Guided By Voices – Class Clown Spots A UFO (Guided By Voices Inc.)


(This review originally appeared at www.spectrumculture.com)

The reformation of Guided by Voices’ mid-’90s “classic” lineup has been one of the highlights in what has been an otherwise mundane start to the ‘10s for indie-rock. Regardless of how good the music this reformation produces will be, simply knowing that Robert Pollard and his old-time Dayton cohorts (Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Kevin Fennell and Mitch Mitchell) are making new music and playing shows (all while drinking copious amounts of beer) makes the rock world a better place.

The first album from the reunited lineup, titled Let’s Go Eat the Factory, was a tentative gesture at best, suggesting that perhaps some rust had set in over the 15 years since they had last made an album together, despite the fact they all had remained active in other musical projects during that time. The album only contained a handful of GBV classics, but looking past the weaker material, the band’s freewheeling attitude and love of lo-fi warts-and-all recordings were thankfully both completely intact.

Released just six months after Let’s Go Eat the Factory, Class Clown Spots a UFO is a major leap forward in terms of both songwriting and performances. The album sports 21 songs, yet clocks in at a slender 40 minutes so there’s no opportunity to get bored – not that anyone who‘s picked up a Guided By Voices album has ever lodged that complaint. Within that sprawling, but well sequenced, song selection the band strike up a balance between Pollard’s songs which, whether rocker or ballad, are always bursting at the seams with personality, and Sprout’s more introverted indie-pop creations.

Class Clown begins rather perfectly with “He Rises! (Our Union Bellboy)”, a hard hitting slice of Who-inspired “big rock” done in GBV’s own uniquely tuneful way. The title track, which has been kicking around in the Pollard songbook since the late-’80s when it was known as “Crocker’s Favorite Song” (which can be heard on the rarities collection King Shit and the Golden Boys), is another winner and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it on future Guided by Voices compilations. For me, however,  the back half of the album is where the band really comes alive, picking up right where mid-’90s classics Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes left off. “Roll Of The Dice, Kick In The Head” is a strong punchy rocker that clocks in at an all too brief (yet totally fitting for GBV) 46 seconds. Reduced to just Pollard’s voice and a guitar, the album strikes a surprisingly tender note on “Be Impeccable” whose chorus of “Be what you are/ Be impeccable/ The untrackable star/ I’ll shine my flashlight to where you are.” is the kind of obtuse-yet-meaningful lyrical gold that only Pollard could have come up with.

The album comes to a close with a pounding psychedelic rocker “No Transmission” which seals the deal once and for all: GBV are back and in top form. The guys in the band may all be over 50, but they’re still putting bands half their age to shame with killer tunes and boundless creativity. The best part is that they’ve already got a third album ready to go for later this year called Bears For Lunch. As the band themselves said on “A Salty Salute” (the opening track from 1995’s Alien Lanes), “the club is open.”

 

Tracklisting:

1. “He Rises! Our Union Bellboy” 3:02
2. “Blue Babbleships Bay” 1:18
3. “Forever Until It Breaks” (Tobin Sprout) 3:16
4. “Class Clown Spots a Ufo” 3:17
5. “Chain to the Moon” (Greg Demos, Pollard) 1:00
6. “Hang Up and Try Again” 2:16
7. “Keep It in Motion” 2:07
8. “Tyson’s High School” (Mitch Mitchell, Pollard) 2:36
9. “They and Them” (Sprout) 1:10
10. “Fighter Pilot” (Sprout) 1:00
11. “Roll of the Dice, Kick in the Head” 0:47
12. “Billy Wire” 2:04
13. “Worm with 7 Broken Hearts” 0:50
14. “Starfire” (Sprout) 1:27
15. “Jon the Croc” 2:33
16. “Fly Baby” (Demos, Pollard) 1:43
17. “All of This Will Go” (Sprout) 1:46
18. “The Opposite Continues” 1:37
19. “Be Impeccable” 2:57
20. “Lost in Spaces” (Sprout) 0:51
21. “No Transmission” 2:19
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Guided By Voices – Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now (Guided By Voices, Inc.)


Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now

Suitcase 3 features over 100 previously unreleased Guided By Voices songs from the mid-1990s up through the current day. The thought of 100 unreleased Robert Pollard-penned songs is both exciting and scary: The fan-boy part of you wants to hear them all, but the cynic in you has to wonder why these songs were never released, especially since Pollard is usually good for five albums a year, if not more. Well, you should listen to your inner cynic. These songs were unreleased because many of them are sloppy demos that were poorly written, poorly performed, or poorly recorded – and sometimes all three. The worst offender is the fourth disc, an acoustic jam session with Pollard, Tobin Sprout and Greg Demos from somewhere around the band’s mid-‘90s peak. Sounds promising, but the songs were made up on the spot and, as you can probably guess, are pretty unlistenable.  That being said, there is roughly an EP’s-worth of good material sprinkled through discs 1-3. Also, as is the custom with these Suitcase sets, each track is credited to a fake band with witty names like The Jubilant Toy Soldiers, Royal Canadian Custard and Necklace of Warts.

Tracklisting:

CD1: 01 Mr. Inspection Table: “Building a Castle” 02 Explosion Topic: “Tired of Knocking” 03 The Sobbers: “Together/Apart” 04 Remington Ash: “Away With Driver” 05 Demon Gods of Anger: “Trash Truck” 06 Manners of Flash: “Dropping the Bomb” 07 Remington Ash: “What’s So Safe About You?” 08 Limited Transplitter: “Troppers in the Town” 09 The Stools: “Gas” 10 C. C. Rip: “Watchin’ ‘Em Diggin’ Up the Road” 11 Fate 1 Mile: “Coastal Town” 12 Watts: “Escape From Kama Loka” 13 Ben Franklin Air Bath: “The Annex” 14 Major Cockamamie: “Green Ivory Cross” 15 The Beautiful Orange Lemonade: “Janet Wait” 16 C. C. Rip: “Independent Productions” 17 Jubilant Toy Soldiers: “Thee White Flower” 18 Pilthy May: “Juggernaut Vs. Monolith” 19 The Perfect Noise Club: “Feels Good” 20 Video Bearhunt: “Candy Machine” 21 Dream Reaper: “Air and Also a World” 22 Gel Clay: “Back to the Navy” 23 The Governors: “Speak Like Men” 24 Kelsey Boo Flip: “Hi, I’m Kelsey” 25 Star of Hungry: “No Trash Allowed”

CD2: 01 The Flattering Lights: “Raphael Muzak” 02 Service of a Bullet: “Tear the Ticket in Half” 03 Search: “I’m an Acting Student” 04 The Sums: “I’ll Come (And When It Does It’s Mine)” 05 East Dayton Rock Co.: “Psychlophobia” 06 East Dayton Rock Co.: “Take Me Back” 07 Bruce Smitty Smith: “Sonny the Monster” 08 Pilthy May: “I Share a Rhythm” 09 The Sobbers: “Before My Eyes” 10 Gavin Speaks: “Freedom Rings” 11 Hoof: “Cochise” 12 The Tallywackers: “When’s the Last Time” 13 Remington Ash: “That’s Good” 14 Pig Lucy: “You Gotta Lotta Nerve” 15 Mother’s Day Haircut: “Vagabond Lover” 16 Fate 1 Mile: “Banners” 17 Looker: “100 Colors” 18 Autobahn Damen: “Old Engine Driver” 19 Gel Clay: “Joe” 20 Cubscout Bowling Pins: “Axtual Sectivity” 21 The Working Girls: “Call Me” 22 Demon Gods of Anger: “Believe It” 23 Royal Canadien Mustard: “Class Clown Spots a UFO” 24 Remington Ash: “You You You” 25 10 Second Coma: “Dibble”

CD3: 01 Bird Shit Mosaic: “Night Ears” 02 The Sobbers: “Amnesia” 03 Blaine Hazel: “Fly Away (Tommy Sez)” 04 Jubilant Toy Soldiers: “Peace and Persecution” 05 The Constant Rushing Forward: “There Are Other Worlds” 06 Knuckles and MacDougal: “It’s the Song” 07 Erotic Zip Codes: “One Drop” 08 Angel and the Alley Oops: “Mainstay” 09 John Shough: “Sixland” 10 Ghetto Tree: “How Bridges Fall” 11 Basic Switches: “A Kind of Love” 12 Naymoan Regas: “Bad Whiskey” 13 Curtis E. Flush: “Naked Believer (I Am)” 14 Heartless Microscopes: “Out of the House” 15 Equal in Coma: “Grow” 16 Psyclops: “Rough Tracks” 17 Gel Clay: “Nothing So Hard” 18 Bumble Gub: “Piss Along You Bird” 19 Gene Autrey’s Psychic: “300 Birds (Quota)” 20 The CD’s: “Fireking Says No Cheating” 21 Hearthrob Johnson Firestone: “Poison Shop” 22 The Worst Santini: “Trader Vic” 23 History of Well Hung Men: “Smothered in Hugs” (4 Track version) 24 Aerial Poop Show: “Dibble 2” 25 Kid Biscuit: “Huffman Prairie Flying Field”

CD4 (all tracks by Guided by Voices): 01 Pluto Is Polluted 02 Aquarian Hovercraft 03 Brand New Star 04 Sea-mint Robots 05 South Rat Observatory 06 The Cinnamon Flavored Skull 07 Porpoise Mitten (Was a Real Good Kitten) 08 Mr. Spoon 09 Hey Mr. Soundman 10 Oh Pie 11 Kotex Moon 12 Bingo Pool Hall of Blood 13 There Goes the King Again 14 Evil Vandalia/Mojo Crow Zenith 15 Cuddling Bozo’s Octopus 16 I Shot a Jezebel 17 After the Quake (Let’s Bake a Cake) 18 P Melts Everything 19 My Dad Is a Motorboat 20 Ugly Ba Ba 21 Hairspray Lies 22 Sawhorse With Big Blue Ears 23 Tough Skin River 24 Cruise 25 Alright