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By Donny Kutzbach
(Robert Pollard andGUIDED BY VOICES make good and make THE great rock record)
Guided By Voices. It's a place where bizarre stream
lyrics collide within songs that clock in at a minute-and-a-half.
There are song titles like "Tractor Rape Chain" and "Zoo Pie"
and a continuing strand of odd obsessions with airplanes and
musings on mythical
Sound-wise, they can move from one song that's in
of sloppy Who's Next to a thirty second track that could be a
Beach Boys bridge and then onto something sounding like scissor-cut
The planet is called Dayton, Ohio.
Guided By Voices have never shrugged off the idiosyncratic. What
For all intents and purposes, Guided By Voices is Robert Pollard.
And in turn, Robert Pollard is Dayton, Ohio.
It's hard to fully credit the Ohio town for it's
Pollard and ultimately all he would accomplish or fail to accomplish
with Guided By Voices. While some American small towns have been
notable hot houses for spawning music trendsetters, take Athens,
Georgia as an obvious example. Dayton, however, isn't exactly
a cultural hub. It doesn't overflow with expressive college students
and artists. It's a true blue-collar factory town.
"If you're not Michael Jackson, it doesn't mean shit to people
around here." Pollard pointed out in a recent Magnet interview.
He followed the book to Midwest perfection. He was a
hero, an all-star on the baseball, basketball, and track team.
He went to college (it was that or the factory), got married,
became a grammar school teacher, and had two kids. Something
Pollard had played in bands in his youth and spent
'80s writing songs and trying to put together the right garage
outfit to fit his liking. He spends his days teaching math and
history to ten-year-olds and his nights jamming in his basement,
Securing a bar gig by offering the name Guided By Voices and
the legend begins.
Guided By Voices began practicing regularly, but gigs slowlydecreased.
In '92, Scat Records got a hold of the band's
"last ditch effort"
record Propeller and released it. The label slowly rereleased
all of the band's earlier records. He continued to juggle his
life as Mr. Pollard the 4th grade teacher and his ever expanding
music endeavor. He did pretty well, only getting occasionally
busted for drawing album covers during class. He knew he had
to give up the career and pension to travel in a van and play
in bars. His family thought he was crazy. He was 37 years old
and chucking it all to try to become a rock star.
Guided By Voices quickly became the buzz of the
indie rock cognoscenti
but hadn't played out in almost seven years. Leery of venturing
out of Dayton, Pollard and the band hastily ventured to New York
City to play at the CMJ New Music Seminar. Having never been
accepted in Dayton,
The band had always been known to huddle around a
case of Budweiser
when jamming and recording. Like so many bands using chemical
stimulation of one kind or another and usually many different
kinds, for GBV it was always beer. It was just a part of the
process. It was even more necessary for live shows given Robert
Pollard's stagefright, it's about the only way he can get onstage.
GBV never play a show without a cooler of beer onstage. It has
now become the stuff of rock legend. Drunkard Midwest mess-rockers
are led by wayward genius: it's as if the Replacement's mantle
were divinely willed to them. The drunkenness that endears the
band to many, however, has turned on them in some instances.
"We did a show about five years ago in Rochester with Guided
When Guided By Voices play at the Showplace Theater
25, it will be with new purpose. The cooler will certainly be
there, but Bob Pollard and company are likely to be on best behavior.
Supporting a brand new album, Do The Collapse, they have taken
a new approach that has shocked and outraged some: they have
made a record that sounds like... a finely-tuned band and well-produced
Pollard has reached the point many young musicians
having been at the game a number of years and reaching a certain
amount of success and wide critical acclaim, there's a desire
to achieve a wider commercial acceptance. Doing things the way
he has may have held back the huge audience. Has his own weirdness
and the way it's reflected into his songs cost him? Usually this
reasessment occurs when an artist is headed into rock's old age-
the dreaded 30. Pollard is 41. This is his "go for for gold album".
Do The Collapse will certainly turn the heads of
many that have
dogged the band with the "lo-fi" tag. Not only was this not recorded
on in a basement on a four-track, it was produced by preeminent
knob-twirler and new wave icon Ric Ocasek. His presence and studio
sheen is apparent
The band has strayed from 20-something track records
cut it down to a lean (by GBV standards) sixteen tracks. Gone
too, for the most part, are the minute long micro songs. This
time around there is just one of the minute long snatches of
pop glory with "An Unmarketed Product." The more structured nature
of Do The Collapse doesn't mean that band has given it up and
gone straight. Far from it.
The record is still full of odd starts and stops.
fake affected English accent is still there. And if there's one
thing that's sure, Pollard's odd word play hasn't left for a
second. He can still
What will GBV have to
offer live in '99? The current incarnation
features what might be, musically, it's best lineup. Reports
so far from shows in the last few months have suggested it's
the perfect mix of old favorites like "I Am A Scientist" and "Jane of the Waking
Universe" and ace versions of the new songs with Pollard just soused enough to do it right.
The-cooler is certain to be onstage at the Showplace
September 25. Be a part of Guided By Voices stab at rock immortality.