The GBV 100: Volume 4 "We're finally here..."
(drawing by Terrence McKay White)
After endless weeks of broken promises, I now bring you the fourth installment in my tribute to the music of Guided by Voices. I've been meaning to note that this list of (eventually) 100 songs includes ONLY tracks released under the "Guided by Voices" name. Nothing from any of Robert Pollard or Tobin Sprout's solo albums. Nothing from Pollard side projects like Lexo & the Leapers, Airport 5, or other random releases like"SPEAK KINDLY OF YOUR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT," an album he made with GBV guitarist Doug Gillard. Buy that, by the way.
Limiting the scope of my list kinda sucks because you can find a lot of great gems out there on those records. I just can't include that material. I'd have to hire people to help me sort through it all.
"A Salty Salute" from ALIEN LANES: Arguably THE quintessential Guided by Voices anthem. I have no statistics to back this claim, but it's probably the song they performed live more than any other. The band even brought a neon sign on tour with them that would be turned on before they took the stage. It said: THE CLUB IS OPEN."
I'm compelled to add that one of my friends once misheard the song's opening line, "Disarm the settlers," as: "Dissed on the sex list." I rarely hear this song without thinking about that and smiling.
"Atom Eyes" from UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS: While it's a 100% Tobin Sprout song (he wrote it and played everything but the drums), it's kind of funny that this song predicts the sound of GBV's ISOLATION DRILLS. Sprout, along with the rest of the band's early players, was long gone by the time that record came out. It also sounds just slightly out of place on UTBUTS. One of Tobin's best songs.
"Everyday" from SANDBOX: Massively infectious. Really, it has to be some kind of feat to be able to write verses that are as catchy and hummable as choruses. This was recorded way back in 1987. More proof that the 80s didn't suck at all.
"How Loft I Am?" from SAME PLACE THE FLY GOT SMASHED: I've mentioned before that the first Guided by Voices purchase I ever made was their box set collection of early albums and unreleased tracks. It was a daunting task to confront, listening to all of that as your first exposure to a band. I have to admit, it took a while for me to get into it, but "How Loft I Am" was possibly the first or second song that struck a chord in me. There's no doubt why: it's totally a McCartney Beatles demo.
"Bomb in the Bee-Hive" from MAG EARWHIG!: This from the Cobra Verde-backed GBV album. Can't really tell you much about it, other than that I find the contrast between the muscular guitars and Pollard's gentlemanly declaration of "At precisely 9 o'cock!" amusing.
"I Am a Scientist" from BEE THOUSAND... or you can try out this "stereo version"Alternate Stereo Version from the I AM A SCIENTIST EP: This probably should have been the band's huge hit. If the stereo version came out in the late 60s, it would be a constant presence on classic rock radio today. Some of Pollard's best lyrics. "And I know what's right / but I'm losing sight of the clues / for which I search and choose to abuse / to just unlock my mind."
"Captain's Dead" from DEVIL BETWEEN MY TOES: While we're on the topic of 60s music, how about this crazy Byrds-esque number? That horn at the beginning makes me think of some ominous Black Sabbath shit. And then you've got lyrics about war machines and rides into the sun. I wish I could sift through Bob Pollard's record collection some time to figure out where he gets all these ideas. Another very early track from the band, recorded in a garage studio.
"Little Lines" from MAG EARWHIG!: All kinds of great guitar work. Pay attention to all the different guitars and how differently they're being strummed. This song is bad ass incarnate.
"Dust Devil" from KING SHIT AND THE GOLDEN BOYS: Another great song that almost never saw the light of day until it was released on this compilation. Here's another great example of a song with a verse that's just as catchy as the chorus. It's a damn shame Pollard never carried this one on with him. I would have loved to have heard this one live.
"Your Name is Wild" from UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS: If I were forced to narrow this list down to a Top 10, this song would surely make the cut. If I had to guess, I'd say this song is Pollard's tribute to his daugther. I think a previous song from my 100, "When She Turns 50," is also a song about the same daugther. He has a daugther, right? Anyway, I like how this song is sweet like a lullabye but full of distortion and noise like any of the best indie rock.
Bobby P's home page
Disarm the Settlers, a GBV discussion group (their site has a picture of the THE CLUB IS OPEN sign)
Buy all things Pollard and GBV related from Rockathon Records today