The Guided by Voices 100: Vol. 5
Sayeth Mr. Jovi, "Oh, we're halfway there." With this post I reach the 50% marker in my quest to narrow down my 100 favorite Guided by Voices songs. Now I'm getting to that point where I start to get paranoid that I'll either never finish the job or leave out 30 amazing songs and not realize them until it's too late.
The song tally so far, in no particular order/ranking: A Salty Salute, Everyday, Atom Eyes, How Loft I Am?, Bomb in the Beehive, I am a Scientist, Captain's Dead, Little Lines, Dust Devil, Your Name is Wild, Pantherz, Pretty Bombs, (I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries, Bulldog Skin, Choking Tara, Why Did You Land?, If We Wait, Drinker's Peace, Gold Star for Robot Boy, Downed, 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 and Son, Big School, Gonna Never Have to Die, My Thoughts are a Gas, Tractor Rape Chain, When She Turns 50, Land of Danger, June Salutes You!, Smothered in Hugs, A Crick Uphill, Now to War
On with the show, boys...
"Tight Globes" from SPEAK KINDLY OF YOUR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: Okay, so I'm breaking my own rule tonight. I said I was not going to include solo material or songs released under other band names, but here is an absolute classic from Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard's first collaboration outside of GBV (Gillard plays all instruments on this track). This album came out around the same time as DO THE COLLAPSE and it always baffled me why they didn't put THIS record out as a Guided by Voices album. It's much, much better than the one they spent all that studio money making. "Number one is on the run."
"14 Cheerleader Cold Front" from PROPELLER: A Pollard/Sprout collaboration. I've always liked the simplicity of this one, and the image of what a 14 cheerleader coldfront might look like. I could have sworn I had read a while back that there was talk of either making a sequel to "Heathers," or at the very least, a re-make. That would be horrible, but I would hope the filmmakers would use this song on the soundtrack if it ever winds up being true.
"Dusted" from FAST JAPANESE SPIN CYCLE: I had owned the VAMPIRE ON TITUS version of this song for years, but it wasn't until I scored a used copy of the FJSC EP at a record store in Philadelphia that I discovered the version that I would come to love. The guitars on the sludgier VAMPIRE version seem to bury the melody too much. I dunno, check out both versions and pick your favorite.
"Christian Animation Torch Carriers" from UNIVERSAL TRUTHS AND CYCLES: I think this one is a personal favorite because of how complex of a song it is... it keeps building in this proggy, disjointed way, until the halfway point where the power chords start kicking in. I don't know what he's talking about, but it doesn't matter. It has a big Blue Oyster Cult guitar solo and then, with a minute to go, we finally get a part you can sing along with. Where do you come up with a title like that?
"Quality of Armor" from PROPELLER: Another PROPELLER track tonight, this one acting as a the perfect song for a road trip in a classic Camaro that plays nothing but 1970s radio. From "Quality of Armor" to "Motor Away," no band can make you want to get in your car and blow town like GBV.
"Jane of the Waking Universe" from MAG EARWIG!: If a crazed murderer was holding my mom hostage and he wanted me to narrow this list down to 10 songs, I think this one would have to remain in that list. Bob tosses off so many great lyrics you'd think he was writing a hip-hop song. "And undulating always like the tide / The devil's bride is calling all toward her skirt / And in the loving folds there we will hide inside / from any would be sneak attack / Until it's safe to journey back." Great backing vocals from Tobin, too.
"The Brides Have Hit Glass" from ISOLATION DRILLS: Where do I start with this one? Sounds like a great lost R.E.M. song circa DOCUMENT NO. 5. Where Bob usually writes from a spaced out stream-of-consciousness mindset, this one is a pretty naked slice of autobiography, detailing his (at the time) rocky marriage. Cool drumming by Jim Macpherson (he played drums on that big Breeders hit "Cannonball").
"Avalanche Aminos" from the HOLD ON HOPE EP: Another song curiously left off of DO THE COLLAPSE. Really, what the hell was going on with that record? I wish you could fold time over like a mobius strip, so I could hear Thin Lizzy cover this song.
"Echos Myron" from BEE THOUSAND: So, so yummy. Has to go into that hypothetical top ten list. It has this Zombies/Byrds kind of jangly bounciness, and then there's this priceless lyric: "And we're finally here / And shit yeah, it's cool!" This is a concert favorite, as you can tell from this live version from the JELLYFISH REFLECTOR bootleg.
"Window of My World" from HALF-SMILES OF THE DECOMPOSED: Now THIS is what Pollard was trying to pull off with "Hold On Hope" a few years earlier: a classic, semi-sappy Cat Stevens-style ballad that tugs at the old heartstrings. For me, this one actually works really well. As one of the final songs on the final Guided by Voices albums, I can't think of a better way to close tonight's list.