Guided By Voices remains one of my all-time favorite (and arguably most prolific) bands. (Need proof? Take a look at this. And keep in mind, Pollard distributed a ton of records with other bands and side projects. His litany of work boggles the mind.) I’ve seen them live on several occasions, albeit mostly in Chicago. I think my first GBV show was at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. I distinctly remember it was still daylight when I approached the venue with my pals, Chuck and Jared. There was a long line of people outside the joint, and to their left was an older white guy with an afro smoking a cigarette, clad in pants and a button-down shirt that looked like the American flag. I realized pretty quickly it was GBV-frontman Robert Pollard, and I was shocked to see him there among the people, cool as can be. Because Guided By Voices is nothing if not unpretentious. Pollard and his rotating cast of characters that fill out the rest of the band are completely unassuming.
On stage, there’s no mistaking Rob Pollard, what with his swinging the mic by its cord, his high leg kicks, and his ability to down bottles of beer like they were Aquafina. Well, that was the old Pollard, anyway, back when every show started with a bus pan of iced beer in the middle of the stage. Later they got (mostly) sober and the beer swilling stopped, or at least slowed considerably. Pollard drank less, divorced from his wife, and even wrote a record about it (Isolation Drills). Guided By Voices is no longer together. In fact, they documented their final performance on a DVD entitled The Electrifying Conclusion, which captured their 2004 New Year’s Eve performance in Chicago. The best part is that they’ve got an actual bar on the stage! So, both during and between songs, Pollard wanders over on several occasions, takes a seat at the bar, and has a belt. It’s fantastic. (And speaking of DVDs, I highly recommend checking out the GBV documentary Watch Me Jumpstart, as it captures the band in their hometown of Dayton, OH before they hit it “big,” or as big as they were ever going to hit it. It’s an absolutely tremendous film.
Now, to the mix. My girlfriend was something of a casual GBV fan who wasn’t all too familiar with their work. As a longtime fan with a ton of their material, a couple months ago I put together a sort of Best of Guided By Voices compilation for her, as a starter set of sorts. According to her, she still listens to it constantly, which is a testament to their greatness. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it, but I implore you to give this mix a listen. Pollard and crew are not only wicked-smart in their Beatle- and Who-esque arrangements, but have the uncanny ability to do both quiet and loud ridiculously well. In their early days, Pollard and guitarist/vocalist Tobin Sprout absolutely killed it, as evidenced by their most acclaimed record, Bee Thousand. (For the record, I still argue to this day that Alien Lanes is their masterpiece, and I might even put Under the Bushes, Under the Stars second.)
So, a couple notes on the tracks below before I hand them over. The version of “Melted Pat” included is a cover by Spoon. “Wrecking Now” is a cover by some random dude and his acoustic guitar. The link to “Want One?” is a live version that goes into “Pivotal Film.” The GBV cover band Textbook Committee (which, by the way, is a lyric from one of GBV’s songs) does “Much Better Mr. Buckles.” And, finally, the link to “Ester’s Day” is a performance by Tobin Sprout sans GBV. Oh, and yes: all 36 songs are on a single CD. They’ve got a pension for short songs.
Guided By Voices: A Compilation front cover.
Guided By Voices: A Compilation interior art.
Screencap of my GBV playlist on iTunes.
Guided By Voices: A Compilation:
1. “Your Name Is Wild” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
2. “Game of Pricks” – from Alien Lanes
3. “Melted Pat” – from Get Out of My Stations
4. “Awful Bliss” – from Bee Thousand
5. “If We Wait” – from Sunfish Holy Breakfast
6. “Little Whirl” – from Alien Lanes
7. “Wrecking Now” – from Do the Collapse
8. “Wished I Was a Giant” – from Vampire On Titus
9. “Don’t Stop Now” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
10. “Echos Myron” – from Bee Thousand
11. “Want One?” – from Isolation Drills
12. “As We Go Up, We Go Down” – from Alien Lanes
13. “To Remake the Young Flyer” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
14. “Hope Not (I Certainly Hope Not)” – from Sandbox
15. “Back to the Lake” – from Universal Truths and Cycles
16. “Little Lines” – from Mag Earwhig!
17. “It’s Like Soul Man” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
18. “Hot Freaks” – from Bee Thousand
19. “Watch Me Jumpstart” – from Alien Lanes
20. “Much Better Mr. Buckles” – from Do the Collapse
21. “Everyday” – from Sandbox
22. “Ester’s Day” – from Bee Thousand
23. “Liar’s Tale” – from Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia
24. “My Valuable Hunting Knife” – from Alien Lanes
25. “Secret Star” – from Earthquake Glue
26. “Redmen and Their Wives” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
27. “Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” – from Bee Thousand
28. “Frostman” – from Isolation Drills
29. “Pendulum” – from Same Place the Fly Got Smashed
30. “Asia Minor” – from Half Smiles of the Decomposed
31. “Buzzards and Dreadful Crows” – from Bee Thousand
32. “My Son Cool” – from Alien Lanes
33. “Paper Girl” – from Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia
34. “Bright Paper Werewolves” – from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars
35. “Quality of Armor” – from Propeller
36. “How’s My Drinking?” – from Isolation Drills
While I can’t now force to you become a GBV fan, I would surely hope you’d consider picking up a record or two and giving them a listen. I promise you they’re worth it. Just ask any stalwart of early 90’s indie rock. You can’t have a discussion without their inclusion. Until next time, have at it, you vultures!