By Cathal Gunning
Guided by Voices
The ludicrously prolific Robert Pollard keeps it 100 with a record that maintains the warmth and eclectic energy of his back catalogue as it enters three figures. Tirelessly inventive, the band blazes through a track-list which takes the best of their lo-fi early years and fuses it with Pollard’s arena-sized ambitions and ear for catchy choruses.
The opening riffs of the title track sound as clean as anything the band has produced, the DIY grunge of their early years replaced by slick sharpness in instrumentation and singing alike. Warmer cuts such as “Ark Technician” let Pollard slip into nostalgic reverie, a marked contrast from the tight production of the album’s opener. “Blink Blank” has the ragged charm of Zevon later in his life; grizzled vocals and growling guitars coalescing into an energetic cut, its lyrics and tone funny, frank and foreboding all at once. Shades of Earthquake Glue’s glossy, Townsend-scale catchiness show up in the album’s penultimate track “Flight Advantage,” with its bizarre, irresistibly memorable refrain of “Spiders will dance.”
The echoing “Got to keep moving” of “Evolution Circus,” along with its scratchy faraway chorus vocals, is indicative of the album’s mood, a largely successful attempt to cut and paste the scale of classics like Alien Lanes with the banter and inimitable character of GBV’s many underrated, inconsistent obscurities. After over 2,000 recordings, Pollard shows no signs of slowing down but rather doubles down with an album which is both a reminder of his extensive years of practice and his zeal for lovable spontaneity.