Posted by: cousinbrandon | June 16, 2010

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: Guided By Voices: A Compilation

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!

BD 

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Responses

  1. It’s funny, I know a few people who are in the same boat as your GF and i have thought about making a similar mix. The problem is, pretty much every fucking GBV song is amazing and to pick through them all would be way too painful. No “Kicker of Elves”? That might be one of my favorite song titles of all time. Nice work, Ill be expecting my copy in the mail soon. Biotch!

    • Let’s be honest, crotch. Their catalogue is ENORMOUS! To come up with one CD to encapsulate their best songs is asking a lot of anyone. Honestly, there were plenty of great tracks I had to cut, although “Kicker of Elves” wasn’t one of them. Great title, yes, but not one of my favorites. Keep in mind, too, that I was trying to span their catalogue and not focus on one or two records. Some of the great tracks omitted include:

      “Tractor Rape Chain”
      “Gold Star for Robot Boy”
      “A Salty Salute”
      “Motor Away”
      “Striped White Jets”
      “Alright”
      “Glad Girls”
      “Underwater Explosions”

      etc…

      • “Let’s be honest” was I lying when I said, “to pick through them all would be way too painful.” And, in my comment, I never said anything about limiting to one or two albums. It was a mere comment on a great song title called, “Kicker of Elves”. Jesus… are you low?

  2. i think the 9:30 club show was hands-down the best of theirs that i got to see. most memorable GBV moment was during a show at the beehive (a now-defunct rat’s ass in pittsburgh) right around the time isolation drills came out. during a little quiet time between tracks, i got in a sturdy “hey pollard, you’re old,” to which he replied, “we know,” and immediately cut into “teenage fbi.” good shit.

    that’s a good selection. i’d argue over a few omissions, but why bother? their catalog is fucking exhausting.

    very glad to see “watch me jumpstart” come in at 19. on your list and get a 2nd mention above under the omissions. yeah, it’s that good.

    • “Watch Me Jumpstart” twice? Why, whatever do you mean?

      And, yeah, I remember the Beehive. I was in there once. Saw a movie, though I can’t recall which one. It was, eh, 17 years ago. No shit.

      And why we’re on topic of GBV shows, I know you and I saw them together at the 9:30 Club as well as The Metro in Chicago. Did we see them in Philly, too? Don’t remember.

  3. i don’t either. if it was a GBV show, i was drunk. very drunk.

    i was 19 or 20 for that show at the 9:30 and got in with that fake id you hooked me up with. think the guy’s name was “doug.” and “doug” was something like 27 at the time. i was a grizzled 19-year-old.

    • Oh, so you were using MY old fake-ID. Nice.

  4. What many of you don’t know is that the impetus for this compilation came from a GBV cassette tape my buddy Chris got from a friend and dubbed for me, that I then dubbed for Brandon (man, remember when we used to “dub” tapes. Weird.). This was probably back in 1998 or so.

    The thing about that tape was that it contained some absolutely amazing songs that I’d never heard before, as it was predominantly culled from their early early stuff. Much of which you can find in their box-set (simply titled “Box”). And some of which had to be sacrificed for Brandon’s updated version.

    So what’s funny is that I also recently had a GBV conversation with a buddy of mine. After which, I told him that I was gonna give him the aforementioned compilation tape (which many years back I transferred to CD). However, that compilation was from such early releases, it made no mention of any of their later material, some of which was equally essential – most notably, “Under the Bushes…” and “Isolation Drills” – which is a classic that gets overlooked being in the shadow of “Bee Thousand”, “Alien Lanes”, and “Under the Bushes…” (the holy trinity).

    Anyhoo, what I now have is two GBV compilations (“The Early Years” and “The Later Years”) – because, like the other gents have mentioned, there’s just too much GBV to limit it to one disc.

    My “new” disc is tracked below. Brandon, since this is your space, I’ll leave it to you to decided if you want to post the original tracklist.

    (A minor caveat – I still had to add some Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes tracks since they were left off the original comp.)

    Sorry, crotch – unfortunately, still no Kicker of Elves:

    1. Man Called Aerodynamics
    2. My Son Cool
    3. Teenage FBI
    4. Bright Paper Werewolves
    5. Striped White Jets
    6. Atom Eyes
    7. Echos Myron
    8. The Official Ironmen Rally Song
    9. Little Whirl
    10. Mute Superstar
    11. As We Go Up, We Go Down
    12. Chasing Heather Crazy
    13. Girls Of Wild Strawberries
    14. Glad Girls
    15. Always Crush Me
    16. Don’t Stop Now
    17. Christian Animation Torch Carriers
    18. To Remake the Young Flyer
    19. Run Wild
    20. Sheet Kickers
    21. Hold on Hope
    22. Underwater Explosions
    23. Wrecking Now
    24. It’s Like Soul Man
    25. Secret Star
    26. Cut Out Witch
    27. Fair Touching
    28. Ghosts Of A Different Dream
    29. Enemy
    30. Ester’s Day

    • Well done, themalty. I still feel like you’ve got to go with “older” GBV over their later stuff, as records like Half Smiles of the Decomposed and Earthquake Glue simply aren’t as good as their earlier efforts. Sure, they always managed to come up with a good song or two, but those albums were relatively boring.

      On the upside, I absolutely applaud you for coming up with what is essentially a “response” mix. What’s more, folks, I’ll be posting yet another “response” mix next week, only this one come in response to Uppers and Downers.

  5. It’s awesome. I’ve been listening to GBV for the better part of my work day and I keep looking at the list whenever I come across one that I think should be on there and there it is (minus some favorites from Mag Earwig, though Little Lines was a very nice choice from that album), and there is a lot of nice punch in those couple of last additions in response to Crotch’s comment. I like Malty’s second installment as well. Great lists here. Great band.

    I also think this idea of response mixes is a very cool one.

    • Great response as always, sir. I, too, love the “response” mix. What’s more, I can’t help but think of a “response” record without thinking of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, which immediately transports me back to my freshman year of college at Carnegie Mellon. Weird.

      • It’s pretty amazing the way an album can just lodge itself in your sort of life timeline like that.

        That’s interesting about response record. How does Exile in Guyville get you there? (hopefully not missing something obvious)

        • Supposedly, Liz Phair wrote Exile in Guyville as a song-for-song response to the Stones’ Exile On Main Street.

          • That’s really interesting. I have never heard that before. I’m glad I asked. Thanks.

  6. I did also think that Universal Truths and Cycles was a really great record though. Maybe a little under represented. Maybe Pretty Bombs or Storm Vibrations, Everywhere With Helicopter. I actually think it’s one of the better records. The tough part though is something goes on and something has to come out to make room.

    • In all honesty, I think GBV fell off in a very unfortunate way over the course of their last few records. I think the last good record they made was Isolation Drills. The three that followed — Universal Truths and Cycles, Earthquake Glue and Half Smiles of the Decomposed — were mediocre at best, in my opinion. Still, how many bands over the years have released such a goddamn outstanding trifecta of three straight amazing records as Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars? It’s a rare accomplishment.

      Also, in terms of related GBV records/projects, I’d highly suggest picking up the following:

      Rob Pollard – Not In My Airforce
      Tobin Sprout – Carnival Boy
      Tobin Sprout – Moonflower Plastic (Get Out of My Wigwam)
      Rob Pollard with Doug Gillard – Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department

  7. I agree with Earthquake Glue in particular. I actually got off the bus because at that point (not as a decision, but I kind of started to assume that the party was over at that point and never heard anything to the contrary). I thought UT&C hit a really nice mark though.

    I’ll take a look at those others. I picked up Sentimental Stations and thought it was ok, but it didn’t really move me. Kind of the same with Waved Out (though I think Make Use is one of my favorite tracks his fingerprint is on overall).
    Speak Kindly is just a ridiculously great record. I love that album.

    • Yeah, the collaboration with Gillard is arguably the best non-GBV record that Pollard has done. And both of those Tobin Sprout records are fantastic. The guy can write a great hook, and he’s got a really gentle voice in comparison to Pollard’s “gruffer” sound.

      • Yeah. He made for a really good second punch. I’ll definitely grab one of those. I really liked this song Small Parade that he had on the What’s Up Matador comp.

        Thanks for the tip.

        You should put one of these together for Pavement if you ever feel so inclined. I’m curious where you would go on that one.

        • Oddly enough, I did. Er, maybe Cousin Matt did. Anyway, I have a Pavement compilation on cassette, and hell yeah I’ll put it together on the blog. Great suggestion, WUWRobots.

          • Awesome. I’ll look forward to that one and comparing notes.
            Thanks man.

  8. Twas not me who put together the Pavement comp, but Brandon and I have talked about that offline. All I did was make the cassette cover. Which was more just messing with colors and typefaces back then (in Word, as always).

    Still, as I’m sure Brandon will expound on, it’s not really a Pavement “compilation” as it is a set of rarities and live cuts. What was great about it, however, was that it contained a lot of songs I hadn’t heard before and became favorites (“Baby, yeah” and “Frontwards” I can think of off the top of my head).

    That all being said, a proper Pavement compilation is probably in order. I actually just recently put their entire catalog on a data CD to listen to in my car in preparation for their show in September. Extremely psyched for that.

    One last note on the GBV front – the shared vocal duties you guys were talking about is what helps cement Smothered in Hugs for me (yes, the band I’m always plugging). Though, they’ve since changed their name to “English Words”. Aside from the obvious GBV sound, they also mimicked the two-vocalist style, and while the contrast isn’t quite a major as GBV, it still makes for good diversity in the songs.

    • I had one drawn up at one point in time, but that was probably from a year or so after Terror Twilight came out. I imagine a fresh take would bring out a whole new result. I’m pretty excited to see what stuff you guys would put out in front.
      Man, Watery Domestic is just so good. So good.

      I hope you enjoy the show in September. I caught them on their warm up show for Coachella in April and they were just great. The best way I can put it, and really the thought that kept echoing in my head all night was that it was like seeing an old friend after a whole lot of years and going over the old inside jokes, realizing that they’re even funnier than you remembered them being. Great sound too. Just what I wanted it to be and more really.

      I actually picked up the Smothered in Hugs record and I like it. Quite a bit actually. I caught the name change from their last.fm page, but I haven’t gotten around to checking out the new release. How do you like the new stuff?

      • WUWRobots – one of my biggest regrets in life, is never having seen Pavement. Granted, I grew up in the uneventful Harrisburg (which now attracts bands somehow). Since moving to Philly, though, I’ve seen Malkmus a handful of times, and he’s been great at times but increasingly noodly. Noodly is fine if it’s to extend Stop Breathing or Range Life (or any Pavement song, really), but it’s not the same when it’s a song you’re not as close with. Even though I haven’t seen Pavement live, I completely get your analogy just on the sheer notion of the comfort of the songs. Certain bands (Pavement, GBV, Built to Spill) will always be like comfort food.

        A Pavement compilation would have to be two discs, and even then you’d be cutting a lot of good stuff.

        As for Smothered in Hugs, I remember you mentioning you liked them on my Best-of Blog. That was around the time it kept getting pulled down. (Due to some content on it, it was yanked a bunch of times.) But I was glad that there were at least two of us. The English Words stuff is pretty much the same – in a good way (not a tired way). I recommend grabbing it since it was a free 4-song ep, high quality (320Kbps). They simply know how to embed a hook into a song. The unfortunate part is I don’t think they have a strong U.S. following, so I think they only ever play in Canada. And probably Harrisburg.

        • I’ve only seen Pavement once myself, and that was back in 1997 (I think) at The Launchpad in Albuquerque, NM. My strongest memory of the show (other than getting Bob to sign my Pavement bumper sticker that they were giving away at the door) was being in the front row and watching my buddy, Mike, rip some dude’s baseball cap off and throw it into the crowd. The dude was being completely aggro the whole time, so Mike grabbed his hat and chucked it. When the guy got even more pissed off, security came and tossed him. And here endeth the lesson.

          Yes, I actually attended some of those Malkmus shows with themalty and I would completely agree that they’re just not the same thing. I really enjoyed his first two post-Pavement efforts, but since then Malkmus’ solo stuff (or Jicks stuff, I guess) has been, well, boring. I just don’t care for it. It lacks the Pavement hooks and intelligence that always brought me back to their records.

          Finally, let’s debate this one last time: best Pavement record. I’m always confounded, as I say it’s a toss-up between Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee.

          • I totally get the overly noodly thing, but it works for me in the right head space. I guess that’s the bummer of the newer stuff is that I like it, a lot actually, but it’s become something that fits a mood that becomes more and more rare perfectly. Funny we’re talking about this because I’m listening to Real Emotional Trash right now and it was what my head has really wanted all morning. The thing is that I haven’t really felt compelled to listen to his stuff for a few months before today. Pavement can pop up on shuffle or something any time and I’ll always inevetibly want play out a couple more songs at least before moving on. I do really like what he’s doing, but I think noodly is a great word for it, and it extends to the live shows too. I’ve seen him play great when I just wasn’t having the right night for it and it easily turns a great performance into a pretty “blah” show.

            I’ve seen Pavement, I think 7 times. I don’t know if I ever told you guys about the melt-down show, but that was a trip. It was on that last tour and it was incredibly tense the whole night and they were pretty awful for it. The encore ended with the whole band storming off stage more or less one at a time all really frustrated and not really knowing what to do with themselves anymore, leaving Steve defiantly wanking on his guitar for about two minutes alone. Steve was jabbing at Scott all night and Scott was just scowling the whole time. It was weird, but if nothing else really interesting. Then we went the next night and it was the best showing of theirs that I’ve seen. Great representations from all the albums played amazingly. Great energy to it. I didn’t really find out about them until somewhere between Wowee Zowee and Brighten the Corners came out but I got hooked really quickly and I’m close enough to Los Angeles to where I had a lot of opportunities. I thought it was awesome. Bob seems like such a nice fellow. He ended up walking by us while we were hanging out after a show and took about 10 minutes to chat us up about the challenge of playing the Palace because of the acoustics and what have you. I always like stuff like that. We were just trying to toss him a “great show” as he walked by and I love the extra mile stuff.

            Anyways. I kind of have 2 answers to the best Pavement album thing. I know I’m in the absolute minority, but I’m a Terror Twilight guy. The thing is, I also know it’s not so much a Pavement album as it’s the Steve and Nigel show (I love the story about how Nigel didn’t know Bob’s name 3 or 4 days into making the record, I guess the story goes that he was only really interested in knowing Steve) and it shows in the sound and everything, but I like the Steve and Nigel show. Quite a bit. I feel like Nigel wanted to make Pavement’s take on an OK Computer type of record and to a degree he succeeded (though it’s kind of a dumb way to put it). It’s almost feels like a different project though, that’s for sure.

            So, that qualification stated, I’m a Wowee Zowee guy for a Pavement record. It felt to me like they took what was great about Slanted and what was great about CR,CR and fuze it together just perfectly and still give it a nice new quality too. I love… well I love them all and I think BTC is great too just to mention it, but Wowee Zowee just tops out the arc when you’re talking about that sort of Pavement magic for me.

            Thanks for the tip Malty. I’ll have to grab the English Words ep today. Also, I definitely agree. It should be 2 discs. 1 just isn’t enough.

            Wow, that was a long one.

  9. RE: WUWRobots’ last comment

    Wow! That’s a really great story about watching their on-stage meltdown. That was always the thing with Pavement: that there was a lot of in-fighting. I think the majority of it (or so it was rumored) always took place between Scott and Malkmus. It had to have been a jealousy issue, in that Scott wanted to sing lead vocal more often and wanted to get more of his songs on their records. The fact is, though, Spiral Stairs always made a better number 2. Malkmus was the leader of that band, and I think what made his relationship with Bob so perfect is that Bob knew his place as the band’s “freak,” so to speak. He embraced it, really. Hell, look at that first Silver Jews record, which is absolutely dynamite (as is American Waters, incidentally).

    Pavement pretty clearly had a “plan” in their releases, if you consider them having five major records: Slanted and Enchanted, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Wowee Zowee, Brighten the Corners and Terror Twilight. That plan? They alternated between less accessible records and “mainstream” records. That is, CR, CR and Brighten the Corners were clearly their most “friendly” to non-Pavement fans, where I think the other three all required a fan’s ear. You can feel free to disagree, but I’ve always thought this.

    And by the way, I was shooting pool in my league last night and we played at a lesbian bar. On the jukebox? The digital version of Quarantine the Past. Awesome!

  10. Thanks man. It’s actually one of my favorite concerts for how memorable it was. Luckily, I went with 3 other people and 2 of them had already seen Pavement a few times so we just kind of had a laugh about “what the fuck did we just watch?” Malkmus stopped Speak, See, Rememeber after butchering about 1/2 of a verse only to say “I don’t want to do this. Skip to the fast part.” You should have seen the look Scott gave him. I did feel bad though, the one person who went who hadn’t seen them before was incredibly bummed to have that as her Pavement experience. I think she was also the only one who didn’t go the next night to see the show that made up for all of it.

    I think there may be something there to the idea of Scott wanting to be a sort of 1b and being pissed that he was clearly a 2 from the narratives that I’ve heard. I can see how with egos being what they are it could be hard to swallow, especially if the dynamic shifted more and more over time. The same thing kind of happened to me in the last band I was in, but sometimes for it to work you just have to defer to the person who has more talent.

    Do you like the Preston School of Industry? I checked out a handfull of stuff but I just didn’t like it. I wasn’t the hugest fan of most of Scott’s material though (aside from a couple real gems) so I wasn’t shocked about it.

    That’s really interesting, the material plan. I’ve never thought about it before, but makes sense. Kind of like the old rule for high profile actors (blockbuster, movie you love, blockbuster, etc.) Get new fans, solidify the base, get new fans. That’s really interesting.

    Yeah Pavement at the lesbian bar. That bar is instantly hipper than anything out in Ventura, which I’ve always felt is a pretty hip place all in all. You will find no Pavement in Ventura jukeboxes that I’m aware of, and I like to think I would have been to any place that would. Pool is a game that I always wished I was better at. I’m a completely miserable pool player. I guess I make up for it in bowling skills, but one of these days I’m going to have to get around to playing enough pool to get decent at it.

    Last section, I promise. I’m starting to make the initial cuts for my Pavement comp and man it’s going to be tough when it gets to thinning out the last ones. Even the initial cuts get pretty tough.


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