Electric Newspaper Boy!

So my brother Huston e-mailed me last night wondering about Guided By Voices. Basically, where to start. And as I think they are awesome and as our motto here is to scream about stuff that is awesome, I figured I'd reprint my response. This also helps me to recycle a needlessly lengthy e-mail as fresh content for the blog. Just doing my part for the earth. Because I'm all granola like that.

What follows is my response. With pictures. And music (to play the samples, click on the little play button thing. If you click on the title or artist, it will take to you the Last.fm page and you will not hear the music and you will be sad):

Hey Huston,

Essential Guided By Voices albums? Oh man, this is a really tough one. It's like asking for a list of essential friends or something.

See, the thing with GBV is that, while an album may not be all that good (take, I dunno, Do the Collapse, for example), there can be at least two, as many as five really good amazing songs on it. It's the sonic equivalent of flipping through records at a record store. It's kind of part of the fun. For example, Kid Marine, a Pollard solo album is... well, it's not very good as a whole, but it contains like, two good songs that I'm glad I own, so... yeah. It's tough. there's a lot out there, but I mean, if you thought Ryan Adams just put out whatever fell into his head... well, yeah. At least Pollard's more consistent.

Becoming a GBV fan is a disease, sort of. I'm sorry if you get infected.

But... if I had to compile a list of "Must Own" GBV albums I'd probably include the following:

Propeller - One of their better early albums. I have a disc where this and Vampire on Titus (the follow-up to Propeller) are doubled up, so I have a hard time distinguishing the two. "Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox," Propeller's opener is textbook Pollard: pure epic pop. Vampire also has "Red Gas Circle," "Non-Absorbing," "Jar Of Cardinals," and like, a bunch of other stuff that I can't really remember. They're both worth sifting through.

Guided by VoicesUnleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy

Bee Thousand - For sure. I have an iTunes review wherein I state that this is the best album of the 90's. I believe the title is "Move over, Nevermind..." It's the best of their earlier, more-lo-fi albums. I bought it (on red vinyl!!!) based on a recommendation from Spin magazine back in the day (when it was relevant) and it hit me like - all hyperbole aside - a freaking revelation. It was like... imagine you have this neighbor. He's a school teacher. He tells you he has a band. And he gives you their demo tape. And it freaking rocks. It sounds all grubby and stuff, but man! it's good. That's what it's like. It's like discovering fire or five bucks in an old jacket or something. Maybe their masterpiece. Okay, so it is their masterpiece.

Guided by VoicesI Am a Scientist

Under the Bushes, Under the Stars - Maybe my favorite of their albums? There's like... 30-something tracks on this one and - amazingly - they're all worth listening to, though some more that others. It was originally a concept album about the rise and fall of a band called "King S**t and the Golden Boys," but was later just retooled as just one huge, rocking record. It also contains my single favorite GBV track: "Acorns & Orioles," as well as standouts like "Atom Eyes," "Underwater Explosions," "Lord Of Overstock" and , good gravy this is a good one, "Ghosts Of A Different Dream."

Guided by VoicesAcorns & Orioles

***I forgot to add in Mag Earwig! in my e-mail. It's a solid, rocking album. The first step toward their two slicker studio LPs, Do the Collapse (which isn't very good, but has "Teenage FBI" on it) and Isolation Drills, which we'll discuss after the little Last.fm listeny thingy.

Guided by VoicesNot Behind the Fighter Jet

Isolation Drills - Their most transparently personal album, dealing with the dissolution of Pollard's long-time marriage. It's one of their "produced" albums, with Tom Rothrock at the board. It also features an appearance of Elliott Smith on piano on, I believe, "Fine To See You." It also contains "Glad Girls," which, in a fair world, would cement their induction into Rock&Roll Heaven, like, immediately.

Guided by VoicesGlad Girls

As far as solo Pollard, both of his new albums are good, Normal Happiness and From A Compound Eye, though I think they feel a little flat in places. I don't have too many (relatively speaking, of course) of his solo/Fading Captain Series work, though his album with Doug Gillard (who was also in GBV) Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department, is pretty rocking. And it has "Pop Zeus" on it, which is awesome and I always think should be punctuated with an exclamation point.

Robert PollardLove Is Stronger Than Witchcraft

The other GBV/Pollard albums are worth sifting through, some more than others, but it will take work. Obviously, I think it's worth the work, otherwise I wouldn't have so much hard drive-/shelf- space devoted to a band that really, nobody else I know (maybe Chris) cares all that much about.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Love ya, kid,
aka POPZeus!

No comments: