The Guided by Voices 100: Vol. 3
I had to find some time to lock myself away in a room for a few hours and whittle down the next ten songs in my GBV 100. I have to get up early tomorrow, so there's no time for love, Doctor Jones. Let's get to it.
... My previous 20 songs: Big School, Gonna Never Have to Die, My Thoughts are a Gas, When She Turns 50, Tractor Rape Chain, Land of Danger, June Salutes You!, Smothered in Hugs, Now to War, A Crick Uphill, Things I Will Keep, Postal Blowfish, How's My Drinking?, The Tumblers, Lethargy, Game of Pricks, Lord of Overstock, Do the Earth, Ester's Day, Mother & Son...
I took a trip in 1999 with my friends James and Olivia to New York City to see GBV at the Bowery Ballroom. It was one of the hottest two days I'd ever experienced in my life. I swear to god, we saw a dead man laying on asphalt. He had to have been dead... no one could just cop a nap in that weather. Anyway, while we were in town, we went to a few record stores in the village and I found a vinyl copy of JELLYFISH REFLECTOR, a double-LP bootleg that featured a couple of bonus studio tracks. One of those tracks was"Pantherz", and it would soon become one of my all time favorite GBV songs and the only Pollard song I've ever played live myself. GBV fans may recognize the little guitar riff from "Don't Stop Now." Favorite lyric: "Debbie X I love you so / But there's one thing you should know / If he comes 'round here again / I will have to take my teeth out."
I must make a special note here. There's a certain muddiness in the sound on this track and it's because the song has only ever been available on vinyl. I would not have any digital copy of "Pantherz" if it weren't for the insanely gracious help of David, the host over at Large Hearted Boy. I am now knee deep in Pollard obscurities because of his kindness.
"Pretty Bombs" is a later-era song from UNIVERSAL TRUTHS AND CYCLES, one of the band's most underrated records. It has a few duds on it ("Car Language" still cracks me up), but for the most part it's a great merging of the prog-leaning stuff Pollard was drawn to and the melodic rock the band specialized in. Love the strings, and the Gillard solo(s).
"(I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries" is another b-side/obscurity, this time from the I AM A TREE single. This is just a totally awesome chunk of proggy cock rock, thanks to Doug Gillard on guitar. That the song builds to a crescendo just as Pollard is bellowing about a warlock's daughter makes it that much sweeter.
Sticking to the same era, I'm pulling out a few more songs from the superb MAG EARWIG! album. First there's the drunken, warbling glory that is "Bulldog Skin," born for massive radio but falling on deaf ears. There's a pretty funny video for this one out there somewhere (I think it can be found on the Matador "Everything is Nice" video compilation. For the rarity seeker, here is an acoustic live version of "Bulldog," recorded on a radio program.
From the same album, there's the simple but beautiful "Choking Tara." After enjoying the slower MAG EARWIG version, check out this faster, "(Creamy)" version.
"Why Did You Land?" is another song from their proposed but aborted POWER OF SUCK album. Here, we're back to an earlier lineup of the band, from the UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS era. GBV rarely played this song live (if ever) after 1995. I would have killed to seen them do this at their final show in Chicago.
One song the band DID perform at that final show was "If We Wait", originally released on a 7" in 1993 and rereleased on the SUNFISH HOLY BREAKFAST CD. "Crying my life away" is the greatest lyric-as-emo-band-name ever.
"Drinker's Peace" is catchy little bummer from 1990's SAME PLACE THE FLY GOT SMASHED LP. This album has a ton of fantastic songs, including previous 100 entry "When She Turns 50" and a couple of future picks as well.
What's this week's pick from the flawless BEE THOUSAND record? Why, "Gold Star for Robot Boy," a song with a melody as genius as its title. Apparently, all instruments are being played by Robert Pollard, with the exception of the drums (handled by Don Thrasher). Ever since seeing the "Watch Me Jumpstart" documentary, I can't hear this song without thinking of that one super geeky kid singing along to this at a show with about 20 people in attendance.
I'm closing things up tonight with "Downed," a b-side from the BEST OF JILL HIVES EP. ("Hives" was one of the better songs from the EARTHQUAKE GLUE album and will probably wind up in the 100 at some point.) I guess, as a Cheap Trick cover, it isn't technically a GBV song and is questionable as a candidate for the 100. Too damn bad, because it's a fantastic cover and a step in a different direction for the band. It'll probably be the only cover to make the list.