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Buffalo artvoice
By Donny Kutzbach

Thanks to Brian for transcribing

Picture Me Big Time

(Robert Pollard and GUIDED BY VOICES make good and make THE great rock record)

Guided By Voices. It's a place where bizarre stream of conscious
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
creatures like dragons, elves, and giant squids. Not any fancy
electronics or weird tricks involved, quite the opposite. Stripped
down, raw rock and roll that sounds like it was recorded in somebody's
basement or garage.

Sound-wise, they can move from one song that's in the neighborhood
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
excerpts of
Husker Du playing Trout Mask Replica. Oddly, as if through some
cosmic magic, the song craft not only sustains but often reaches
proportions. The musical ramblings of spacemen trying to tackle the rock form?

The planet is called Dayton, Ohio.

Guided By Voices have never shrugged off the idiosyncratic. What
they have done is at once draw from pop music's finest moments
while creating a new vocabulary of techniques and approaches
that have refreshed the indie rock world. There really hasn't
been anyone to do what they have done, let alone get there the
way they have. After all, how many rock and roll bed time stories
start of with "A fourth-grade
teacher in his late thirties decides to start a band and become
a star..." ?

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 influence on
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 high school
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
went wrong.

Pollard had played in bands in his youth and spent the early
'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 slowly decreased.
Pollard found a conspirator in shop teacher Pete Jamison, who
was named
"manager for life", a title which by no surprise, he still holds.
Pollard and Jamison took a loan from the Dayton Public School's
credit union and made a record in a local garage/studio. Through
the next five years the band never played out but recorded a
ridiculous number of songs and made a staggering amount of records
chock full of sloppy pop gems. All the way through, trying to
make, in his eyes, what would be the perfect rock album. Paying
for and releasing said records on their own, most languished
in boxes in Pollard's basement.

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,
Pollard couldn't imagine how a New York audience would take the
band. There was only one way Pollard could get up and play. He
had to be drunk. And thus begins another chapter of the Guided
By Voices legend: the beer.

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
By Voices
opening for Urge Overkill. The band was so drunk, he (Pollard)
nearly got his ass kicked by a fan in the audience..." tells
local promoter
Marcel Thimot. "Guided By Alcohol is more like it."

When Guided By Voices play at the Showplace Theater on September
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
rock record!

Pollard has reached the point many young musicians do. After
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
instantly on the lead off track "Teenage FBI." It chugs along
with a Cars-y synth line that is met head on with patented GBV
fuzzy riff.

The band has strayed from 20-something track records and have
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.
"Do The Collapse focuses more on the big arena rock side of the
Guided By Voices Jekyll-and-Hyde persona," Pollard said. "For
the first time, we took a deliberate, disciplined approach to
recording. But I think we retained some of the darker, weirder
elements from our earlier

The record is still full of odd starts and stops. Robert Pollard's
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
deliver the most oddball lines trapped in the prettiest melody
with a soaring conviction that goes unmatched. Case in point
being the beautiful "Hold On Hope," a can't lose addition for
a "monster ballads"
compilation ten years on, you'll find images of a last dance
are interspersed with "animal mothers" and a hiding cowboy.

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 on Saturday,
September 25. Be a part of Guided By Voices stab at rock immortality.