Music Review: Guided By Voices

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Guided By Voices

Universal Truths and Cycles

[Matador Records]

I will preface this by saying that Guided By Voices are one of my favorite bands, and that Rob Pollard has put out seeming millions of great pop tunes since he started fiddling with his guitar. His guiding lights are some of the greatest pop bands of all time: The Beatles, The Cars, The Who, Cheap Trick, psych rock, power pop, and every bar band that ever lived. If you've ever had the pleasure of seeing him live, he drinks a lot and does a fair number of David Lee Roth-styled leg kicks amid a blistering set of rock and roll gems. Not bad for a guy pushing 46 years-old.

But no one can stay great forever. I would say that his slide probably started with "Waved Out" in 1998 (he put this one out under the name Robert Pollard). But the death knell was definitely 1999s "Do The Collapse," one of the most "it seemed like a good idea at the time" records of all time. No one seemed like a better producer for Pollard than former Cars front man Ric Ocasek, but the results were terrible. Pollard and Ocasek moved GBV away from the short, minute-and-a-half pop gems that Pollard had traditionally favored and toward something like normal song-craft. It wound up sounding like overproduced, uninspired pap, and Pollard has gladly never worked with Ocasek again.

However, the ghost of Ocasek haunts all of his releases since then. While his songs since then have been more full-formed, they're just no fun anymore. Essentially, this is the same stuff he's always written: weirdo stream-of-consciousness lyrics, huge hooks, and lots of cock. But it sounds like he's sleepwalking through the whole record (or the last five years, for that matter). Maturity can be a good thing, but when you're trying to make infectious rock songs, maturity is the kiss of death. Oh well. Maybe I'll run into him some day. I'll hand him a pack of Bud, slap him on the back and say: "Thanks for the tunes, good luck to you," and quickly make for the exit. This party's over.

Michael Baker


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