly (possibly due to drink or smoke) but his songwriting advancing by leaps and boundaries. The best songs on here are his most advanced and stupendously melodic yet; it's impossible not to be rendered happy-as-worms by winners like "Over The Neptune," "Weed King," super-singalong rocker "Quality Of Armor" ("Oh yeah, I'm gonna drive my car! Oh yeah, I'm gonna go real far!"), Misfits-meets-Cure pop-punker "Unleashed! The Large Hearted Boy," beautifully anthemic "Exit Flagger," evil psych-folk-rocker "Circus World," hissy Roger Daltrey groove lopey-doper "Some Drilling Implied," and British Invasion throwback "On The Tundra."

Unfortunately, it's just as impossible not to be rendered irritable by the half-baked shit-nothing songs that foul up the rest of the album. I guess you could use the term 'experimental rock" to describe trebly non-written messes like "Particular Damaged," "Lethargy," "Ergo Space Pig" and the sub-"Fingertips" song-snippet compilation "Back To Saturn X Radio Report," but a more appropriate descriptor might be "ugly, stupid garbage." The record's two acoustic pieces are weak too: "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" is "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" with a faggotyasser vocal melody, and "Red Gas Circle" is just a mopey little snippet.

Even more confusing than the wildly uneven songwriting is the inconsistent production work: some of these songs have super-loud warm raw guitars, and others are so trebly that you can't make out a thing they're playing! Apparently Mr. Pollard liked Mr. Sprout to turn the bass knobs of his 4-track recorder all the way down and the treble knobs all the way up in order to replicate the sound of his childhood transistor radio, but that hardly helps those of us in the Youth Generation who were raised on high-quality Quadrophonic Audophile sound. Come on Bob Pollard, stop being old, with your hemmorhoid.

Reader Comments

professor_llopin@hotmail.com
After years of listening to GbV, I guess I'm unable to be remotely objetive towards their "filler". Each one of these random, ugly, insubstantial pieces of lo-fi crap manage to affect me as dearly as the proper songs. This is the case, particularly, with Propeller, which I consider to be their first reasonably consistent release. Besides ass-baked experiments, there's songs of every kind, from postpunky-flavoured bits to pure rocker wankery. "Weed King" is teh shit, Pollard in his top lyrical form (and then we'll all take photographs / of what we made..lemonade / freedomcake quick to bake / trim the tree collectively / breath the air from the fair / and watch colored lights shine down), and "Exit Flagger" is one of the noisiest yet (as you say) most beautiful things Bob's spitted. Even the cacophonic mess titled "Ergo Space Pig" has its grooves. An 8 from me.

Add your thoughts?


The Grand Hour 7" - Scat 1993
Rating = 4

Did you people hear that the guy who leaked Chinese Democracy online last year got sentenced to a YEAR's probation!? Thank God there's no penalty for leaking ON Chinese Democracy, or I'd be up Tits Creek without a boob paddle. Isn't there a better way to stop file sharing than tying up our courts with nonsense cases like this? For example, I know that I personally would stop downloading albums (not that I do download albums, but since some of you people do, I'm trying to imagine what such an activity might be like) if the record companies would take the time to leak fake albums every once in a while. Think about how annoying it would be to spend ten minutes downloading a new Melvins CD only for "Piano Man" to pop out when you finally press 'play'. Cursed tricks like that would drive even the skinflintiest among us back to the record stores!

In other news, I see that Nine Inch Nails is in the middle of their 'Farewell' tour. Since society at large bid them farewell about 15 years ago, I guess it's good that they're finally warming up to the idea. And over here it says WHAT THE!!?? MICHAEL JACKSON DIED BACK IN JUNE!!?? WHY DIDN'T THE MEDIA REPORT THIS!?!?!

But enough about me and my ideas. The important thing is that after Robert Pollard sent a copy of Propeller to the head of Scat Records, said head called Bob and said, "Why, I'd love to put out a single by you guys!" Robert responded with the disheartening, "But we've broken up!" However, knowing full well that he had about 8,000,000 hours worth of tapes in a suitcase in his basement, he decided to dig through and find a few that would be worthy of widescale release on a bonafide record label.

Then he said "Fuck it" and sent them the godawful bullshit that wound up on The Grand Hour. What in Christ's name was he thinking? These songs are TERRIBLE! Or if not terrible, then certainly effortless and the opposite of gripping. With 6 songs in 9.5 minutes -- the longest of which is 2:32 -- The Grand Hour comprises punk rock, amateurish acoustic strum, shitty rock, jokey throwaway garbage and annoying awful shambolic novelty waste.

Apparently performed by some combination of Pollard, Pollard, Sprout, Mitchell and Fennell, the record features exactly one classic -- but WHAT a classic. "Shocker In Gloomtown" may be shorter than "Judy Is A Punk," but it is a fantastic fuzzy British three-chord punk rocker. (Ask The Breeders! They'll tell you!) Presumably this song is the reason that Scat didn't just say "Never mind" and leave them to obscurity, because nothing else on here is worth the paper that the vinyl was printed near. The acoustic "I'll Get Over It" isn't awful, I suppose, but then it's only 39 seconds long. Otherwise the only enjoyments are to be found in (a) the sharp and meaningful 'life in a band' lyrics of "Break Even" and (b) the Who-style falsetto 'wubba wubba wubba' vocals of "Bee Thousand." That's right; I said "Bee Thousand." There's also a (terrible) song on here called "Alien Lanes." That's right; you heard it here first.

Btw, get it? "Bee Thousand"? "Pete Townshend"? Never let it be said that Robert Pollard's turns-of-phrase are meaningless!

Get it? "Alien Lanes"? "Ale Ian McLagan"?

Okay, I made that one up.

In summation, I must pledge my support to the striking workers of the Dildo Union and agree that these songs aren't worthy of their seven inches. Block that kick! (or whatever lazy striking assholes chant)

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Vampire On Titus - Scat 1993
Rating = 7

Good God. It's 3:20 AM! Why did I wait until 3:20 AM to write my daily required review!? I'm exhaustible! Did I really need to watch John Carpenter's Starman tonight? Shouldn't I have been doing something constructive instead of watching Jeff Bridges move his head like a retarded bird for two hours!? And how about all the time I've spent watching Attack Attack!'s atrocious "Stick Stickly" video since Jim Laakso forwarded it to me earlier today? Plus supposedly I'm going to appear on Fox News' Red Eye television program tomorrow night, yet I have no idea what I'm supposed to be hilarious about. Fie on it all!

But since we're talking about vampires, I recently discovered that I don't hate vampire movies at all! I always thought I did. Hmph. At any rate, here are some delicious vampire films that have lighted my visual orbs over the course of the days of the months of my life:

A Taste Of Blood
Addiction, The
Aswang
Bandh Darwaza
Blacula
Blood for Dracula
Blood Spattered Bride, The
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Brides of Dracula, The
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
Cronos
Curse of the Undead
Dangerous Seductress
Def By Temptation
Dracula (1931)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Dracula, The Dirty Old Man
Daughters Of Darkness
El Vampiro
Fascination
Female Vampire
Fright Night (original and remake)
From Dusk Till Dawn
Grave of the Vampire
Horror of Dracula, The
House of Frankenstein
Hunger, The
John Carpenter's Vampires
Kiss of the Vampire
Lair Of The White Worm, The
Last Man On Earth, The
Lemora: A Child's Tale Of The Supernatural
Let Me In
Let The Right One In
Let's Scare Jessica To Death
Lifeforce
Lost Boys, The
Mark of the Vampire
Martin
Masters of Horror: The 'V' Word
Mr. Vampire
Near Dark
Night Stalker, The
Nosferatu
Nosferatu The Vampyre
Planet Of The Vampires
Rabid
Requiem For A Vampire
Salem's Lot: Full-Length Miniseries (1979)
Shadow of the Vampire
Sleepwalkers
Son of Dracula
Thirst (1979)
Thirst (2009)
Twilight
Twilight: New Moon
Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders
Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
Vampire Happening, The
Vampyr
Vampyres
Vampyros Lesbos
Wisdom Of Crocodiles, The

Am I missing any good ones? Tell a guy!

In 1993, Robert Pollard was given his first ever opportunity to release a Guided By Voices LP on a real live record label. So did he carefully put together a new line-up, enter a top-selling recording studio and lay down twelve polished radio hits that would earn him a million dollars? Hell no! Instead he, Jim and Tobin played a bunch of hissy lo-fi crap into a clump of dirt and mailed to Scat Records with a note saying "Fuck you!" Next thing you know, college people like them.

Vampire With Titties might as well be an early Sebadoh record, it's so homemade and rickety. Six of the songs are full-band rock tunes, but the other twelve are drumless strummy folkies and experimental half-songs so skeletal that it takes like ten listens before their artistic quality finally reveals itself from behind the drunken laziness.

With 18 songs in 31 minutes -- the longest of which doesn't even break 2:45 -- Vampire On Titus better be good and goddamned glad that B. Pollard can write a catchy song with his brain tied behind his back, because most bands' practice tapes sound more polished than this record. I don't just mean the sound quality either; most of these "songs" sound like first take demos of compositions that would some day be developed into timeless classics. Some of them (ex. "Dusted," "Sot," "Unstable Journey," "Gleemer") are such melodic powerhouses that their imperfections are ignorable, but others (ex. "#2 In The Model Home Series," "E-5," "What About It") are badly undermined by the half-tuned guitars, unfinished arrangements and lack of percussion. Don't take my complaining word for it though; apparently sloppy halfassedness was exactly what the young people of today were seeking for back in the youthful '90s of today!

Indeed, when Scat released this record and Propeller on a single 2fer CD, Guided By Voices suddenly became the hottest college act on two wheels. I was a college DJ at the time and tried my darnedest to give the disc a try, but it refused to grow on me. It just sounded like a band of classic rock fans who lacked either the patience or the talent to hone their riffs into full-fledged songs. I remember thinking, "If they're cramming 18 one-minute pop/rock songs onto an album, how much effort are they actually putting into any of them?"

And it's not that I couldn't deal with lo-fi rock -- I had been a Pavement fan since Slanted & Enchanted and a Sebadoh fan since III -- it's that Guided By Voices' songs seemed empty and incomplete to me. Pollard was singing his heart out, but the words meant nothing, the production was wet and powerless, and every song ended right as it was getting started. So I went back to my AmRep bands and let the horn-rimmed glasses crowd have their GbV. It wasn't until many years later, when somebody sent me an MP3 disc of 14 Guided By Voices albums, that my ears' constant leaping for joy forced me to reconsider my opinion. Their albums may be less consistent than my bowel movements, but holy Cripes do they have a ton of great songs. Just melodically beautiful songs.

Unfortunately, they also have a lot of other songs too.

Reader Comments

bri.hyndman@sympatico.ca
"Am I missing any good ones? Tell a guy!"

Yeah, I have a couple. I had a fascination with all things vampire growing up, which in retrospect was not such a good idea for a kid suffering from sleep paralysis (see previous email). Here are a few that stick out in my memory

1. Kolchack: The Night Stalker (that's the original 1974 "Night Stalker" not the revisionist piece of crap that aired on the Space Channel a few years back). Season 1, Episode 4, "the Vampire". One of the highlights of my nine year old life was getting to stay up till 11 pm on Fridays to catch the Night Stalker. Be nice if my parents gave a flying fuck about what I was watching. That episode had me sleeping with a crucifix for weeks afterwards.

2. Mrs Amworth. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0331295/ Saw this in Grade 8 English class of all places. Short, campy, scary British sendup.

unclebookie@yahoo.com
It seems you kind of summarize the whole thing pretty good right on this review. Man, I can't even delve into this mess of a band. I tired, I happen to have this one, and I still don't really like it 15 years later. The only thing I would say is that while the lo-fi touch points of Pavement and Sebadoh are kind of correct, I think both had pretty much moved on from that by Slanted and III (relatively speaking) because in comparison, this metal shed recording makes them sound like Use Your Illusion or something. Basically, you're right, they have some catchy songs, but how the hell can you ever get to them. Records full of half assed nothingness mixed in with some good melodies.

I dunno. I credit you for doing the reviews because it is quite an oeuvre, but even though they have nothing in common, I kept thinkining of the Fall. If you weren't a fan basically from the get go, they just never really made any sense. I mean, where exactly do you delve in. I started with Mag Earwhig and tried both forwards and backwards, but never did get it to happen.

asaggese19@hotmail.com
Nice to see someone else gives props to Nosferatu the Vampyr and John Carpenter's Vampires, as well as the holy vamp trinity of the 80s (Lost Boys, Fright Night, Near Dark). Bad ass flicks, the whole lot of them. Bram Stoker's Dracula would've been great without all that Anne Rice crap. At least it gave us Gary Oldman's silly hair.

Billdude
You liked ALL of them?

"The Lost Boys" - Horrid 1980s Joel Schumacher dreck! I can't believe there's a cult for this softcore MTV pissfire of a movie and a DIRECT TO VIDEO SEQUEL 2 decades later starring Corey Feldman in a reprise of his old role, the world's most washed up celebrity!

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" - Checked out exclusively because I liked a few episodes of the show! Joss Whedon hates it of course but I can't imagine who else would LIKE it for any scene besides the one where Kristy Swanson is doing cartwheels in pink spandex.

"Near Dark" - Debut movie from the lady who directed "The Hurt Locker" directed this....it was pretty disappointing for a movie that managed to reunite just about all the cool supporting cast from "Aliens"! Nice pitch-black Texas atmosphere and all but the movie barely goes anywhere and Bill Paxton doesn't get any lines as good as "Game over man game over!"

"Martin" - Romero, right? I've been looking for this forever.

"Cronos" - Debut from Guillermo Del Toro, a director whose films kind of elude me. On my to-watch list...

"The Hunger" - Debut from Tony Scott who sucks horribly for the most part aside from "True Romance" and that's really a Tarantino movie and everyone knows it. Bauhaus and David Bowie together in the same movie? Why wasn't it very good at all, then?

"Nosferatu" (1922) - It's still kind of creepy although I'm a retard about silent movies.

"Nosferatu" (1979) - I have little problem on the other hand calling this the weakest Herzog movie I've seen. It's just really gray and dull. Even the shots of rats infesting a city while people try to act normal don't blow me away. Kinski is always watchable though. Go see if you can find the clips of Kinski in the 1970s pretending to be Jesus Christ resurrected as a ranting drunk asshole.

"Everyday" - This is a really fucking cool Guided By Voices song, sort of like the best 80s REM outtake ever, that Mrark Prindal didn't mention in his "Sandbox" review. Fuck that guy! Fuck Mrark Prindal!

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* Static Airplane Jive 7" - City Slang 1993 *
Rating = 10

Webster's Dictionary defines 'genius' as 'a person of extraordinary intellect and talent.' And I know you're saying to yourself, "Hay what does a little black kid know about words," but stop being a racist and listen for a second. I personally have always tried to restrict the designation of 'genius' to those whose innovative discoveries and inventions have changed the world (ex. penicillin, electric power, Zany Zappers, the Internet), but it turns out I've been WRONG! Apparently it's enough to have "extraordinary intellectual power, especially as manifested in creative activity" or even something as simple as "a strong natural talent, aptitude, or inclination." If the genius bar is actually as low as today's dictionaries claim, then I guess I'll go ahead and agree with Robert Pollard that he's a genius.

Of course, by these standards, so are about 5 billion other musicians and songwriters, but whatever. My point is that even though Mr. Pollard's songwriting has neither changed the world nor added a single new idea to the vocabulary of popular music, he nevertheless has consistently demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for writing strong melodies. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. His failure to achieve the commercial success of, say, Tom Petty (another uninnovative but consistently melodic songwriter) can be attributed to three key factors:

a) The record and radio industries changed dramatically between the '70s and the '90s, and it became far more difficult for a creative new band to secure radio play
b) Pollard lacked the discipline, patience and funding to polish his best material into listener-friendly productions, and classic rock fans don't want to listen to hissy two-minute first takes recorded in some guy's basement
c) Nobody cares about rock music anymore. Hip-Hop and dance pop have won. Because they're so good.

Pollard also clogs up most of his records with stupid half-written trash, which is why Static Airplane Jive is such a pleasure for the ears and treasure for the years. Featuring 6 songs in 11 minutes -- only 2 of which exceed two minutes in length -- this 7" begins with two lovely melodic songs, continues with two silly but likable joke tunes, and concludes with a pair of trebly, aggressive and killer '60s psych rockers. In other words, the record showcases the band's strengths while not allowing its weaknesses to get out of hand.

Track-by-track:

- "Big School" is one great goddamned song. An acoustic rocker!
- "Damn Good Mr. Jam" is one damn good mr. song with country-esque arpeggio and cool mellow vibe. It's also the "Anything for free" song sampled in "Back To Saturn X Radio Report"!
- "Rubber Man" is a hilariously stupid 34-second 'rock' screamer whose concept ("YOU BOUNCE BACK!") reminds me of a delightful song I wrote in 1989 entitled "Rubber Band Man" ("I once met a rubber band man/A rubber band man I met/He was holding seven envelopes together/Something that he'd soon regret/Snap! Oof! Ha ha ha!")
- "Hey Aardvark" is a cutesy sub-minute Paul McCartney children's song that appears to end with a jackhammer. If you're going to get sick of one of these tracks, it's this one. But Christ, it's 51 seconds long, so SHUT UP!
- "Glow Boy Butlers" is crazy psych-rock awesomeness with Keith Moon drumming! (Not the literal Keith Moon drumming)
- "Gelatin, Ice Cream, Plum..." is The Creation and The Who put in a time machine and set on Negative Emotions!

And that's it! Not a stinker in the area. My compliments to the chaff!

SPECIAL NOTE: Some will tell you that the best place to start your Guided By Voices collection is the greatest hits compilation Human Amusements At Hourly Rates. But what happens if you really like it? Then you're just going to buy up all their other stuff and render Human Amusements an unnecessary appendage in your collection! For Christ's sake, people. Think ahead.

Reader Comments

al27@treesprocket.com
Let me just say first off its a pleasure to be able to read new reviews by you, Mr. Prindle.

Secondly, good job with the Guided By Voices reviews, you make me wanna buy a CD by them. Especially since you say they mostly get by on melodic vocal hooks backed by unimaginative music, because that description basically describes most of my favorite pop bands (The Queers, Fountains Of Wayne, Locksley, The Mr. T Experience, The Ergs, anything Ben Weasel has ever done, a bunch of other lousy pop bands that I love but you may or may not think are pretty crappy). I'm glad you slyly suggested I buy their greatest hits inside your 10 Mark Prindles out of 10 reveiw of thier 7" Static Airplane. I'm probably gonna buy it, with your amazon link!

Incidentally, I'm seeing the greatest living rock band (since all the important Ramones and Bonn Scott died) Motorhead this Saturday in Milwaukee. I bring it up mostly as an excuse to again thank you AGAIN for your Motorhead reviews page, since your writing helped me to go buy some Motorhead albums. Just like your Flipper, DK, Melvins, Vandals, Buzzcocks, Urge Overkill, Breeders, Electric Six, Pixies, Nirvana, etc. pages convince me to buy up a bunch of albums by all of those guys (thats right, I actually didn't give friggin' NIRVANA a chance till I read YOUR Nirvana page).

You got me into the wonderful world of great music, Mark Prindle, and I can't thank you enough for that.

So yeah, Motorhead, WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

p.s. Some of your drunk stories are morbid and horrifying, I sincerely hope you seek assistance, or at least become a funnier drunk. Your video reviews never make you come off as some kind of depressed alcoholic, but some of your review stories... geez. Tim Burton would kill for something that dark. I know its none of my business, but nonetheless, if all that you're writing is cold hard facts, then color me concerned.

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Get Out Of My Stations 7" - Silt Breeze 1994
Rating = 6

I hope you like slow ballads because it's Slow Ballad Day here in Guided By Voices City, Texas. Featuring 7 songs in 12.5 minutes -- only two of which pass the 2-minute mark -- Get Out Of My Stations gives Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Dan Toohey and Kevin Fennell a chance to step back and take it eeeeeeeeeeeeasy. Kevin in fact might be taking it so eeeeeeeeeeeeeasy that he's fallen asleep, judging from the near-complete lack of audible drums. But the rest of the band "kicks out the naps" with four slow ballads, achildlike pop tune, an experimental rock calamity and a ridiculous piece of half-developed psych-folk featuring Bob singing through a wah-wah pedal. So GET READY TO ROCK!!!! (your infant to sleep)

It's to all of our gratitudes that Mr. Pollard is capable of writing a lovely little slow song, because otherwise this single would be a total drag. Which reminds me of a hilarious joke I'm making up right now:

What do you call it when a woman takes her clothes off onstage in a really boring manner?

A drag strip!

Dammit, now I won't be able to sleep because I'll be up laughing all night.

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Fast Japanese Spin Cycle 7" - Engine 1994
Rating = 6

Kevin Fennell has apparently zipped his dick in half because yet again there are almost no drums on a Guided By Voices single. And believe me, I've tried and tried -- for days at a clip sometimes -- to think of another possible reason for his absence, but the "zipping his dick in half" explanation is the only logical conclusion I can reach.

With 8 songs in 10.5 minutes -- the longest of which is 2:07 -- you'd think Fast Japanese Spin Cycle would be filled with monstrous MTV hit single radio hits and "Kashmir"-style thematic epics. However, against all expectations, it instead features four short acoustic strummers, two tiny lo-fi rockers and one piano blip. Making things even lazier, three of the eight songs are alternate versions of previously released material: a great fuzzed-out rock version of former piano march "Marchers In Orange"; an earlier, janglier draft of "Over The Neptune" with different lyrics and title; and an alternate version of "Dusted" that I'll refrain from describing because I can't remember how the original goes.

But one thing's for certain: the last four songs are five thousand times better than the first four. "Snowman"? Yeah, more like "BLOWman"!!!

"My Impression Now"? Yeah, more like "My REGRESSION COW"!!!

Maybe I'll leave the other two alone.

Reader Comments

Steve
This was my introduction to GBV. I'd read some good buzz about them in Spin Magazine, and this was the first one I saw in a store. Nothing to write home about. It was a couple of years before a gave them another shot, with the release of "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars". "My Impression Now" seems to be the only song here that stands out. It's a pretty good song.

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Clown Prince Of The Menthol Trailer 7" - Domino 1994
Rating = 4

Whoa! Did you see this important historical cassette tape I just found? It's incredible! Let's listen together (in text form):

Tobin Sprout: Hay Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices fame. Domino Records just asked if they could put out a Guided By Voices single.

Robert Pollard: Are you kidding!? Of COURSE they can! I'm a genius!

Tobin Sprout: Okay, great. Which songs should we send them?

Robert Pollard: What do you mean, "Okay, great"? Are you implying that I'm not a genius?

Tobin Sprout: No no! Of course not! You're a brilliant and underappreciated artist and poet! I was just wondering which of your stunning recordings you'd like to send to them.

Robert Pollard: Oh, okay. Let's see. Ah! Here's a brilliant composition that the world hasn't yet had the pleasure to enjoy. It's called "Mad Eater Lad" and it's a masterpiece.

Tobin Sprout: Great choice! I'll grab Kevin and we can lay down a nice strong rendition of th-

Robert Pollard: (interrupting) What the fuck are you fucking talking about!? "Lay down a nice strong" - what the fuck is wrong with the fucking version we laid down last week!?

Tobin Sprout: Err... well, none of us knew our parts. It's a shambling stop-start mess, as would be any first take by any band - including your beloved The Who and John Lennon's Beatles.

Robert Pollard: GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY GARAGE RIGHT NOW! I'M A FUCKING GENIUS AND THAT SONG IS PERFECT JUST AS IT IS! YOU'RE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO DRINK LIGHT BEERS EVERY SUNDAY WITH THE "MONUMENT CLUB"!

Tobin Sprout: Oh wait! No no, I was thinking of a song by some other band. You're right! "Mad Eater Lad" is perfect!

Robert Pollard: I don't like your attitude, but okay. Next, let's give them that killer ass-kicking "Broadcastor House." Sweet Jesus, does that song KICK ASS! Eat your heart out, Metallica!

Tobin Sprout: Wait -- that sluggish ugly thing we did a few nights ago while you were blacked out!? I thought that was a joke!

Robert Pollard: THAT'S IT! GET THE FUCKING HELL OUT OF MY FUCKING BASEMENT! IT'S OBVIOUS THAT YOU'RE NOT UP TO THE TASK OF WORKING WITH ARTISTIC POET AND SENSITIVE GENIUS ROBERT POLLARD! YOU ARE NO LONGER INVITED TO PLAY BASKETBALL EVERY SUNDAY WITH THE "MONUMENT CLUB"!

Tobin Sprout: Umm... Maybe I should head out for a while.

Robert Pollard: Oh hey man, come on. I'm just kidding with you. We're buddies! You're my right hand man!

Tobin Sprout: Can we put one of my songs on the single?

Robert Pollard: I'LL SHIT ON YOUR FACE, YOU NON-GENIUS PIECE OF ASSHOLE!!! IS THIS BAND CALLED "TOBIN SPROUT AND THE TALENTLESS PANSIES"!? HELL NO! IT'S CALLED "ROBERT POLLARD AND SOME NON-ROBERT-POLLARD PEOPLE IN ROBERT POLLARD'S GUIDED BY ROBERT POLLARD"!!!!!

Tobin Sprout: Okay then. What else should we put on the single?

Robert Pollard: Let's see -- ah! Here's a tape of some songs we recorded that night I shoved the guitar up my butt.

Tobin Sprout: Wait -- those were songs!?

Robert Pollard: IT'S OBVIOUS THAT SOMEBODY OF YOUR LIMITED INTELLIGENCE WOULDN'T RECOGNIZE THE DIFFICULT TIME SIGNATURE CHANGES AND UNORTHODOX HARMONIC SHIFTS FEATURED IN SUCH GROUNDBREAKING PROG ROCK MASTERPIECES AS "JOHNNY APPLESEED" AND "PINK GUN"!

Tobin Sprout: "Pink Gun" is 36 seconds long.

Robert Pollard: 36 GENIUS seconds long!!!!

Tobin Sprout: Okay, I'm gonna go home and get some sleep. I guess I'll see you tomorrow.

Robert Pollard: Sounds good. Don't come between 6 and 10 PM though because I'll be busy drinking a beer.

Reader Comments

pelagius42@hotmail.com (Zac Horn)
Mark

You also forgot the part of the conversarion where Pollard says "Of course i'm an asshole, so was John Lennon." Sadly this is the understanding of Pollard i got from reading Jim Greer's GBV book...which i hated. He just made Pollard seem like a completely conceited asshole, Greer fawned over Pollard. That book just pissed me off.
Maybe in part it's because i've always hated Jim Greer for his "Pixies on tour with U2"(not actual title) Spin story that allegedly lead to the break up of the Pixies (though, to be fair, it might not be Greer's fault), but the whole book just seemed like an excuse to kiss Pollard's ass, while ignoring all other band members contributions (particularly Sprout's, who was to my mind a vital member of GBV's best work as songwriting foil and as engineer or whatever you wanna call the guy that hits play on the 4-track).
Can't say much for the release in question. I do think Pollard's a good melodicist, though after awhile you start to notice patterns in his songwriting construction, and his lyrics are arguably incomprehensible drivel or works of surreallist/poetic genius. I suppose my biggest complaint with GBV is there's no sense of danger, unlike Gaffney era Sebadoh. (That dude was awesome!) It's all kind of safe in a weird way. ah well
Anyways, keep up the awesome work!

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Bee Thousand - Scat 1994
Rating = 8

One of America's great national pastimes is reading All-Music Guide and enjoying how none of their reviews seem to match the accompanying number grades. Here are a few examples from their Guided By Voices page. Note that AMG grades on a 1-5 scale, and that these five albums were released one after the other in the order reviewed:

BEE THOUSAND - "there are more than a few duds that threaten to cancel out the goodwill the great songs generate"... "The lo-tech rumble of the album's D.I.Y. production also wavers between being a help and a hindrance, depending on the songs, and as musicians Guided by Voices veer between sounding like inspired amateurs and, well, just amateurs"... " GRADE: 4.5

ALIEN LANES - "the musicians have put a bit more care and focus into their performance on this set; the playing is tighter and sharper, and the band plays toward their strengths, pushing their occasional sloppiness into a harder, more rock-oriented direction. And if Pollard and Tobin Sprout were still obsessed with tiny fragments of pop song wonderment, they also rounded up a more consistent collection of them... also fewer obvious mistakes, and the sequencing gives the album a more consistent flow than before." GRADE: 3.5

UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS - "Pollard's tighter reign over the band and new sense of self-control made this album a more solid and consistent album than GBV had made in the past." GRADE: 3

MAG EARWHIG! - "Unfortunately, his songwriting wasn't quite up to his usual standards...Robert Pollard's next experiment in hi-fi record making, Do the Collapse, would prove to be much more successful." GRADE: 4

DO THE COLLAPSE - "Do the Collapse simply doesn't work." GRADE: 2

WHEE!

Bee Thousand marks the watershed moment when Guided By Voices and college radio DJs became each others' girlfriend. But the crazy thing is that it's not a new recording at all, but a compilation of old, revised, overdubbed and/or re-recorded material that they'd written but not released over the previous eight years. Check the musician credits: 3 of the songs were performed by Bob Pollard solo, 4 by Tobin Sprout solo, and the other 13 by ELEVEN different band line-ups! Drummers Kevin Fennell, Don Thrasher and Randy Campbell, bassists Dan Toohey and Greg Demos, guitarist Mitch Mitchell and bassist/guitarist Jim Pollard all mix and match their skills with those of B. Pollard and T. Sprout to create -- somehow, out of the mire -- one of the most enjoyable and deservedly popular albums of their career.

Featuring 20 songs in 36.5 minutes -- only three of which are longer than 2.5 minutes -- Bee Thousand is unashamed of its piecemeal quality, in fact introducing itself with one of the sloppiest recordings in American History ("Hardcore UFO's," which begins with off-key vocal harmonies and includes two different occasions of a guitarist dropping out entirely, as if he forgot the chord sequence and refused to try a second take). But if you're a new listener, I urge you to stick it out because one rarely finds such a unique slop-mix of hooky '60s-influenced rock, melodic indie rock/power pop, lovely acoustica, and ridiculous nonsense all on the same record. I will now briefly discuss a single example from each category:

Hooky '60s-Influenced Rock: "Gold Star For Robot Boy"'s guitar is so drenched in reverb that it takes a few listens to figure out what the melody is actually supposed to be. However, once you figure it out, it will not leave your head. In a short but perfect minute and 39 seconds, Pollard beautifully expresses his nervous excitement about his decision to leave teaching and pursue his rock'n'roll dream. For nearly a decade, his wife and parents had grudgingly accepted his musical hobby while refusing to acknowledge that he had any songwriting talent at all. His decision to give up steady work for an uncertain life on the road surely couldn't have pleased them, but as he sings here (in one of his rare lyrics that make any goddamned sense at all), "If I waited for you to show me all the actions I should take, would I get my break?"

Melodic Indie Rock/Power Pop: The hypnotic distortion pillow "Smothered In Hugs" is as beautiful and heartwarming as the protagonist's decision to leave his depressed, fear-ridden batch of old shitty friends for a beam of sunlight person who has been ignored and rejected by the old guard. Unless it's all a metaphor -- who the hell knows. It's gorgeous though!

Lovely Acoustica: At this juncture, Tobin Sprout wasn't as creative or diverse a songwriter as Pollard -- he too often relied on standard chord changes and appeared capable of writing only two types of songs (folksy acoustic strummers and four-chord midtempo power pop) -- but he has always understood and cherished melodic beauty. Since "Smothered In Hugs" has already usurped "Mincer Ray"'s place as my designated 'melodic indie rock/power pop' example, I'll instead call your attention to the purty lil' strum weeper"Ester's Day" and its sorrowful chorus, "Down and out, Couldn't bear to shout it out." I wish he'd cool it with the abominably off-key harmony vocals though. He doesn't have the most listener-friendly voice in the first place (he kinda sounds like a teenaged pig with a head cold), but when he tries to harmonize with himself, he sounds not just stuffed-nosed but completely tone deaf as well.

Oh hell! I forgot "I Am A Scientist" was on this thing. I should really have used that as my "hooky '60s-influenced rock' example, because it's probably the most beloved song in the band's entire discography. Oh well. No point in going back now.

Ridiculous Nonsense: Some of Pollard's "normal" songs are weird by most rock standards (see the Beatles-meets-fuckedup-chord-changes rocker "Buzzards And Dreadful Crows), but if it's true ridiculous nonsense you're after, your best bet is probably "Demons Are Real," a much-maligned fan unfavorite whose components include: (a) a riff consisting of three dramatic acoustic chords and a stolen Beatles lick, (b) dramatically sung vocals consisting of cartoonish rhymes and a stolen Beatles line, (c) a recurring squeaky noise, (d) a single fuzz guitar note popping up about one time per line. Personally I like it, but I'm not the best judge of audio character.

Ooo, I forgot to mention "Hot Freaks" too. That is a KILLER brooding rock song with hilariously gross sex lyrics ("I met a non-dairy creamer/Explicitly laid out like a fruitcake/With a wet spot bigger than a great lake").

Let others give it a 10 though. I could never award a perfect score to an album with this many instrumental errors and half-assed harmony vocals. I realize the guys like to drink, but there are moments on here where the bass, guitar and vocal melodies seem to be coming from three different songs at the same time. Also, those occasional high-end vocal harmonies (as in the childlike '60s bubblegummer "Echos Myron") are hell on my old person ears. Furthermore, what's up with that "You're Not An Airplane" piano crap at the end? Have you heard that thing!? Come on, who puts THAT on an album? And don't give me your "Hay Mark it's only 33 seconds long" rigmarole, because at my age every second is an eternity. Don't you understand!? I'm DEAD!!!

Say, did I ever mention what Robert Pollard sounds like? He has a terrific voice. I don't know your crazyass musical vocabulary words, but his voice is right in the middle where it belongs (as opposed to Tobin's high voice, or my horrifically high voice), and he has the ability to sing as smooth and beautifully as Paul McCartney, as raspy and rockin' as John Lennon, or as innocent and melodic as pre-Live AT Leeds Roger Daltrey (especially since he pretends to be British half the time). Plus he's nuts about vocal melodies, so his voice goes way up and down like a doodly-doodly.

Don't get me wrong: he's no Phil Collins. Nevertheless, I can somehow resist my urge to vomit all over creation when I hear his voice, regardless of its dissimilarity to that of Phil Collins.

Oh Christ! I totally forgot the sicko bouncy-bouncy "A Big Fan Of The Pigpen"! Forget "Demons Are Real"; THIS is true, world record-breaking RIDICULOUS NONSENSE!

Crap, I forgot "Queen Of Cans And Jars" too. Talk about 'hooky '60s-influenced rock'! Someone go back and rewrite all my examples, using all these other examples. Then mail them to:

Up Your Ass
15 Goa Way
Getouta Town, FU 16661

Har Har! Address comedy! Rah rah!

I hope you've enjoyed my palindrome.

Reader Comments

joelperreault@live.com
I think you like this album a lot more than I did. It's after reading reviews such as this one that I finally went out and bought this CD. I thought it was alright, but too cutesy, and it does not rock. AT ALL. This collection of songs is pure titillation, to be followed by any number of more solid bands from the musical explosion that was the 90's.

jtbrubak@uncg.edu
Fantastic fucking album. I think it's the best of the trilogy. So many great songs. "Tractor Rape Chain" is incredijable. "Echos Myron" is also really good. They're all fantastic, when you get down to it. Just incredible song after incredible song. Except for the stupid little snippets. I think 8 is the right grade. Congratulations for agreeing with me.

hornsandtails@gmail.com
This is the classical. None of the obligatory brothas that I know would listen to this. But that doesn't meen it's not soulful. The words and melodies take your imagination for a spin, if you are actively imaginative. Like say..The song gold star for robot boy may give you vivid images of a metallic Pinocchio. Thats a 5 star melody. All of it is the same mood. The head guy thinks he should have been in the Beatles. He's ok. It's kind of cool he's a teacher. It's pretty obvious why people like them, they are sissy beatles fans. But they have a song called Jason Lowenstein is a Wanker...do they have more songs like that? It's sad and upbeat at the same time, real cool like. Too much bullshit to weed through to find out...too bad.

escepticojr@gmail.com
I have to say something here, because this is the one that started everything for me. I arrived late (as usual) to GBV in my existence and I'm being completely honest in admitting that I didn't know anything about this band and about this album. Well, I knew it was considered "genius" according to Allmusic, but you already covered that so moving on. When I got the album I was kinda disappointed. Just kinda, because I thought this album was a B sides compilation of the band, you know because of the sound, the short songs and the various snippets, hell even the "BEE" part sounded like an appropriate title. I discovered, obviously, that it wasn't and I found out one of the most astoundingly beautiful records I've ever come across in my life.

The melodies, god the melodies. As you stated, Pollard is a gifted songwriter, but most of all, he has his own approach when writing a song, he doesn't wanna sound predictable and that's the only reason I find why some of his songs, you clearly described, have so much "shit" going around like noises, weird back up instruments, great (quirky) lyrics and just plain awesomeness in the melodic department that it's so simple so hear but so hard to describe.

I don't know if "quirky" is the appropriate word to describe Pollard lyrics. I really like some bits such as

"Are you amplified to rock?
Are you waiting for a contact?
I'll be with you, without you, again"

"She took me to the new church and baptized me with salt
She told me, "liquor"
I am a new man"

"And the watchers of the flood were busy in their chambers
Making sure there was new blood to sustain their dying veins"

"To train the bear to not get up
To slay the beast and win the cup
And stay with the sweet flesh prize
A necklace of 50 eyes
Is yours to keep"

"On high seas in search of
The sickly sweet milk of selfish love
And knife these for warm fresh blood"

"And all around the breeding grounds
The nymphos sweetly played"

He's a weird guy, but the kinda guy you'd like to meet.

goldheart5@hotmail.com
Ok. Now the Static Airplane Jive ep is decent, but really who are you trying to kid? Not one song on that ep is as good as the worst song on Bee Thousand. Seriously, tuned guitars or not, which are frequently on the not side. And besides thatís no reason to take a 10 away from an album that is so obviously the best thing the artist ever did that itís almost depressing, because chances are, they will never again come remotely close to reaching those rarefied heights. Ever. You see what Iím saying. Heck I prefer the grand Hour Ep to the Static Airplane Jive.

Add your thoughts?


Split 7" with Grifters - The New Sound 1994
Rating = 6

"I'm Drunk" is the name of the Grifters' contribution to this single, and howdy-do because it's a generic yet enjoyable late '50s ascending anger-riff like Link Wray might have played in his heyday. As for Guided By Poices, They play 4 songs in 5 minutes, only one of which is longer than 1:20. One is an amateurish but passable guitar instrumental by Jim Pollard, the younger brother of Guided By Poices' Bob "Robert" Polack. One is a bitter '60s rocker that RULES even though it's bitter. One is a drunk shit-rocker with crap on its turd. And the other is an underwritten but hypnotic series of 3 guitar notes combined with sentences stated by friends or co-workers of Robert "Bob" Polo Shirt.

Knock knock
Who's there?
Turd
Turd who?
Turd baseman for the Chicago White Sox Josh Fields, you fucking asshole!

Boy do Guided By Poices have a lot of singles. Can you believe these guys, with their shingles? It's amazing how much Rob "Bobbert" Poorboy has a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. On that note, the White Stripes are a foul duo to avoid.

Knock knock
Who's there?
Guided By Voi
Guided By Voi who?
Guided By Voight, Jon is how Angelina Jolie grew up to be such a moral woman.

Track 2 is so awful, it's HEADACHE-inducing!

I have an opinion, if you want to hear it. Here it is. Delete these salad if you don't want to bear it:

In my opinion, I seem to be breathing several times a day.

Oh no! Now everybody's upset over my controversial statement!

P.S. Thank you for reading my web site. Nobody is paying you money to do so (except Steve), so I really appreciate it.

P.P.S. There aren't any songs on here as good as "I Am A Proctologist." Bor "Bobter" Lardpol outdid himself with that one.

Add your thoughts?


I Am A Scientist 7" - Scat 1994
Rating = 6

Earlier this evening, I had a great idea that I would now like to share with you. You know how when a band is planning to release a live album, they sometimes record every concert on a tour and then take the best versions of each song from different nights? My idea is this -- since you're not doing anything, follow a band around on tour. Let's say the Rolling Stones, since they put out a live album every four months. Now then, wait until a quiet moment in a classic song -- say, between the first chorus and second verse of "Wild Horses" -- and scream as loudly as you can: "YOU SUCK!" Do this every single night at the exact same moment in the song. The band and management will then be FORCED BY LAW to include one of these versions on the album, and everyone in the world will hear a guy shouting "YOU SUCK!" in the middle of "Wild Horses"! Not only that, but when all the bootlegs leak out, collectors will hear each tape and think to themselves, "What in Sam Nation!? I guess we're supposed to yell 'YOU SUCK!' at that key moment of 'Wild Horses' from the top-selling Sticky Fingers LP!" Then the next time the Rolling Stones tour, the entire CROWD will shout "YOU SUCK!" between the first chorus and second verse of "Wild Horses"!!!!!!! Then Charlie Watts will have a heart attack and fall forward onto his high-hat, which will slice through his sternum and splash his AIDS-riddled internal organs all over the audience, who will eat them and contract HIV within 24 hours. Up until that point though, it will be Hilarity Central, Population Penis!

This version of "I Am A Scientist" differs slightly from the Bee Thousand version, but so's your old man. What you really want to know is how's the rest of the record. Well, I'll tell you the god's awful truth: "Do The Earth" is a wonderful uptempo tough-edged rock song that they were nuts to leave off an album proper. The other two songs are minute-long dinks though: a passable acoustic drumless strummer and an annoying, scraggly, yuckily generic, happy indie rock tune. Robert Pollard wrote all four songs, and the single is only eight minutes long. Notable lyrics include "Drive me to drink... in a car" and "I sincerely believe that if you're into rock 'n' roll/You've got to sell your soul."

By the way, I'm glad these reviews aren't auditory because I totally just tooted a gasser. Can you imagine the humiliation I would feel if you found out that I just brapped a smell-go-round right there in the middle of the review!?

Reader Comments

princess_vachtangov@yahoo.com
That's the wittiest album title I've ever heard. That guy's no scientist!

Jack Green
The "passable acoustic drumless strummer" your referring to is called "Curse Of the Black Ass Buffalo" and it's awesome.

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Bee Thousand: The Director's Cut - Scat 2004
Rating = 6

In 2004, Scat Records took advantage of its position as the Bee Thousand record label to re-issue its pride and joy as an expanded triple-album featuring all sauce and sundry of bonus material. Unfortunately, most Guided By Voices fans already own most of it, and non-fanatics would have no interest in such half-arsed 'rarities' in the first place! As for the sudden drop from Bee Thousand's high 8 to a Director's Cut 6, I'll simply quote Michael "The Other Leading Brand" DeFabio: "What, they weren't able to improve it by adding a bunch of leftover crap and putting 'Demons Are Real" right at the beginning?'"

The triple-album includes the following:
- Bee Thousand in its entirety, but with all the songs in the wrong order and interspersed among non-Bee Thousand tracks
- I Am A Scientist 7"
- The Grand Hour 7"
- 10 songs that are also available on the 19-song King Shit And The Golden Boys LP (unreviewed here because it can be purchased only as part of the Box box set)
- 7 songs that are also available on Suitcase
- 1 song that is also available on the Sunfish Holy Breakfast EP
- 1 song that is also available on Robert Pollard's first solo album, Not In My Airforce
- 4 previously unreleased alternate versions of otherwise available songs
- 2 previously unreleased basement recordings: (1) "Way To A Man's Heart," a hideous instrumental that pits a gentle guitar arpeggio against the scratchiest, least tuned violin in history, and (2) "Twig," a typically beautiful Tobin Sprout acoustic song whose "previously unreleased" status is a national disgrace. It should've been on Bee Thousand in the first place!

"Twig" isn't the only song that should've made the cut either. I'll be heavily horse-jiggered to figure out how they sent Bee Thousand to stores without the sorrowful piano/acoustic ballad "Supermarket The Moon," trashy two-chord anal sex rocker "Stabbing A Star," seething fuzz metal "Revolution Boy," lovely McCartney-esque acoustic "Indian Was An Angel," odd George Harrisony strummer "I'll Buy You A Bird," and Tobin's aptly-titled "Crunch Pillow," another gorgeous (if predictable) melodic wash of crunchy guitars. But I guess everybody has their favorites, and maybe they'd just grown tired of these songs by the time they compiled the final version of B1000.

Most of the others are lesser basement tracks -- some okay, some just awful. Here are two things that might interest you Bee Thousand fans though:

-- You know that shitty two-chord keyboard thing that Robert put at the beginning of "Ester's Day" for no reason? Well, it was actually originally part of a whole shitty song! That shitty song, "At Odds With Dr. Genesis," can be found right here! (and on King Shit And The Golden Boys).

-- You know that awesome mesmerizing instrumental coda that Bob tacked onto the end of "A Big Fan Of The Pigpen"? Well, it was actually originally part of an otherwise mediocre song! That mediocre song, "2nd Moves To Twin," can be found right here! (and on King Shit And The Golden Boys).

In conclusion, it's too bad you'd have to buy this thing to hear "Twig," because you're better off NEVER hearing the hideous awful monstrosity abortion "Way To A Man's Heart" (though the intro is kinda fun: a phone rings, Bob says "Tell 'em I'll call back if it's for me" and then a man with a funny voice discusses a payment dispute over a $20 guitar or somesuch whatnot. What a slice of life! In fact, since he's discussing money, you might say it's a "slice of BREAD"! HA HA HA ! HA AHAH!!! HA AHA AHAHAHAH! HAHAHA HEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)

See, this is why they keep inviting me on the TV.

Reader Comments

unborn_umbrella_birds@yahoo.com
The "Director's Cut" of "Bee Thousand" was originally planned to be only a straight vinyl reissue of the album. However, there is much fan-geek fascination for Robert Pollard's wildly-different scrapped tracklistings for his albums. He sometimes sequences, resequences, drops songs, and adds new songs to his albums constantly before settling on a final draft. Early versions of his albums sometimes bear little resemblance to his final version. "Bee Thousand" was, at one point in 1993-94, going to be a double album.

When Robert Griffin, who runs Scat Records, dropped the news on the GbV forum that he was working on a "Bee Thousand" vinyl reissue, a fan casually posted that it might be fun if one of the early drafts of "Bee Thousand" (specifically the double album sequence) were to be released. Griffin thought it was a good idea, Pollard gave his blessing, and the "Director's Cut" came out.

It's a vinyl-only release, just for the nerds (like me), not really meant to replace the classic "Bee Thousand". The "Director's Cut" title is a misnomer. It implies that it's the intended "Bee Thousand", which it isn't.

Steve
Dorky discographical note: I just realized that the superlative "Revolution Boy" is also on the "King Shit and the Golden Boys" outtakes disc of BOX, but under a different title, "Greenface". Good stuff to know.

I'm very glad to have this triple LP. Well packaged, and it sounds great. I'm not a huge fan of the Bee Thousand album, but this alternate 2 LP version of it is at least as good as the original. And the third LP of extras, EPs, and singles made this a necessary purchase for me, since I didn't already have the I Am a Scientist single. The single version of that song is amazing! I never knew what the big deal was about that song until I heard the single version.

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Alien Lanes - Matador 1995
Rating = 8

Hey! It's the SNIPPET album!

Snippet album, snippet album! Yes sir ee.
Snippet snippet snippet and a Vitamin C!
Snippet snippet snippet in the United States
Snippet snippet snippet like a Massuh-ter-bate!
Sniglet sniglet sniglet a hilarious word
Piglet piglet piglet like a pink little turd!
Pigs pigs pigs, what we call the police!
(*anvil falls on head*) Now I've gone and deceased!

When Robert Pollard, who appears on 25 of these 28 songs, Tobin Sprout, who appears on 20, Kevin Fennell, who appears on 14, Greg Demos, who appears on 7, Jim Pollard, who appears on 3, Mitch Mitchell, who appears on 3, Jim Greer, who appears on 2, Dan Toohey and Larry Keller, who appear on "Chicken Blows," and Gary Phillips, who snores through "Ex-Supermodel," hit the basement that wonderful day in the Year Of Our Lord to create the follow-up to Beer Thousand, the result was the SNIPPET album!

Snippet album, snippet album! That's the truth
Snippet snippet snippet and a John Wilkes Booth!
Snippet snippet snippet in the world at large
Snippet snippet snippet and you married a barge!

This ridiculous album features 28 songs in 41 minutes -- only one of which exceeds 2:30, and THIRTEEN (!!!!!!!!!!) of which reach cessation prior to the clock striking 1:30. And sure that's par for the golf course with a Mark Prindle CD-R, but a real-life band!? With fans? How could they possibly have expected to score a big gold record with groupies and sex? Today's rock and roll music fans demand full beards and lengthy guitar solos! Surely the last thing they want is a SNIPPET album!

Snippet album, snippet album! Suck my ass
Snippet snippet snippet like the high price of gas!

You know what? If these sillypantses can release an album that's just a bunch of tiny song snippets, I can sure as heck write a review of it that is nothing but the same. Here, the review begins here:

12 full-band rock songs. 5 or so acoustics. A few electrics with no drums. A couple goofy noise drunk shorts.

Melodic.

"The closer you are, the quicker it hits you/Try to be nice, and look what it gets you"

Big Star chord changes (a few times)

Fuck this, this idea stinks.

You know how Bee Thousand had some full-fledged compositions and some snippets? This one's like ALL snippets, except that most of them are actually songs -- just very short ones. Maybe a verse and a chorus, then life goes on. The fidelity may be low compared to most bands' productions, but it's honestly not bad at all. Musically, they race back and forth between good moods and bad, rockers and slowers, hooks and gags, strummers, bashers and gigantic glee anthems -- all in snippet form, and with no spaces between songs. So it's almost like you're listening to a rock opera, except that none of the music or lyrics have anything to do with each other. Indeed, Alien Lanes is literally a rock opera written by a person with anterograde amnesia.

Although the winner-to-loser ratio is far greater than could possibly have been expected, there are still some true-blood stinkers on here. People more tolerant of fey la-de-da look at the springtime flowers FAGGOTY ANN AND ANDY music than me might be able to tolerate Tobin's poor playing turd "A Good Flying Bird" and Bob's Indigo Girls/Tracy Chapman soundalikes "As We Go Up We Go Down" and "King & Caroline," but I think the whole world can agree that listening to drunken felchbags "Cigarette Tricks" and "Gold Hit" isn't among the finest usages of 49 collective seconds. I could name other weaker moments, but we're here to praise Pollard, not to cease him.

In summation, very few bands could make a great song out of four chords, 23 seconds and lyrics like "Coming into town with the giggling faggots," but Guided By Voices have not only done so here, but have indeed found the confidence to sing "Now that's a hit!" as the concluding lyric.

So if it's an average song length of one minute you're after, look no later than here! (or The Residents' Commercial Album, but this one's better).

Also, have I told you about the stupid vacation my family took a few weeks ago? We drove eight and a half hours to our rented cabin, only to find a handwritten sign on the door reading, "Renters, Due to an unfortunate problem with the water, the house is uninhabitable until tomorrow." Then Henry The Dog ran into the backyard and ate a bunch of bones and meat that were just lying around out there. Then my wife noticed that the promised 'swimming lake' was a shitty filthy backwater a ten-minute walk away.

Thong story shorts, we asked for a refund! We're still waiting for that refund, by the way. Two thousand dollars worth. It had better come soon, or my fist will be coming up his face.

Okay, not really. But we'll sue him for credit card fraud.

Post-Script: Our vacation turned out alright. We just kept driving and wound up spending a couple nights in Greensboro, NC, a couple nights in Greenville, SC, and a few nights with my parents in Georgia. Henry The Dog got to swim every day, and we did some shopping and saw friends and read books and what-have-you. This was a great anecdote I've just shared.

Wait! Hold the cows! Check out this amazing email I just received! Finally my dreams have all come true!

From: "FBI" (jamesroy3@cox.net)
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 7:20 PM

HAVE YOU LOST MONEY TO SCAMMERS BEFORE MOSTLY ON THE INTERNET.IF YOU HAD LOST MONEY TO SCAMMERS LET US KNOW BECAUSE YOU STAND A CHANCE TO GET YOUR MONEY BACK!!!!!

GLOBAL SCAM OFFICE CALIFORNIA 90806

Reader Comments

jtbrubak@uncg.edu
The actual songs are wonderful, but what's with the fucking snippets? They're terrible! Nearly all of them! I would give it a 7 if I was Mark Prindle, despite how much "Motor Away" rules. "Motor Away" was my first GBV song I ever heard as a matter of fact, because I heard them on a Matador compilation. There was a time in my life when I thought Matador could do no wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

oldmajorinc@gmail.com
Great album, this is probably the best place to start for a new listener. It flows really well and it holds up to and rewards repeated listens. And if you can't get into songs like "Game Of Pricks," "Motor Away," and "Closer You Are" then you're not gonna like Guided By Voices. I don't even mind the requisite shitty snippet songs on here - it sounds like there was at least a little thought put into them this time and I think they fit really well into the sequence of the album.

I do want to address the "Indigo Girls/Tracy Chapman" comment. Mark, this is the first time I've ever been really offended by something on this site. What an awful, awful thing to say about a song. What did "As We Go Up We Go Down" ever do to you?

Otherwise, great job on these reviews, very funny and on point.

jmfowler@triad.rr.com
Hey Mark!

It's your friend you know from all those times I read your website. I was just reading your GBV page when I saw that you and your lovely wife and son made your way down to Greensboro, NC. Well, that's where I live! I am incredibly disappointed you didn't call or write or shoot bottle rockets into the air until I noticed. Honestly, sometimes I feel like this relationship is entirely one-sided. Also, I just saw that the other commenter's email address is from my university! Why, that means he lives in Greensboro too and is a schoolmate of mine! You could have visited BOTH of us, you selfish asshole! Unless that is actually one of the people you visited.

Additionally, I recall reading another review of Guided By Voices, or perhaps it was an Anal Cunt song or something, that simply said, "Guided By Voices? More like Guided By Faggots!" Boy, I thought that was funny at the time. Now it just seems kind of racist.

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Motor Away 7" - Matador 1995
Rating = 5

"Motor Away" is one of GBV's greatest pop songs, an absolutely lovely little darling of a sweetheart. This version is a well-produced studio recording of 2:11 length, and a different rendition than that you might find on Alien Lanes. But the B side, "Color Of My Blade," is one of the least memorable songs Bob had written to this point. Neither melodic nor drunkenly awful, it's just an uninteresting 2-minute midtempo rock song underproduced by Steve Albini.

But here's something "interesting." When I listen to records for review, I note each song I really like with a "1," each song that's okay with a "-" and each song I hate with a "0." Looking at my Motor Away notes, you might mistakenly conclude that I've awarded the single a perfect "10," when in fact I've actually awarded its A-side a "1" and its B-side a "0." Amazing, isn't it? How such a small difference can make a world of similarity?

Perhaps I should sell these notes on ebay for a hundred thousand dollars.

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Tigerbomb 7" - Matador 1995
Rating = 6

Featuring 6 songs in 13 minutes -- only one of which exceeds 2 minutes -- the Tigerbomb single begins with two fancy studio mixes, then turns into drunken half-assed basement work before returning to a nice full mix for the final track. In other words, three of the tracks might be considered fully developed pop rockers, while the others resemble drunken solo tossoverboards.

You know what? I'm going to tell you something and I'm going to tell you that right now. The British Invasion Herman's Hermits throwback "My Valuable Hunting Knife" simply isn't one of my favorite Guided By Voices songs. Melodies strike different peoples' brains in different ways, and this one strikes me as overly cloying. Thus, I don't particularly crave this alternate version with the handclaps. On the other hand, who can argue with the Big Star/Cheap Trick power pop chord changes of "Game Of Pricks"? I certainly cannot! So that alternate version is indeed a treat with wheels; it's almost like you're watching the theme song to That '70s Show! "Now I never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me," Bob pleads to the thieves and liars in the music business.

Other tracks find Mr. Pollard raspily shouting soulful nothings over random piano arpeggios, recording his vocals over a drastically slowed-down 4-track take of sloppy rock action, strumming a ballad through irritating feedback and GETTING THE HELL LOST while Tobin "Here Is My Handle And Here Is My" Sprout provides the world with yet another loving, fuzzy, uptempo, warm power pop song of joy entitled "Dodging Invisible Rays."

So it has its ups and downs, much like life. In fact, here's some great news: there's an 80% chance of severe thunderstorms all night in East Rutherford, NJ -- where I'm slated to see AC/DC and Anvil perform in an open stadium this evening. Argh!

A music feud!

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The Official Ironmen Rally Song 7" - Matador 1996
Rating = 6

The title track comes right off their next album, Under The Bushes Under The Stars, and it is just fantastic -- a moving, gentle and superbly melodic piece of guitar pop-rock that causes goose bumps to appear on my soul every time it enters the orbit of my revolving heart.

The other three songs are non-LP tracks that [REDACTED]. Crang-crangy uptempo rocker "Why Did You Land?" posits the metaphysical question, "If our human souls do in fact originate from some universal soul ether stuff, why did they bother coming to Earth and jumping into bodies in the first place? What was the point?" The other two [REDACTED]. Musically, the two songs seem a bit more emotionally cliche'd than usual too, which may have been a [REDACTED].

With 9 minutes' worth of 4 songs -- one of which appears in this exact form on the UTBUTS LP -- The Official Ironmen Rally Song isn't an essential purchase, but it's certainly an interesting one. After all, [REDACTED].

And by "[REDACTED]," I of course mean "I got this record mixed up with a different one and didn't feel like rewriting the review."

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Under The Bushes Under The Stars - Matador 1996
Rating = 7

You know what pleases my person about the Spaniards? The fact that their word for "page" is "pagina." Do you realize how close that is to the American word for "vagina"!? That means that every time a Spaniard reads a book, he winds up SQUIRTIN all over it!!! No wonder the Spaniards are such a lusty, zesty lot! My hats are off to the Spaniards and their many Latin brothers the worldround, all fucking books as I adult their wives.

The beautifully titled Under The Bushes Under The Stars unfortunately abbreviates to UTBUTS, ruining any poetic imagery it might have otherwise weaved in the minds of listeners. Also, "penultimate" does not mean "ultimate." It means "second to last." So STOP USING IT AS A SYNONYM FOR "ULTIMATE"! In addition, "swan song" means FINAL, not BEST. So stop doing shit like calling Bee Thousand Guided By Voices' "swan song." They made like a million more albums after it, you illiterate asshole!

Some consider Under The Bushes Under The Stars GBV's penultimate swan song, but to m GODDAMmI

Some consider Under The Bushes Under The Stars GBV's finest and most beautiful expression of musicality, but -- as many great songs as it holds -- it hits my ears as a bit sluggish and overlong. Oh sure, they throw a couple of hot rockers near the beginning to throw you off the trail, but before long it's all slow melodic rock all the time. I'm not complaining about slowness; remember, I'm a Pink Floyd fan. But when you're talking about straightforward melodic rock songs created out of chords and a man singing, after a while it can get awfully same-ish. Or, more exactly, it makes the "not great" songs pale badly in comparison to the similar-sounding "great" songs.

Still, don't worry that the price of great songs will go up, because there's simply no shortage of them here. Timeless diamond pop gem classics like "The Official Ironmen Rally Song," "It's Like Soul Man," "Cut Out Witch," "No Sky," "Underwater Explosions," "Your Name Is Wild" and "Drag Days" will warm the heartles of your cock as darker meditations like "To Remake The Young Flyer," "Acorns & Orioles" and "Redmen And Their Wives" remind you why this band was once called "The Band Of Pop Genius And Dark Meditation" by me, just now.

But Jesus Jim And Jonathan Josephine, the damn thing is 58 minutes long! With 24 songs! And an unfathomable EIGHT of them are over two and a half minutes long! What is this - Jethro Tull's Thick As An Ocean!? Yes's Tales Of Topographic Brick? No! It's none of those things! None of those things at all! One sec.

(*checks to make sure it's none of those things*)

Okay, I was wrong. It was one of those things.

Nevertheless, when you have this many strong straightforward pop/rock songs on a CD, what's the point of clogging it up with similar but inferior (and predictable) songs like "Office Of Hearts," "Sheet Kickers," "Bright Paper Werewolves" and "Atom Eyes"? Since the CD has no explosions to be found, but just a series of increasingly similar mellow indie rock songs, it would've really helped the pacing if they'd deleted some of the less melodically inventive pieces -- or at very least turned them into snippets as they would've just one album earlier. Certainly I understand Mr. Pollard's desire to outgrow "lo-fi" and "zaniness" and become known as a mature, serious songwriter -- and he succeeds with great skill more than half the time here -- but tedium definitely sets in during the second half. Where's the energy? Where's the diversity? Where's the beef?

Heh heh. Good old Clara Peller and her talent. Mark my words -- she'll be missed.

Five of the songs are from an aborted The Power Of Suck concept album session with producer/Pixie/Breeder Kim Deal, another pair are from a session with engineer/Big Black/Rapeman/Shellacer Steve Albini and the rest were recorded in some other fancy clean studio somewhere. The band here is again just Bob Pollard, Tobin Sprout and Kevin Fennell, with token appearances by Mitch Mitchell, Jim Greer and a couple other guest stars. There is no humor here, no gags or jokes. No trouser pulling or slipping on banana peels. At least most of the songs have drums for a change though!

In conclusion, don't whine about me giving the early and amateurish Sandbox the same grade as UTBUTS. Sandbox is HALF THE LENGTH of UTBUTS. If they'd cut UTBUTS down to only its strongest 27 minutes, I'd have given it like a 15.

Oops! Important note from Kyle Dilla!

"Mark, may I suggest a minor addendum to your Under the Bushes, Under the Stars review? Okay here goes - the original album, as it is on the LP, is only 18 tracks long. The last six songs are an Albini-recorded EP Matador xecs tacked on and technically aren't part of the original sequence. Whether they count as "bonus tracks" or the final side of the album was a point of fan contention until they decided that everything Robert Pollard ever did was genius and he was above criticism of any kind."

Reader Comments

jtbrubak@uncg.edu
Complete and total agreement. It's way too long, it has way too many songs, and it's way too samey. "Official Ironmen Rally Song" gives me chills. That's probably my favorite GBV song. It's so good!

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Tonics And Twisted Chasers - Rockathon 1996
Rating = 6

Speaking of Under The Bushes Under The Utbuts, remember that hilarious parody that "Weird Al" Yankovic did of "It's Like Soul Man"? God, I remember tomorrow like it was yesterday:

"I never liked Mexican desserts
Until I took a good look at my table
And when I saw a Mexican dessert there,
It was translucent and floating through the air like Betty Grable

It's like Ghost Flan!
It's like Ghost Fla-a-an!"

Yes, that was a great day back in those days when "Weird Al" Yankovic did all those great parodies like - oh! Remember his hilarious Pavement parody "Cut Your Bear"? Or his uproarious Pixies parody "Here Comes Your Bran"? God, that was a spectacular five-minute period that day, until he changed his mind and went back to doing shitty rap songs.

What I'm quickly learning about Guided By Voices is that a lot of their most revered songs are also the ones I find the least interesting. I assume this means that GBV fans by trade are looking more for 'emotion' than 'songs that aren't completely obvious.' This album's supposed highlight, for example, is a boring predictable sensitive acoustic strummer called "Key Losers." I find it abominably bland and trite -- the kind of cliched folk bullshit that appeals to college students in love (or hoping to fall in love). No thanks, "Key Losers"! Take this job and shove me!

I'm told that Tonics And Twisted Chasers is a record that Bob, Tobin and a drum machine recorded in the basement as a special gift for the GbV fan club. Nice gesture! And though it probably goes without saying that this isn't the most polished, well-written and carefully arranged record in the Guided By Voices collection, it's surprisingly quite above average! Sure, it's full of mistakes, errors and made-up-on-the-spot changes and solos, but it also has some gorgeous and smart guitar pop ("Dayton, Ohio - 19 Something And 5," "158 Years Of Beautiful Sex," and the soon-to-be-re-recorded "Knock 'Em Flyin'"), one solid hunk of ominousnes ("The Top Chick's Silver Chord") and some of the most entertaining vocal performances in the band's catalog (check out Bob's histrionic delivery of the title phrase in childlike pop snippet "Ha Ha Man," bizarre Springsteen-esque growl-wailing in fuzz rock snippet "Maxwell Jump," and high-pitched female impersonation in groovy piano snippet "Universal Nurse Finger"). Add in a hilariously misguided attempt to emulate Pete Townshend's early '70s synth experiments manually, on a piano ("Wingtip Repair") and Mr., That's Entertainment!

Featuring 19 songs in 28 minutes -- only 4 of which are longer than 2 minutes (and none of which are longer than 2:25) -- Tonics And Twisted Chasers is basically the anti-Under The Bushes Under The Stars. As such, it might have been a better idea to take the best songs from each and combine them into one big classic Alien Lanes follow-up. As it is, we get one professional but lifeless record, and one charismatic but half-assed record. I should also please let me stress that even though these songs are short, they're not predominantly jokey snippets. There are several full-fledged guitar pop compositions onhere that could've easily been cleaned up, re-recorded and added to UTBUTS had the need arisen. Tracks like "At The Farms" and "Unbaited Vicar Of Scorched Earth" might not be the most innovative songs in the band's catalog, but they're certainly melodic -- not to mention potentially mainstream!

It's an awfully trebly record though, what with the guitars but no bass thing. Also, only 8 of the 19 songs even bother with a drum machine so don't be thinking your family's going to be dancing to and fro while you play it. I can almost assure you that will never happen. Not on my watch!

Seriously, my watch can't support that kind of weight. Try a floor.

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Sunfish Holy Breakfast EP - Matador 1996
Rating = 6

Knock knock
Who's there?
Robert Poll
Robert Poll who?
Robert Pollmer. I'm so dead, I can't even spell my name.

I hope I haven't already shared this anecdote. If I have, I apologise. One time when I was in middle school, there was a guy named Kenny Zaleski who rode my school bus. But let's call him "Benny Paleski" so you won't know who I'm talking about. Now this "Benny Paleski" was a really nice guy from a really nice family (his younger sister "Hessica Paleski" was a real sweetheart, for example), but like many of us, "Benny Paleski" was caught up in the 1984 world of Van Halen Fever. So one day, as the bus was piling up with middle school pricks on their way to going home, "Benny Paleski" noticed that this fat girl that everyone hated who sat at the front of the bus every day (I honestly can't remember her name. Let's call her "Fatso Johnson") had entered the bus and was sitting down. Because of Van Halen Fever, "Benny Paleski" got this killer-ass idea and it went something like this:

"Benny Paleski": 'Hey, person who's sitting next to Fatso Johnson!'

Person Sitting Next to Fatso Johnson: 'Huh?'

"Benny Paleski": 'Tell Fatso Johnson to stand up!'

Person Sitting Next to Fatso Johnson: 'What?'

"Benny Paleski": 'Tell Fatso Johnson to stand up!'

Person Sitting Next to Fatso Johnson: (*taps Fatso Johnson on the shoulder; tells her to look back*)

Fatso Johnson: (*looks back at "Benny Paleski"*)

"Benny Paleski": 'Stand up!'

Fatso Johnson: (*looks confused; can't quite hear what "Benny Paleski" is saying*)

"Benny Paleski": 'Stand up!'

Fatso Johnson: (*still doesn't understand, but goes ahead and stands up to be polite*)

"Benny Paleski": 'SIT DOOOOOOOOOWN, WALDO!'

The entire bus besides me: (*doesn't notice*)

"Benny Paleski": (*grins really big like a dumbfuck*)

Fatso Johnson: (*looks confused; sits back down*)

Yes, middle school was a delightful time for everyone and all to behold.

Hey Shit-For-Cocks, this EP features 10 songs in 23 minutes -- half of which are over two and a half minutes -- and most of them are either obvious gentle lovey songs for sensitive college boys or wistful ballads. Six of the ten songs feature no drums, but rather just Rob "Bob" Pollard playing his strum guitar and singing, or alternately Toby McGuire strumming his axe machine and warbling, or even more alternately the talentless Jim Greer godawfully singing a terrible song because he's a music critic for a living and thus has no musical talent. (ZING ZONG ME!)

I don't need obvious, sweetsy chord changes in my life so four of these songs can smell my ass it sucks. The other six are good though, and that's why this review is relevant. Because I like six of the ten songs. "Holy cow!" says the world. "The crew at MarkPrindle.com awards this EP a 6! That's important to remember, and I need to know that!"

But you know me -- I like aggressive stuff and creative stuff. None of this is aggressive, but there are indeed some creative chord sequences on here, even in the ballads. So I fully support those tracks. It's only the "You're in college? Check this out! Emotional music!" songs that make me angry and let down because Paul "Robert" Bobberd should be above that and beyond such fan tickling and bun smothering.

And if you think I wrote this review in about two minutes, you're so nuts it's crazy. That's just insane the way you think things that are crazy and make no sense. Are you weird? That's strange what you're implying with your oddball decisions. It's almost like you're kooky! Somebody call the police, because a zany person is reading my web site! That's against the law, that sort of wacko preposterousness. That's a salamander crawling in my eyeball! AH!

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Plantations Of Pale Pink 7" - Matador 1996
Rating = 7

I saw AC/DC live the other night! I was dripping wet with musty anticipation as I awaited the arrival of Argus Young and his brother Mortimer. Sure to form, Argus ran onto the stage in his customary Catholic Schoolgirl uniform, and the show kicked more ass than a puddle of dirt! I've never seen a crowd more eager for a steak in my life though. They just kept shouting, "Ang

But enough of the hilarious jokes we tell each other today. I still have no clue why "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be" was on their set list (why not just stand still in total silence for 4 minutes? It would have the same effect.), but who can complain when "Thunderstruck," "Shot Down In Flames," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Hells Bells," "TNT," "Let There Be Rock," "Whole Lotta Rosie" and other top hits of the day were brought to life with hilarious props and daffodils?

Featuring a massive 6 songs in an oversized 12 minutes -- only one of which exceeds the 2:30 AM mark (depending on what time you start listening) -- Plantations Of Pale Pink has some good rock riffs on it! And sure they're mistake-riddled whiskey-drenched blueprints of what might have one day been converted into hard rock classics, but can't we say the same thing about Bob Dylan's early records? After all, what was "It Ain't Me Babe" before The Turtles made it haunt? What was "Mr. Tambourine Man" before The Byrds made it ring? What was "Mr. Bojangles" before Bob Dylan made it awful? Why, they were all Guided By Voices songs, of course!

"Subtle Gear Shifting" is a stoned psych masterpiece for drug intake, "The Who Vs. Porky Pig" is a pull-off guitar rockin' headbanger, "Systems Crash" could've been another great Cheap Trick power popper had they managed to sing the harmonies in tune, and the other three songs also fall into the genre of "music."

Imperfect and impertinent, POPP rocks!

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Wish In One Hand... 7" - Jass 1997
Rating = 8

There are many Guided By Voices songs that refuse to leave my head once they have entered. Luckily, these are songs that I like so it's not like I've got "Window Of My World" streaming its acrid stench through my sour, weakened brain (more on that song later). One of these deliriously catchy songs to which I'm referring is the delightful Cheap Trick confection "Teenage FBI." And what's even better than "Teenage FBI"? "Teenage FBI" without the corny Ric Ocasek synthesizers! (more on that later) This early version is all guitars and all beautiful. "Someone tell me why I do the things that I don't wanna do/When you're around me, I'm somebody else!" Has there ever been a more heartwarming song about a kid catching a teacher picking his nose?

Well okay, "Hot For Teacher."

Or should that be "SNOT For Teacher!?" HAR HAR! HAR HAR HAR! HAR HAR HAR HAR! HAL HOLBROOK!

Featuring a galloping collection of 3 songs in 6 minutes, Wish In One Hand... is short. However, it includes two great pop rockers ("Teenage FBI" and tremelo-guitared lovelyheart "Real") as well as Pollard's most John Lennony song ever, "Now I'm Cryin'," in which he not only emulates Lennon's primal scream "Mother Don't GooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" vocals but also churns away at generic Chuck Berry chords like Lennon was so wont to do in his heydays and greydays.

Honestly, if the record were any longer, it would probably have some beer-soaked garbage ruining its goodness, but instead it's a 6-minute 8! Sure beats an 8-minute 6, am I Wright?

Poor Richard Wright. Darn it, now I'm all sad.

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Split 7" with Cobra Verde - Wabana 1997
Rating = 7

This is where the Guides N' Voices world changed forever, never to return again for all times. Tobin "Slash" Sprout quit due to economic fears, Jim "Izzy" Pollard and Greg "Duff" Demos refused to become full-time members due to economic fears, Kevin "Steven Adler Of The Band Guns N' Roses" Fennell was fired due to drug/drink-related screw-ups, and Mitch "Axl Nase" Mitchell had no interest in playing with an all-new line-up. So at the peak of GbV's success, Robert Pollard was left literally holding a douchebag filled with water, vinegar, semen and vaginal lubricant. I know, I couldn't believe it either. People need to think of more polite ways of breaking up a band, I think it started with the Beatles.

Rather than building a new band from the ground up, Bob decided to just steal the entire band Cobra Verde. This single finds Cobra Verde performing one track of their own (the terrible corny macho shit rock "Terrorist") and backing Pollard on two somber and quite good songs of his own. So say hello to guitarist Doug Gillard, guitarist John Petkovic, bassist Don DePew and drummer Dave Swanson, because they're now your favorite band Guided By Voices!

Here's hoping Bob doesn't let them write any songs though, because "Terrorist" is worse than an actual terrorist.

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Bulldog Skin CD-single - Matador 1997
Rating = 8

May Heaven have mercy on anyone unfortunate enough to have been introduced to Guided By Voices through the song "Bulldog Skin." What was Matador thinking, using this '70s redneck anthem as the push single for the band's fearfully anticipated post-"classic line-up" debut!? Were they trying to make the entire GbV fan base choke to death on its own vomit!? I'm all for Bob Pollard and his many voices, but the Southern drawl he uses to bring his 'good ol' boy' protagonist to life has no place on any record not credited to the Georgia Satellites. And even then it should be broken in half and set on fire, with all the band members inside.

Thankfully, the other three songs are a world of fun and oysters -- a hypnotic rocker highlighted by Celtic-tinged intro vocals that are then looped and buried under the entire song, a herky-jerking waltz driven by scrappy guitars and a recurring piano break right out of the Sparks songbook, and a full band version of the wistful "Going To War" (which would appear in acoustic form on Mag Earwhig).

Terrible A-side choice, but "weight ago" on the other three songs!

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Mag Earwhig! - Matador 1997
Rating = 6

Cobra Verde's first and only full-length CD under the name "Guided By Voices," Mag Earwhig! is kind of a duffer. Don't blame Cobra Verde though (even though they stink); according to GBVDB.com, that shitty band only plays on 9 of the 21 songs! The other tracks appear to be new solo recordings and leftovers from the Jim Pollard/Tobin Sprout days. The result is the least cohesive album in the band's catalog, which is definitely saying something.

Featuring 21 songs in 45.5 minutes -- only six of which exceed 2:30 -- Mag Earwhig is a slaphazard combination of acoustic strummers (7), Cobra Verde radio grungers (6), Gbv pop rockers (5) and experimental snippets (3). And yes, I did indeed say "radio grungers"; pity the poor fools who always wanted Bob Pollard to record his harder rocking songs in a real studio with real musicians, because Cobra Verde has converted them not into exciting Who-style explosions but rather slick faceless Evercleary pop-grunge. And yes, I gave Everclear higher grades than they deserved, shut up. This isn't about my failed grading system.

No, what it's about more than anything else is R. Pollard experiencing what we in the business call "writer's block." This is when a writer lives in a neighborhood with other writers, and it's called a "writer's bl

Yes, Mr. Pollard seemingly spent all his Continuity Dollars on the sluggish soundscape Under The Bushes Under The Stars, because he's up to his old snippets and half-assed experiments with a vengeance here. In fact, you might say he's "Screaming With Vengeance." Nevertheless, he still contributes at least a few good "Rocka Rolla" songs. Many a lesser writer would continue the hilarious 'Judas Priest album title' gags for another 45 minutes, but not me. I'm 36 years old, so I know when it's time to call it quits with the hilarious Judas Priest album title gags.

Mag Earwhig! may be a bad point of entry for GbV neophytes, but it's not all aesthetic sin after sin; Pollard does manage to write some great material and ram it down your jugulator -- and that ain't no strad, amus! Somber rocker "Not Behind The Fighter Jet" would've fit in nicely on UTBUTS, metallic grunge rocker "Portable Men's Toilets" probably had them fistbanging (sex) up in Seattle, "Jane Of The Waking Universe" is another classic piece of GBV melodic pop-rock, and "Learning To Hunt" and "Now To War" are two of his most haunting and wistful acoustic compositions. Plus, Doug Gillard's "I Am A Tree" is as hooky and '70s-anthemic as a fine Boston song of yesteryear! Poor Brad Delp. Why did he do it? Now I'm all sad.

Unfortunately, Pollard wastes far too much time on non-descript acoustic things that don't go anywhere. Here, I'll name them: "The Old Grunt," "Are You Faster?," Choking Tara," "Hollow Cheek," "Mag Earwhig!" and "The Colossus Crawls West." Throw in a handful of mediocre rock songs ("Mute Superstar," "Bomb In The Bee-Hive," "Bulldog Skin") and voila! You've got a whole swarm of Disappointm Ants crawling up your underpanties. Not that that's how you spell "disappointments," but if it were, that'd be a great sentence.

Thankfully Pollard and Cobra Verde started hating each other almost immediately, so he replaced most of them in time for the next full-length.

Not that it helped.

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I Am A Tree CD-single - Matador 1997
Rating = 8

The title track is such a great Doug Gillard song wowee!

And there are three other songs, for a total of 10 minutes holy cow!

1 of the others is a full song - eerie clean arpeggios, McCartney voice, low bass boom - DARK LULLABY! It's great! One of the tiny ones is great too! The other is piano and very commercial! We're all going to be dead before you read this!

That's not true! That would make no sense! How could you even read this to begin with if you were dead?

Here's today's important message:

1. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to make a relationship work. Stop being a selfish prick and make your loved one happy. Otherwise you're going to die alone.

2. The Smiths only have a few good songs, but they're really good.

3. I love doggies. They're members of the animal kingdom, but they're such sweethearts.

5. I grew my hair long from age 15 to 25. You know who was in the room when I finally had it cut? That's right! The "Can you hear me now?" Verizon guy. I unfortunately haven't been in contact with him since he became the "Can you hear me now?" guy. But he was super-nice before he became the "Can you hear me now?" guy, so maybe he still is.

6. I hate being bald. I don't look like myself at all anymore. I used to look like Mark Prindle. Now I look like Matt Pinfield has become anorexic.

7. I like Guided By Voices! They're certainly better than Drivin' N' Cryin' anyway. Remember "Power Fuckin' House"? Those guys sucked a gigantic cock for a living.

15. Tobin Sprout co-wrote the third track on here (the dark lullaby) so presumably it's an older recording.

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Do The Collapse - TVT 1999
Rating = 6

You know, sometimes you see the craziest things in New York. Below please find three hypothetical conversations that I have created based on actual recent observations. Dear God, please enjoy them.

ACTUAL OCCURRENCE #1: Mark Prindle sees a car with a license plate reading "JETSSS"

HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION #1:
Man: "I'm a big fan of the New York Jets, so I'd like a vanity license plate that says "JETS" on it."
DMV: "You have room for two more letters."
Man: "Okay, make it look like a snake's saying it."

ACTUAL OCCURRENCE #2: Mark Prindle and his lovely wife find a wrapped gift with card reading "For Jayden" lodged under a car's windshield wiper at 12:37 AM.

HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION #2:
Jayden: "Hello?"
Man: "Hi Jayden! Did you get the present I left for you?"
Jayden: "Why, no I didn't!"
Man: "Really!? But I left it under your windshield wiper! On a public New York City street! Overnight! This makes no sense at all!!!"

ACTUAL OCCURRENCE #3: Mark Prindle and his dear wife see a piece of graffiti on the side of a building that reads "Snody".

HYPOTHETICAL CONVERSATION #3:
Gang Leader: "Welcome to the gang. Have you thought about what you'd like your 'tag' to be?"
New Gang Member: "Fuck yeah, man! I'm gonna be 'BADAZZZZ X'!"
Gang Leader: "Somebody already took that one."
New Gang Member: "Okay, 'Snody'."

But you know what they say: "Only In New Jersey!"

Although Bob Pollard was happy to say "Henry Kissmyassinger" to most of Cobra Verde, he enjoyed the company and talent of guitarist Doug Gillard and invited him to stay with the band. And Doug did so with flying colours, staying with the band for the rest of its career! Not so for Pollard's longtime buddy/bassist Greg Demos and Breeders drummer Jim MacPherson, who joined for Do The Collapse but were gone by Isolation Drills and Universal Truths And Cycles respectively.

When I heard that Guided By Voices was entering the studio with producer Ricky Kasso, I was like "Hay don't do that, he'll stab you 36 times and gouge your eyeballs out." Luckily it turns out I heard the name wrong; it was Ric Ocasek, whose old band The Cars was an entirely different kind of killer.

Featuring 16 songs in 44 minutes -- only 7 of which are under 2:30 -- Do The Collapse was apparently shunned by many oldtimey Guided By Voices fans (just as Mag Earwhig! was before it). The official story is that fans found the big-time major label production too slick; the truth is that Pollard was still balls-deep in the midst of Writer's Cock. Granted, 'Writer's Block' for Robert Pollard means he's only writing 6 amazing songs per record instead of 12, but the shortage of memorable compositions is still kind of a buttfucker.

I hope you enjoyed the romantic imagery I employed in the previous paragraph. I'm trying to get Fabio to pose for the cover artwork, on a majestic steed.

Here's the thing. Robert Pollard has a tendency to do three things: (1) write songs that are astonishingly melodic, (2) write little acoustic snippets that don't really do much, and (3) piece together a series of chords that don't really go together. (1) is always a treat, (2) usually isn't, and (3) is a mixed baggie: sometimes his bizarre chord combinations wind up blowing your mind and sounding just perfect in their wrongness (example: "Idiot Princess" from the Hold On Hope EP, reviewed below), but other times they just don't work. That's the case with several Do The Collapse songs. They're weird, but not in a good way. Instead, they just sound awkward and poorly written. "Zoo Pie," perfect example. "Optical Hopscotch" and "Strumpet Eye," pretty good examples too.

But heck, even his more straightforward songs seem a bit lacking in the Melody Department Store this time. If slow rocker "In Stitches" does anything at all, I missed it. And "Hold On Hope" is an even worse choice for single than "Bulldog Skin"! Loathed even by Robert Pollard himself, "Hold On Hope" is a slow ballad that is neither GbV-pretty nor radio-generic, but simply unfathomably boring. Since Robert is back singing like Michael Stipe all over this album, it's not difficult to imagine "Hold On Hope" fitting like a glove on REM's boneshakingly boring Around The Sun abomination. Actually, several of the songs remind one (the listener) of REM - not just vocally but musically as well. The bitter scratchy "Mushroom Art" could be "Ignoreland 2," "Picture Me Big Time" sounds like all those dark arpeggio songs they were writing around the time of Adventure In Hi-Fi, and the harmony-drenched chorus of "Liquid Indian" is such an REM rip that I'm amazed it doesn't literally jump off the CD and run over to an REM album whenever it's played.

Okay, I've just been informed that I can't give this album a 6 unless I say something positive about it. "Things I Will Keep" is hauntingly beautiful, "Teenage FBI" is still a great Cheap Tricker regardless of its stupid Cars synths (thanks for nothing Ric The Dic), "Surgical Focus" is vocal-driven pop-rock perfection, "Wrecking Now" showcases a lovely example of electric/acoustic guitar interplay (plus strings, a la Out of Time!), and "Wormhole" is an evocative piece of childlike twilight pop. Also, the idea that the production is "too slick" is nonsense. The distorted guitars rock, the drums kick, and synths are only prevalent in one or two songs. If it's "too slick" production you want, check out the last two Cars albums. Do The Collapse simply allows you to hear all the instruments as they actually sound, rather than as a bunch of trebly hissy balls of air. The problem lies not with Ocasek's production (aside from, again, his overindulgence on "Teenage FBI"), but with Pollard's songwriting.

Don't spit on your dick though, because he was about to jump clear of his Writer's Block and give us one of his best albums ever!

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Plugs For The Program EP - TVT 1999
Rating = 7

I think the world needs to give me a million dollars. Do I deserve it? Shit no, but neither does Tom Cruise and he's a billionaire. I should be rich as a horse for one reason and one reason only: Penis.

Wait, that's not the reason. It's because this EP was created solely for a record store that I've been to but whose name I can't remember. It features a remix of a Do The Collapse song, a demo of a Do The Collapse song, and a passable but not great non-LP ballad. I know! The excitement has rendered my buttocks rigid and 7 inches long! Come on over here ladies, because my buttocks is ready to make sweet love to you!

Oh no! I'm too excited! Dammit! My buttocks is squirting out diarrhea because I'm too excited! Curse you for your boobs and breasts and things!

well, my buttocks is floppy, dangly and worthless now. Thanks for nothing, ASSHOLE GIRLS with the HAIR in that place and the STUFF and all those NIPPLES.

Angrily,
George Brett
Pine Tar Incident

P.S. WHAT THE HELL??? I DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH PINE TAR ON MY BAT, YOU PIECE A SHIT UMPIRE!

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Hold On Hope EP - TVT 2000
Rating = 8

The fact that a bunch of Ric Ocasek-produced B-SIDES wound up this much better than Do The Collapse proper gives some indication of the level of confusion that must've surrounded the new Guided By Voices line-up at this important juncture in their career. Six of these nine songs are excellent pop rock compositions, filled with strong vocal melodies/harmonies, intelligent arrangements and unorthodox chord changes that actually work. The Pollard/Gillard-penned "Avalanche Aminos" is in fact one of the absolute greatest anthemic rockers in the GbV catalog -- and it's a b-side!? I could just as easily argue the value of clever fuzz rocker "Underground Initiations," cold sad trembler "Interest Position," completely fucked-up (yet strangely addictive!) "Idiot Princess," and infectious McCartney la-de-das "Fly Into Ashes" and (especially) "A Crick Uphill," which builds to a delightfully loud singalong climax: "Blow some life into me, Jesus!" Heck, even the The four-chord instrumental "Do The Collapse" has terrific energy and fuzz that would've stood out like a healthy thumb on its album namesake. Jesus H. Moneypenny -- am I the only who's noticed that "Hold On Hope" is the WORST SONG ON THE HOLD ON HOPE EP!?

"Hold On Hope" does indeed stink though, and the folksy snippet "Tropical Robots" could use another idea or two too, to tell the truth. But otherwise -- wowee zowee! Forget "Hold On, Bob Hope" and check out all these OTHER great tunes!

I totally wrote "two," "too" and "to" next to each other on purpose in that last paragraph. I am the Diction Queen!

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Dayton, Ohio-19 Something And 5 7" - Fading Captain Series 2000
Rating = 5

Pollard's marriage is over, and I'm completely naked right now!

I'm not saying the two are necessarily related, but you gotta admit it's a pretty big coincidence.

Side A features a live full-band version of Tonics And Twisted Chaser's most beautiful song, and Side B features a (probably) durnk Robert Pollard plucking at a lone acoustic guitar while ruminating on how his cheatin' heart (and penis) resulted in a divorce from his long-time wife of many several years. "It is my destiny to dye it with her tears," he bemoans in a loose talk-sing. "Rest assured no welcome wagons will be there when I get home," he weeps in a wavering sing-speak. "Madly they bite at the beauty of life/All forgiveness included, and fuckin' shit that requires insight," he... umm.... says.

Let's face farts: side two is the sorrowful apology of a guilty drunk. Musically it's not going to whip your horse's ass with a belt, but the emotions are so raw they'll give you salmonella!

In fact, you'll be lucky if they don't give you salmonella!

Hey, what'd you name your new fish?
Salmon Ella!

Hey, Italian guy! What's your name?
Sal Monella!

Which reminds me: how come nobody ever names their kid "Sasumo Tuwethfr"? As in "SAturday sunday monday" and so forth? Come on, that'd be hilarious. In fact, it downright pisses me off that you're not doing it right now.

No wait! I've got a better one! "Jafema Apmajujuauseocnode!" Come on! Do it! DO IT!!!!

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Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft - Fading Captain Series 2000
Rating = 4

You know what I've had it with? People not putting their dogs in swings.

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/f5a8285be1/dog-in-swing

Oh excellent! Thanks!

Apparently their regular albums just weren't inconsistent enough for Mr. PollTARD, so he made it his life's duty to release a box set of 100 outtakes. Then he decided to become Bill Hilarious and attribute each track to a different fictional artist. So instead of listening to a bunch of leftover stinkbugs by Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, you get a four-disc compilation of such chartbreaking acts as "Whitey Museum," "Eric Pretty,' "Approval Of Mice," "Artrock Unicorns," "Red Hot Helicopter," "Too Proud To Practice," "God's Brother," "Homosexual Flypaper," "Go Back Snowball," "Nelly And The Dirtfloor" and (sigh) "AA Bottom" (GET IT!?).

Being a man who loves to count, I counted several things for you. Here they are. Please enjoy!

100 songs
3 hours, 44 minutes
65 of the songs are shorter than 2:30
57 of them have no drums
42 are Robert Pollard solo recordings
31 feature Mitch Mitchell
29 feature Tobin Sprout
23 feature Jim Pollard
23 feature Kevin Fennell
8 feature Greg Demos
7 feature Larry Keller
6 feature Dan Toohey
3 feature Doug Gillard
3 feature Jim MacPherson
3 feature Peyton Eric
2 feature Don Thrasher
2 feature Steve Wilbur
2 feature Johnny Strange
2 feature Paul Comstock
2 feature Mitch Swann
1 features John Shough
1 features Jim O'Rourke of Sonic Youth fame
1 features GBV "Manager For Life" Pete Jamison
1 features Spin writer Jim Greer

The problem is simple: Robert Pollard records every little tune he thinks up, even if there's no reason for it to exist. There are so many go-nowhere do-nothing lo-fi little strum'n'sing solo throwaways on here that it hardly even seems worth the effort to hunt down the 20-25 good ones. But for the record, they include:

- "The Terrible Two," a good solid bittersweet band tune
- "Let's Go Vike," a fun bouncy scrappy rocker
- "Pink Drink," a catchy little demo for what could've been a great pop rocker
- "James Riot," a slow fuzz rocker that screams 'early Who'
- "Taco, Buffalo, Bird Dog & Jesus," a wistful REMy tune with lovely harmony vocals

And that's about it for disc one! I'll let you yourself possess the enjoyable fun of delighting in the grab bag of wonders to be unearthed on the other discs.

One warning though: disc four only has two good songs on it.

So how can I hold my nose-ear, ignore the 46 songs that are completely awful, and award this inexcusable pile of snore-inducers a 4 out of 10 instead of the 2 it deserves? Well, I'll tell you. It's because even at their worst, Guided By Voices manage to churn out some ideas that are at least interesting if not particularly insightful. Let's see some examples.

- "Bottoms Up! (You Fantastic Bastard)" may be a godawful hard rock abortion, but it does feature the Electric Six-style lyric "I'm with the Disco Police/You're getting back on the bus!"
- The appropriately titled "Bad & Rare" features imitation Native American music!
- "Pluto The Skate" features a riff that they would later use in a different song! I can't remember which one though, sorry about that.
- "Sabotage" is neither a cover of a Beastie Boys song nor a cover of a Black Sabbath album in its entirety, but rather a smoky jazz composition by Guided By Voices! Granted it wears out its welcome after 30 seconds and then drags on for another 4 minutes, but hey we can't all be the great Miles Davis.
- "Little Jimmy The Giant" is a song written and recorded by Mr. Pollard at the tender young steak of 16! It sucks dicks through a straw.
- "Hold On To Yesterday" features lead vocals by Mitch Mitchell! He can't sing.
- "Big Trouble" is a live country-western rock'n'roll boogie! It's an interminable 8 minutes long.
- "Perch Warble" is a cool Cars-esque new wave rocker! Why didn't they play this one for Ric Ocasek?
- "Buzzards And Dreadful Crows" is on here! The music hadn't been written yet, and is terrible.
- "Gift" appears to be a conceptual joke wherein a live audience roars its excited approval after twp absolutely horrific noise-ridden shit songs. At least, I hope it's a joke.
- "A Farewell To Arms" sounds like a messy, poorly-recorded Tom Petty song! "Refugee," to be exact.
- "Try To Find You" is without a doubt the most hilarious track in the entire GbV catalog, and is definitely included here for its humorous (not musical) qualities. It's an early live performance that was (un?)fortunately recorded by a person standing right next to two young women who hadn't seen each other in a while. So the entire song is these two idiots making small talk with each other as the band plays way off in the background! Sample lyric: "How are your kids?" "Fine!" I simply cannot stop laughing at this track. Its inclusion here was a touch of genius.

Why, that sounds like the punchline to a hilarious Michael Jackson joke!

In conclusion, this box set is not very good. But you're in luck! Bob put out a second Suitcase in 2005 (reviewed below), and is releasing a third installment in just a few months! These shitty outtakes can only get better, better and better!

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Isolation Drills - TVT 2001
Rating = 8

I must warn you: it's very likely that upon hearing this record's first song, you'll announce, "What is this shit? The Gin Blossoms? The Lemonheads? I'm asking you a question! What is this jangly power pop shit?" However, stay with it and you'll realize that (a) it's one of only three cheery power pop songs on the record, and (b) the motherbumper really grows on you! It may be generic jangly power pop, but it sure is catchy.

With 16 songs in 47 minutes -- only 4 of which are shorter than 2:30 (!) -- Isolation Drills is the big major label rock record that Bob Pollard had always wanted to make. With at least 11 great tunes, its failure to score even one hit single is probably less the fault of TVT Records than that of ClearChannel Advertising Network and its stranglehold on the American radio waves. Regardless, if you or your father are big fans of straightforward melodic guitar music, the two of you need to pick up a copy post-now!

Performing in this incarnation of the band are singer/songwriter Robert Pollard, guitarist Doug Gillard, drummer Jim MacPherson, guitarist (and former GbV roadie) Nate Farley and bassist Todd Tobias. However, in a dreadful stroke of foreshadowing, only Pollard, Gillard and Farley would remain until the bittersweet end. Apparently Pollard's inability to keep a line-up together has little to do with his personality though. As it turns out, most people in their late 30s want a job that actually pays enough for them to support a family. Crazy, I know!

Like the last record, Isolation Drills is reminiscent of Out Of Time/Automatic For The People-era REM in places -- especially when Pollard sings in his low Stipey register or they bring in the string section. The difference is that the songs are much hookier, whether they be optimistic power pop, beautiful soundscape rock, slow ballads, angry hard rock, acoustic strummers, Stonesy chooglers or straight pop rock. This is confident and tuneful songwriting, not failed experiment "Zoo Pie" buffoonery.

Having said that, there are definitely a few tracks that fail to (work the cash) register -- 4-track acoustic snippet "Frostman," tedious ballad "Fine To See You," and vomitous annoyance "Want One?" in particular should've been left as b-sides. However, the record's best songs aren't just singalongable; they're almost heartachingly beautiful. Yes, they're composed of your ordinary everyday chords and arpeggios, but with Pollard's typically gorgeous vocal melodies, Rob Schnapf's crystal clear production, and some perfectly placed strings and piano, the end result is probably the most accessible and instantly likeable product in the band's extensive catalog. I could name standout tracks, but I'd be here all day. "Unspirited," "Twilight Campfighter," "Glad Girls," "Skills Like This," "How's My Drinking?" Jesus, I've been here half the day already! Curse this one-button Blackberry!!

The disc also comes in one of the coolest fold-out packages I've seen. But you wouldn't know, because you just stole it off the Internet!

Best,
The Pot

P.S. Not that kind of pot.

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Glad Girls CD-single - TVT CD-single
Rating = 7

This seedy shingle features the album track "Glad Girls," plus a one-minute undeveloped snippet, a song that alternates macho Foghat '70s hard rock with slug-paced optimism, and a very cool tune called "Isolation Drills" that might have fit nicely onto an album called Isolation Drills if anybody had thought of recording an album with that title. I know I should write more, but it's later than my period!

(*baby falls out of penis, splatters on ground*)

Well, there you go.

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Universal Truths And Cycles - Matador 2002
Rating = 7

could somebody explain to me why this exchange apparently never took place?

Kid Rock: "Say, I think I'll take the backing track from the late Warren Zevon's classic 'Werewolves of London,' and just sing my own lyrics over it."

Anybody In The World: "You're a fucking asshole!"

One time a person had the gall to suggest that I worry too much about "genre." What that person failed to accomplish is realize why I do that. Here is the answer to that long-awaited question: so you'll know what the goddamned album sounds like, asshole! What do you want me to say -- "This album is the balm to your musical ear! It will lift you high and make dreams feel alive!"!? SHIT NO. Particularly when you're talking about a band like Guided By Voices -- a band whose work rides the wild surf from heavenly uptempo pop gems to sloshed acoustic fumblings, studio-recorded pristinityness to a man vomiting onto a roll of packaging tape, and rockin' guitar jamborees to boring turd ballads sung to a turd -- it's relevant and important to know what sort of record you're getting, I feel.

As such, rather than poetically stating that "the guitars are like jewelry smiling at a bunch (or 'herd') of fish," I'm going to matter-of-factly inform you that, with 19 songs in 46.5 minutes, the studio-produced Universal Truths And Cycles features approximately 6 anthemic Who-esque rock compositions, 4 optimistic pop-rockers, 4 acoustic whatsits, 3 experimental rock songs, and 2 driving tough rockers. The vocals are extremely faux-British, the songwriting is predominantly '60s-inspired, and the band weaves through light and dark passages of power chords and arpeggios before ultimately affirming your life with anthemic victory over emotional pain. Much like Pete Townshend's "The Who" might once have done.

In fact, did somebody say "The Who"? If so, I bet they'll love the title of track 17: "The Ids Are Alright"! Unfortunately, not only is it not a hilarious "Weird Al" Yankovic parody of "The Kids Are Alright," but it appears to be the only Who song title parody on the record. Where are "Baba O'Piley" and "I Can Pee For Miles"? Where are "Pictures Of Vanilli" and "You Sweater You Sweat"? Where are "My Ken-L-Ration" and "Eminence Cunt"? Come on Bob Pollard, put on your Who song title parody shoes and let's get this boat on the show.

Having said that, only 6 of the 19 songs sound like The Who at all, so I'll drop that conceit for now.

New drummer Jon McCann is on hand, so welcome that guy (only for a second though, because he was gone within the year).

If you hate song titles, I urge you to skip over all parenthetical phrases in the next paragraph.

The greater good of the record will have your heart singing with rockin' melodic joy as usual, but it's not all Slim Whitman. Some songs try to bowl you over with self-importance but fail because their chords dawdle along so slowly (Hurry the hell up, "Storm Vibrations" and "Eureka Signs"!), others are a bit too cutesy-sweet for Mark "Macho Man" Prindle (Grow a pair, "Zap" and "Universal Truths & Cycles"!), the acoustic snippets sound typically unfinished and uncared for (For God's sake DO something, "The Weeping Bogeyman" and "Factory Of Raw Essentials"!), and a few otherwise excellent rock songs are kicked in the teeth by foul and unnecessary 'experimentation' (Dump the terrible off-key strings, "Pretty Bombs"! Tune your mother-humping piano, "Back To The Lake"! And what's with the full minute of 'Oh God bless you' assfucking at the end of weirdo rocker "Father Sgt. Christmas Card"!?). I'm tired of talking to songs. Someone bring a person over here.

No! Not THAT person! He smells like something's burning and dung!

In the absence of a person not stranded in a negative religious altered state of consciousness, let me just state that the 11 songs I didn't mention in that last paragraph are gifts from the mannah. THE ROCK "Skin Parade" is the tough cool brother that David Bowie spent the first half of the '70s trying to think up, THE POWER POP "Cheyenne" will rose your cheeks even redder than "Glad Girls," THE BROODING SIMMER MACHINE "Car Language" rocks harder with no drums than most songs do with 53 (then when the drums do show up, they bring a CAR HORN solo with them!), and even THE GRUNGE "Everywhere With Helicopter" has a wiggly-wiggle vocal melody that'll have Nirvana kicking themselves in the ass some day, when they're getting ready for one of their whirlwind world tours. Plus, if you can't hear the winning influence of THE WHO in multi-mood epic "Christian Animation Torch Carriers," By Numbers-esque acoustic anthem "Wings Of Thorn," and Bo Diddley acid-psycho "From A Voice Plantation," turn in your ear at the door because you're obviously just using it to snort cocaine.

To sum up: it's not so much a hit-or-miss album as a hit-or-half-hit album. Almost all the songs have something strong going for them, but about half just fail to follow through on their initial genius. Overall though, it's another fine and proud well-recorded hi-fi release by "Elderly Bob" Pollard and his band of interchangeable whosits.

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The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet EP - Fading Captain Series 2002
Rating = 6

So I was reading Jean-Paul Sartre's 33 1/3 book about Pink Floyd's The Wall the other day, and dude he couldn't have GOT it more wrong! Which reminds me: why hasn't Spinal Tap done a hilarious parody of the Pixies' "Monkey Gone To Heaven" called "This Amp Goes To Eleven"? I guess they're too busy re-recording songs they wrote 4,000 years ago to be true innovators like Mark Prindle(TM).

With 10 songs in 23 minutes - 5 of which are over 2:30 and 5 of which are under 2:30 - Pablo Populace's Pet Peter Porky features 4 melodic rockers, 3 slow ballads and 3 anxious rockers all of which were outtakes from Isola Tiondrills and The One After It. The last song is a good rocker that goes "Dig a deeper hole and you'll feel better!"

Clump-clump, fey Brit, ratatat, slow chords, strings, starts lame, oddly rhythmed, nice bass line - these are descriptions that mean nothing to the average Joe (or, in Spanish-speaking countries, Maria). The Average Joe either likes a song or hates it. My opinion is only my brain saying, "I like that collection of sounds." In essence, it's really late and I can't remember how any of these songs go. But holy CRAP! What a SIX! Am I right? Who's with me? None of you are.

EPs are like teepees. Indians sleep in them and they have a jagged line all the way around them and a pointy top. Is that what you want from me? A review of a record? Come on, I don't do that. Ask Norway for that; I'm a fallopian tube.

Fascinating! Market value! How about that hilarious squirrel who jumped into the photo? Ha ha! Funny, funny squirrel! Ha ha!

I had a job interview today. Wish me muck!

But also, come on there's no thematic continuity or overall sound to Pipe Dreams of Instant Coffee McGee -- it's outtakes from two different albums! But that one song is totally a good midtempo rock snippet.

Here's a picture of a dog:

--C===)-:<

That stunk to high hell.

I hate bullies. Murder them and blame it on Obama's "Death Panel." With any luck, they'll also break into Sarah Palin's house and kill her tard baby.

By which I mean the dipshit that had a baby at age 10.

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Earthquake Glue - Matador 2003
Rating = 6

This bungled blunderbus of a boob has so many bad ideas on it that it's a wonder it's listenable at all. By burying straightforward rockers under asinine bouncy noises, destroying half the record with clumpy-dumpy drumbeats that keep stopping and starting every few seconds, and giving us some of the most puke-lickingly sweet and sentimental crap that Pollard has ever written, Earthquake Glue takes it up the ass in church.

Presumably in an attempt to separate themselves from Who and REM comparisons, Bob and the gang here turn to such influences as Neutral Milk Hotel, Gang Of Four, The Cure, XTC and even (possibly, though this is a stretch) Throbbing Gristle. The problem is that none of these bands' unique sounds merge worth a haypenny with Pollard's melodic guitar rock strengths. In fact, it's worth noting that one of the record's strongest songs -- "She Goes Off At Night" -- sounds just like The Who!

And what is going on with Pollard's voice? Why does he sound so smooth and sensitive all the way through? Half the time I'd swear he's got the Ned's Atomic Dustbin guy pinch-singing for him! And what's up with that dumbo low voice he uses in "Dead Cloud"? A real headscratcher is what one might refer to that as.

Featuring 15 songs in 45 minutes (5 melodic rockers, 5 clumpy experimental messes, 3 sweetsy ballads and 2 jangly pops), Earthquake Glue is at its strongest when mining traditional GbV ground. "My Kind Of Soldier" and "The Best Of Jill Hives" are two further additions to Pollard's gigantic arsenal of heavenly pop masterpieces; "She Goes Off At Night," "Useless Inventions" and "Of Mites And Men" are killer chord rockers to stack up there with "Cut-Out Witch" and "Hot Freaks"; and "Dirty Water" might be described as art rocker Pete Townshend meeting blues whiteman Roger Daltrey halfway. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is a tiresome flea bag of sluggish tempos, obvious emotions and baffling arrangement decisions. The second half in particular can go tinkle on my flowers.

Having said all that, I haven't been able to get "The Best Of Jill Hives" out of my head for the past three weeks. I love love love that little song. "I don't know where you get your nerve/I don't know how you choose your words/Speak the ones that suit you worse, keep you grounded, sad and cursed/Circle the ones that come alive and save them for the best of Jill Hives."

Supposedly he got that song title by mishearing "The Days Of Our Lives" spoken on a nearby television. This certainly supports my theory that he had shit clogging up his ears when he wrote most of this album. "Beat Your Wings"? Are you kidding me!? I've heard death rattles with more pizazz.

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The Best Of Jill Hives CD-single - Matador 2003
Rating = 8

This sea-dissing gull features the album track "The Best Of Jill Hives," plus a depressed but worthwhile Doug Gillard song that sounds like Wings with George Harrison singing, and a fine cover of Cheap Trick's awesome "Downed." I know I should write more, but it's so late that if you ordered a latte, they'd serve you a cup of hot tea and say, "It's already 'late' so we just brought you the 't.'"

Then they'd throw it in your face and give you first degree burns, I know these people they're assholes.

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Half Smiles Of The Decomposed - Matador 2004
Rating = 7

When I posted a comment about this CD on Facebook recently, a rather astute gentlefellow named Esceptico Jr. responded, "It's an obvious statement at this point but I can see a Henry the dog story/joke at some point in this particular review. You know what song I'm pointing." An equally astute gentlebean named Elliott Koch then heartily answered, "Window of My World? Dogs of Wild Straw-Henrys? Everyone Thinks I'm A Henry (When I'm Not Woofing)?"

You see, there's a song on here -- and a darned fine one, I should add -- entitled "The Closets Of Henry." So even back when Henry The Dog was only three years old, Robert Pollard already knew he was gay. Oh well. Such is the life of a neuter.

With 14 songs in 42 minutes -- all but two of which are longer than 2:30 -- Half Smiles Of The Decomposed found Guided By Voices (Pollard, Gillard, Farley, bassist Chris Slusarenko and drummer Kevin March) ending their career on a suitably enjoyable note. And please let me explain why I insisted on telling you how many songs are on each record and how long the records are; it's so you'll clearly understand which of the records are composed of dinky half-songs and which are full to busting with radio-ready pop songs like a normal person would enjoy. Also, I wanted to.

Half Smiles's material breaks down (to my ears) to 5 melodic pop rockers, 4 ballads, 3 experimental rockers and -- most intriguingly -- 2 '60s chamber pop songs! "Asia Minor" is total Hollies with its bouncy piano/guitar interplay and goodness, and the ever-changing "(S)Mothering And Coaching" is almost Ween-esque in its prog-rock aspirations! The other experiments are well worth your time too (for a change), with "Sleep Over Jack" tossing out one of the most oddball bass lines in the catalog, "Gonna Never Have To Die" concluding with a minute-plus acoustic guitar solo, and honestly I'm blanking on what the third experimental one was. If it was "Sons Of Apollo," fuck that - that thing sucks. Don't get me wrong; I usually love songs that don't do anything at all.

Which brings us to the album's chief weakness: most of the ballads stink stink GOD do they stink. "Tour Guide At The Winston Churchill Memorial" is a very sweet tribute to Bob's (then) new girlfriend, but the others are just awful. "Window Of My World" finds Pollard competing with Elton John and Billy Joel for pussyassiest Disney cartoon ballad of all time, "Sing For Your Meat" is boring, empty and terrible with some of the worst bass playing I've ever heard in America, and "A Second Spurt Of Growth" has nothing going for it but some Latin lounge chords and a synth-flute.

But otherwise, all's peachy! New additions to The Pollard Pop Masterpiece Trophy Room include "Everybody Thinks I'm A Raincloud (When I'm Not Looking)," "Girls Of Wild Strawberries" and aforementioned "The Closets Of Henry," and it'd be difficult to come up with a better finale for the band's recorded career than the anthemic "Fly too long!" coda of "Huffman Prairie Flying Field."

In conclusion, I just want to state for the record that before I sat down to write these reviews, I honestly couldn't have told you how a single Guided By Voices song went. Now that I'm finished, I cannot offer enough praise and thanks to Mr. Robert Pollard for penning and singing some of the most heartwarmingly, life-affirmingly, soul-upliftingly, goosebumpingly melodic and beautiful songs ever written in the history of pop music. Nor can I accurately express my disgust at how many worthless pieces of sub-Weezer toilet bowl juice he's recorded (see Suitcase 2 below).

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Suitcase 2: American Superdream Wow - Fading Captain Series 2005
Rating = 2

I absolutely loathe counting, but I bit the bullet to count several things for you. Here they are:

100 songs
3 hours, 35 minutes
68 of the songs are shorter than 2:30
57 of them have no drums
46 are Robert Pollard solo recordings
36 feature Mitch Mitchell
18 feature Jim Pollard
17 feature Kevin Fennell
9 feature Tobin Sprout
8 feature Peyton Eric
5 feature Paul Comstock
4 feature Steve Wilbur
3 feature Nate Farley
3 feature Wendell Napier
2 feature Greg Demos
2 feature Doug Gillard
2 feature Bruce Smith
2 feature Don Thrasher
2 feature Mike Tomlinson
1 features Dan Toohey
1 features Tim Tobias
1 features Rob Phillips
1 features Tony Conley
1 features Jim MacPherson
1 features John Petkovic
1 features Don DePew
1 features Dave Swanson
1 features Johnny Strange
1 features Chris Gianaupolis
1 features Randy Campbell
1 features GBV "Manager For Life" Pete Jamison
1 features Spin writer Jim Greer

There's something I absolutely must make clear to everybody in the world, all of whom are forced by Muslim Law to read this page: don't think to yourself, "Hay, none of these albums get 10s; I guess Guided By Voices must blow." That is NOT the case. In fact, Bob "Costas" Pollard has written so many beautiful and unforgettable melodies that it is absogoddamnedlutely ridiculous. He is, in all seriousness, capable of writing the greatest pop songs you will ever hear. The UNFORTUNATE thing is that he is incapable of telling the difference between a well-written composition and a piece of human shit ejecting itself from an anus. As such, all of his albums are divided - in varying percentages - between "the greatest songs ever written by anybody" and "something that smells so bad I think a butt was responsible." Thus, this album.

This, the SECOND 100-song box set of GbV outtakes, sucks so much ass it's ridiculous. It is abominable. Hideous. Literally the worst fucking garbage you will ever encounter. You know how Jesus was on the cross, all nailed to it and dying and shit? Somebody played him this album and he said, "Hay, if you turn this off you can totally jam the nails in harder." And they did, because they were Pharoahs or Israelites or whatever the hell the Bible claims they were.

Nobody ever born should be so untalented that they could write the songs on this quadruple-CD box set. When you hear them, you will feel sorry for the retarded and transexual, and think to yourself, "That is so sad that the mentally stupid and homeslices are" and then you won't be able to think any further because the mere act of sitting through these 100 bags of rancid horse urine will have eaten into the core of your brain.

"Hilarious" band names this time around include "Hey John. Bees," "Bore Co.," "U B Hitler," "The Banana Show," "Manimal," and not as many as before because they keep repeating them.

If you hear a song that's great, terrific. Cherish it because the next 16 will be like shoving your head into an Auschwitz Death Oven. I've always felt that a bad song is the equal to being murdered in a Death Chamber by the Nazis. There is no difference.

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Knockers!
Knockers who?
Knockers knock knock knocking knock!

H AHA HAHAAHH! THAT WAS A GREAT JOKE!

I've so had it with Robert Pollard thinking that every time he takes a dump into the little hole in his acoustic guitar (four times daily) it counts as a "song." The dude needs to learn that people don't want to hear TERRIBLE GO-NOWHERE FIDDLE-FUCKING AROUND LAZILY. Does Paul McCartney get drunk, go "diddly-doo!" into a tape recorder, and release it as an album? HELL NO! (except for Press To Play). Does REM hell no!

THIS IS A SPECIAL NOTE TO ROBERT POLLARD:

Mr. Pollard,

Thank you for writing so many of the greatest and most melodic pop-rock songs of all time. You are an extremely talented man. But seriously -- are you such an alcoholic that you can't hear the incompetence and lack of point in nearly every song on this 100-track box set!? What the hell is the matter with you? Wake the fuck up, bonehead! You've written so many godawful songs that it makes Billy Joel look like a genius with his ONE good song! ("Cadillac-ac-ac-ac-ac").

Best,
Mark Prindle
America's Most Wanted

P.S. I'm told that you're planning to release Suitcase 3 in November. PLEASE RECONSIDER.

Reader Comments

alfonsobarsanti@gmail.com
"... it makes Billy Joel look like a genius with his ONE good song! ("Cadillac-ac-ac-ac-ac")"

I totally agree that that is the only good Billy Joel song! Not that I've really undertaken a thorough survey of his work, but, I'm willing to stand by my prejudiced, snap judgment.

Add your thoughts?


Live From Austin TX - New West 2007
Rating = 8

When it comes to counting, I really have no opinion and could go either way. As such, I half-heartedly -- without putting too much effort into it -- counted how many songs from each album they played at this live show. Here are the results:

6 Bee Thousand
5 Half Smiles Of The Decomposed
3 Alien Lanes
3 Earthquake Glue
2 Same Place The Fly Got Smashed
2 Under The Bushes Under The Stars
2 Isolation Drills
1 Self-Inflcted Aerial Nostalgia
1 Propeller
1 Tonics And Twisted Chasers
1 Mag Earwhig!
1 Do The Collapse
1 Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP
1 I Am A Scientist 7"
0 Devil Between My Toes
0 Sandbox
0 Vampire On Titus
0 Universal Truths And Cycles

I actually saw Guided By Voices in concert shortly before Bee Thousand came out, but unfortunately nobody bothered writing down the date or keeping the set list. One thing I do remember though is how hilarious it was to watch these old men (for they seemed so at the time) doing cock rock moves on a tiny stage in the corner of the itty bitty Duke Coffeehouse. Karate kicks, mic swinging, windmill guitaring -- it was fantastic! I don't recall liking many of their songs, but for all I know they just played Devil Between My Toes in its entirety.

Listen -- I hate how I look. True fact. From age 15 to 25, I grew my hair out and was a long-hair. Then from 25 to 35, I was a short-hair and had short hair. Now I'm a shaved head balded asshole with a shitty goatee prick. I hate it. I HATE how I look. You have no idea. I HATE IT. My wife likes it though, and that's all that matters. So up your ass if you think I'm ugly. I agree with you.

Here's some nonsense Bob Pollard says on this live CD:

"Say it! Learn it! Know it!"

"Fun rock! Serious rock is good, but fun rock is better!"

"It's lovely! It's a lovely tune. You'll love it."

"It's a lovely song about Ohio."

"This is the ballad of Guided By Voices from Dayton, Ohio. Not a bad place to visit... Not a good place to stay."

"Rock and roll will never die!"

"This is a song, kids, that we've always liked to play for a long time. It's been in our set for 20 years."

"I wanna thank you people for allowing us to do our thing for 21 years."

"We saw the world! And we were the Kings of lo-fi! We brought back rock and roll! Guided By Voices did! It was a good thing! It was a good thing! It was a good thing to bring back rock and roll. You gotta bring back rock and roll! You gotta bring back rock and roll! I gotta have me some rock and roll! Rock and roll is for the kids! All the adults who think it's for them - get outta the way! The kids are confused! The kids are confused!"

"Alright, this could've been a perfectly great song."

"Hey kids, let me tell you something that Guided By Voices taught the world -- that you can SUCK and still rule! It can get outta sync... it doesn't sound good, and it can still rule!"

"You guys are gonna dig the encore, man, 'cuz we got hits galore!"

Yes indeed, Robert "Bob" Pollard "Lard" does enjoy his alcohol.

On the other hand, he wrote so many gorgeous and great songs that you can suck his dick if you write him off as a lo-fi buffoon. Also, yes, some of his vocals are drunken and cracky on here, but the songs are so good that hooee! You know? And it's neato burrito to hear all these old lo-fi songs performed by a real live hi-fi band. One thing though: the crowd keeps chanting "G! B! V!" like a bunch of dipshits.

Such great songs include:
Exit Flagger
Girls of Wild Strawberries
Navigating Flood Regions
Gold Star For Robot Boy
Redman And Their Wives
Dayton, Ohio-19 Something And 5
Do The Earth
Game Of Pricks
My Kind Of Soldier
I Am A Scientist
Cut-Out Witch
The Best Of Jill Hives
Watch Me Jumpstart
Tractor Rape Chain
Pendulum
Fair Touching
Teenage FBI

And there are OODLES more where those came from. Just not on this album.

Plus they play a great loud DISTORTED ELECTRIC version of "Gonna Never Have To Die," a killer rendition of "Buzzards And Dreadful Crows" and a hilarious "Secret Star" full of tipsy love talking. Here's a shocking fact though: "Window Of My World" remains the faggy-assiest song ever written. If you like it, snip off your dick because you're never going to use it.

Well, that's it for the Guided By Voices catalog. But if you're hungry for more, you're in luck -- Robert Pollard has a solo album!

Reader Comments

newone88859@hotmail.com (Heath)
Dear Mark,

I don't really know anything about Guided by Voices. I identify their name exclusively with Robert Pollard, though I'm fairly certain that they were a whole "band" at one point, I just don't know when. I do know that Pollard was a teacher at some point, and that their records sounded lousy. I was really attracted to the lo-fi aesthetic in middle school (Slanted and Enchanted and III, like you mentioned), but I somehow glossed over Guided by Voices. I finally bought Bee Thousand last summer, and I was pretty bowled over by a great deal of the songs, especially "Tractor Rape Chain." But I didn't write this to talk about their music so much as to talk about how much the Guided by Voices "model" has affected me. The idea of a band releasing record after record to a totally passive audience, all the while working a straight job and occasionally writing the most brilliant songs ever. It's an attractive story, and one that gives me hope. I feel like a total fucking loser. I just graduated college, I can't find a job(outside of my bullshit coffee shop job), I'm living back with my parents, and I've just been questioning every little goddamn thing. But the existence of this band, and specifically Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, gives me a little bit of hope. This all sounds really corny, but whatever. I hope that Pollard isn't a total asshole in real life, because his band may be more inspiring than he ever intended them to be.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write all of these reviews, Mark.

kupopp@gmail.com
Robert Pollard's solo albums all have the same ratio of hits and misses as the GbV albums. 1996's Not In My Airforce is as good as any GbV album, and you would be remiss not to hear it. Circus Devils and Boston Spaceships are the highlights of the side projects, if you aren't a complete Asperger's obsessive like myself and just want to single out the most accessible of all the Fading Captain/side project stuff. I personally am a music nut and if I like a band I have to hear everything just to make sure I don't miss some hidden gem on a limited edition 7" released only in Chad. There's a GbV song called "Finks," for instance, that was only released on the Japanese version of Under the Bushes Under the Stars. It's maybe one of the top ten songs Bob has ever written, and its limited release ensures only four people will ever hear it. Such is the peril and the reward of following GbV. Another annoying thing is when you try to tell normal people about Guided by Voices and they ask you if they are a Christian rock band; this apparently happens to dozens of people, I personally don't understand why "Guided by Voices = Christian rock band name" to so many people, but it does. Anyway, I first stumbled on this site back in 1998 and thought, "Damn, this guy reviews most of my favorite bands, but where's GbV?" and now at last I feel complete inside. Thank you.

cmilley2000@excite.com (Craig)
Mark,

I just read through your collection of pain-stakingly written GBV reviews (OK, I read all the star ratings and skimmed one or two sentences from each of the reviews to be honest) and I have to say I am truly impressed with your level-headed assessment of this band's catalog. For weeks you have been heralding that you were in the process of assembling a GBV artist page, and I have been nervous as hell. GBV is one of my favorite bands. I guess I am not that hardcore since I never actually saw one of their shows and only recently begin listening to their entire catalog, and honestly I think their catalog contains much more shit than treasure, but the love runs deep. I had this scary feeling in my gut that you were going to trash their entire catalog like you did with say Joni Mitchell or Miles Davis. Now you were patient enough to not only review every single LP they ever released, but also worked through the absurd and ridiculously prolific collection of 7" and actually gave thoughtful reviews of each. There is not a single album or single that I disagree with you by a factor of more than one star (OK, maybe a couple of our opinions differ by two stars.) I would only suggest that you under-rate Mag Earwhig and GBV's amazing last record Half Smiles Of The Decomposed, and over-rate the dreadful Do The Collapse. As a person who for some misguided reason takes the star ratings of bands I like very seriously, I want to give you kudos for going above and beyond on this task. You took a band that I cherish and gave an excellent summarization of their entire recorded career. God Bless you.

tuskedbeast@yahoo.com
Glad you got this bunch of reviews out of the way.

Now, on to more interesting bands, please.

Add your thoughts?


Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now - Guided By Voices 2009
Rating = 3

My intermittent interest in counting has been stymied by my inability to secure liner notes and/or song credits for this box set. As such, I can only share with you the data that I've observed with my own eyes and ears:

100 songs
3 hours, 35 minutes (approximately)
67 of the songs are shorter than 2:30
61 of them have no drums

Now here's a track-by-track review of the set:

1 "Building A Castle" - This song is tiny and pointless.
2-100 - Ditto

Alright then!

No no, I'm joking you. Which reminds me of a hilarious riddle I accidentally thought up today:

What is the most popular book among adolescent butter substitutes?
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margarine

Tally-ho the laughs!

In my opinion, Suitcase 3: Scraping The Absolute Bottom Of The Barrel Now has around 15 honestly good songs, and another 30-35 that are passable. The remaining 50 or so are absolutely atrocious. The main difference between this one and its two predecessors is that the entire fourth disc is an impromptu acoustic jam session featuring Pollard, Sprout and supposedly Demos although I only hear two guitars and no bass at all. Unsurprisingly, this whole drunken venture wrought forth only a couple of good songs, but it's certainly fun to hear a woman and child (Bob's wife and son?) chit-chatting in the background of certain songs.

As a time-saving device, rather than attempting to review this pile of fourth-rate leftover garbage as if it has any thematic unity at all (aside from being rejected from every GBV release and two 100-song box sets of outtakes), I'll just share some song descriptions from my extensive listening notes:

- "Grossly plucked acoustic chords and mopey vox. Awful! Long & meandering."
- "Can't hear the riff at all! Drunk mess."
- "All over the place strumming. Crap."
- "Like a bad Wings rock song."
- "Annoyingly energetic affected vox. Yech!"
- "A good start, but goes nowhere worth going. Loses its way immediately."
- "Peppy drums, but they're buried so it all just sounds wet and morose."
- "NOTHING! Just a snort, silence, mumbling. WTF!? Bob singing in bathroom?"
- "Wailing crap vocals. Goes nowhere."
- "TOTAL SHIT."
- "Acoustic dicking around and singing."
- "Sounds like it could've been developed into a decent song, but wasn't."
- "A little kid on a phone talks about how he farted and it smells."
- "Fey and British. Nah."
- "You can sing 'Babysitter' to it."
- "Ugly dissonant warbly fuzz guitar playing a few shitty chords. Awful!"
- "Acoustic guitar playing a part ripped off from 'Pinball Wizard,' augmented by off-key vocals."
- "This isn't GBV! Truck driver hick sings over '80s gayfer synthetic power pop. So awful, it's hilarious!"
- "Elvis Costello-y. Blech."
- "Like The Faces with a tone-deaf singer."
- "Cloying verse, nondescript chorus."
- "Pollard singing on the tape, and shouting like an idiot over the tape."
- "Unexceptional. Kind of a 'New Rose' riff rip."
- "Drags on forever!!"
- "Hamfisted acoustic plucking and drunk blarbling."
- "Acoustic fuckery."
- "Pbbl. Long."
- "It starts its fade-out halfway through the song!?!"
- "Bone-headed drumbeat."
- "This counts as a song!?"
- "Shitty chords, shitty vox, shit. Good end, but rest blows."
- "Friendly. Dull."
- "Too long and dumb."
- "BORING AS HELL!"
- "Crap."
- "A whole lotta nothin'!"
- "Rednecky garbage. Just random chords, seems like."
- "Sloppy."
- "A few gentle dull notes."
- "Stupid tard vocals!"
- "Dopey tuff blues rock."
- "Two chords that aren't bad, and several others that suck."
- "Not too hot."
- "Not too melodic."
- "Not too good."

And there are 65 more where those came from!

Song highlights include early versions of "Smothered In Hugs," "Huffman Prairie Flying Field," "Hey Mr. Soundman" and "Hey Aardvark" (as "Mr. Engine Driver)," along with a cute Syd Barretty tune called "Cuddling Bozo's Octopus," an instrumental guitar odyssey known as "Cochise" and a fistful of other songs that would've (and probably should've) fit in perfectly with the anthemic, Who-esque, sweet, sad, dark and perfect tracks you can find on any of their studio albums proper. Like why on Earth would they have kept "Dropping The Bomb," "Banners" and 'There Are Other Worlds" from us for this long? And what was supposedly wrong with "Candy Machine" and "Raphael Muzak" that they instead chose to release, say, Mag Earwhig? These are great songs! Christ, one of the best songs on here ("Trader Vic") actually says "Static Airplane Jive" in the lyrics! So what is it doing here? On 100 Pieces Of Shit That Are Even Worse Than The First 200 Pieces Of Shit!? I'll simply never understand personal preference.

Song title highlights include "What's So Safe About You?," "Watchin' 'Em Diggin' Up The Road," "I'm An Acting Student," "Air And Also A World," "I'll Come (And When It Does It's Mine)," "Psychlophobia," "I Share A Rhythm," "Axtual Sectivity," "Class Clown Spots A UFO," "Naked Believer (I Am)," "Piss Along You Bird," "Fireking Says No Cheating," "Poison Shop," "Sea-Mint Robots," "South Rat Observatory," "The Cinnamon-Flavored Skull," "Porpoise Mitten (Was A Real Good Kitten)," "Mr. Spoon," "Oh Pie," "Kotex Moon," "Bingo Pool Hall Of Blood," "After The Quake (Let's Bake A Cake)," "P Melts Everything," "My Dad Is A Motorboat," "Ugly Ba Ba" and "Sawhorse With Big Blue Ears." Unfortunately, almost all these songs are so fucking awful you'll be scraping at your brain with a nail file for the next 50 years trying to get their titles out of there.

Yes, Suitcase 3: Up Your Ass Now may not be the finest box set of the year, but it's certainly no good!

Indeed, this may not be the most important purchase of the year, but it definitely stinks!

Add your thoughts?


Every Guided By Voices Album Is Like One Cent At This Link. Not Literally, But They ARE Really Cheap! Buy Them All!

Or please let me guide your voices back to the home page of MarkPrindle.com