The Guided by Voices 100: Vol. 1
At about 3:30 A.M. in Chicago on the first day of this year – not more than 2 miles from my apartment – one of my favorite bands ended their career. After a final, 4+ hour concert to ring in 2005, Guided by Voices was no more.
I have been a pretty rabid fan of Guided by Voices for about a decade now. (Sadly, I spent the night in bed, recovering from god knows what.) I began hearing about the band in the Spring and Summer of 1994, right before I moved away from home for school in Columbia, Missouri. The stories I read of a schoolteacher in Dayton, Ohio, leading a pack of regular guys on a sort of rock fantasy intrigued me. When I was a kid, I used to invent band names, song lyrics and even draw fake album covers. Here were a bunch of grown men who started a band by doing the exact same things.
Reviews and articles kept mentioning the band’s landmark record, BEE THOUSAND. Since I was a now freshman in college, I had no friends, nothing to do and nothing to spend my meager funds on besides CDs. One night, I went into “downtown”Columbia and followed a movie with a trip to a record store downtown. I was searching for BEE THOUSAND, but they had none. The one thing they DID have was BOX, the collection of Guided by Voices first 5 albums (plus a bonus disc of unreleased material). Having never heard a single note from this band, I proceeded to buy 5 of their records at once.
I learned two important things as a GBV Fan that day: Guided by Voices has a TON of music, and sometimes the stuff the band just threw out – like “Postal Blowfish” on that bonus disc – are their best songs.
I was thinking about Guided by Voices this week… thinking about that show, and what songs I would have liked to have heard at MY final GBV show. I even tried to make up a playlist on iTunes to represent that final dream gig. The playlist wound up being 120 songs and 6 hours long.
My task is now to whittle that 120 down to a simple 100, and post those songs for you right here. Now, my bandwidth can’t handle that kind of a load, so what I’m going to do is post 10 songs at a time over the course of 10 (or so) weeks. I’ll still be keeping up with my other regular posts, but once a week, you’ll probably find another 10 GBV tracks available here.
If you like what you hear, please do everything in your power to hunt down these albums, or any other GBV releases you may stumble across. There are thousands of songs… one of them is bound to change your life.
Click the song title to hear the track. To save it to your computer, right-click the song title and click SAVE/SAVE FILE AS in the drop down menu. And now, in no order whatsoever, the first 10:
”Big School” from STATIC AIRPLANE JIVE: There aren’t many bands (as a matter of fact, I can’t think of another) who have songs that I will actually yell for at a show. I usually never do it, but with Guided by Voices, I can’t help myself. “Big School” is one of the songs I always yelled for… but only heard them play once. I even got to interview Robert Pollard once and he said he didn’t like performing that song live because “I just don’t like yelling ‘big school’ over and over again. But don’t stop yelling for it. We’ll play it.”
”Gonna Never Have to Die” from HALF SMILES OF THE DECOMPOSED: This is off the band’s final album. It makes me think of The Pretty Things’ SF SORROW. This one is for anyone who thinks the band is only as good as its old material.
”My Thoughts are a Gas” from the WHAT’S UP MATADOR? comp: Another great “unreleased” song. Bob’s vocals break my heart here… something about the way he says “My thoughts are a gas, I’m not gonna crash” and the screamed beat poetry rant he goes on at the end.
”Tractor Rape Chain” from BEE THOUSAND: I love everything about this song. The sound of the home recording. The melody. Bob’s incomprehensible but undeniably awesome chorus: “Parallel lines on a slow decline/Tractor rape chain!”Buddy, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but I’m buying you a beer.
”When She Turns 50” from SAME PLACE THE FLY GOT SMASHED: This is from one of GBV’s earlier records, and is one of their best songs about getting drunk and growing old. This is a guy in his living room, strumming a guitar and tossing off a better song than you will ever hope to write.
”Land of Danger” from FOREVER SINCE BREAKFAST: This is from the band’s debut EP. I couldn’t get a hold of this until it was released as part of a box set last year, but I’m glad I finally have it. The EP is a great mixture of Wire, R.E.M. and a little Husker Du, as you’ll see here.
”June Salutes You!” from the OFFICIAL IRONMAN RALLY SONG EP: That’s Kim Deal from the Pixies/Breeders on backing vocals. From what I’ve read, Pollard and Deal became friends/drinking buddies through GBV’s bassist-at-the-time, Jim Greer. The lyrics reference Tammy and the Amps. Kim Deal had a side project called The Amps. All kinds of incestuous Ohio stuff going on here.
"Smothered in Hugs” from BEE THOUSAND: This song should be covered by everyone, the same way people always cover McCartney’s “Yesterday.” It’s about a pied piper type character and the kid who follows him out of town, begging him to “teach me all you know.” I always think of Raymond Carver when I hear this whole chunk of lyrics: “In the winter that you left, there was business as usual with the same old fears and frustrations.”
”A Crick Uphill” from the HOLD ON HOPE EP: More proof that sometimes you have to hunt to find the better GBV material. “Hold on Hope” is, in my opinion, the lamest song Guided by Voices have ever recorded. Even if the sentiment behind it was 100% genuine, it still happens to appear on DO THE COLLAPSE, the band’s Ric Okasek-produced stab at mainstream success. I have only one song from this CD left in my digital library, that’s how little I liked it. But if you’re a drooling fanboy like I was, you would have tracked down this EP and discovered that it had SEVEN great songs on it, all of which should have made it to DO THE COLLAPSE before most of the songs that did make the album. I don’t know if they ever did this one live, but I would have screamed for it regardless.
”Now to War” from MAG EARWIG!: This week’s 10 ends with a song from the album Bob Pollard recorded with Cobra Verde. Bob would subsequently steal guitarist Doug Gillard and form GBVmach2, prompting every hipster in America to choose: old sloppy GBV or new streamlined GBV? This album came out at a rough time in my life and I listened to it a lot in the summer of 1997. Even the hard rocking songs on this album, like “Bulldog Skin” and “I am a Tree,” hint at some sort of loss or tragedy. I had a huge falling out with one of my best friends in the world and I’d drive around alone, singing along to this record and thinking about the whole situation. “I am only breathing, breathing around.”
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