On Guided Tour, Voices Carry ; Band Does It Their Way or No Way

By Jim Montalbano

   Guided by Voices, New Radiant Storm King 18-and-over show 

   11:30 p.m. Saturday 

   Metro, 3730 N. Clark 

   $ 10 

   (312) 549-0203 
Robert Pollard, the guiding voice behind Guided by
Voices, is just an immature rocker at heart.

   "I've been told all my life, 'When are you going to get
responsible? When are you going to grow up and get an
adult-like attitude?' " Pollard, 38, said by phone from his
Dayton, Ohio, home.  "I never will.  I'm just a big kid."

   And now that being in a band is finally his full-time
job, he adds, "I don't have to."

   It's that punker than punk outlook that the British
Invasion-influenced pop masters bring to Metro for a late
show Saturday in support of their upcoming Matador album
"Under the Bushes, Under the Stars." But that same attitude
helped derail the Dayton band's last tour before it could
make its scheduled stop in Chicago in November.

   Guided by Voices served as opening act for Urge Overkill
on the Chicago trio's late '95 tour. But, feeling the pinch
of 30-minute sets and getting the nightly bum's rush from
the UO road crew, Pollard's temper boiled over one night in
Toronto. That was the night the band came out for an encore
but roadies started to break down their equipment to prepare
for the main act. Pollard took offense, and shoving ensued.
"And the bouncer, whom I'd been spilling beer on all night,
came up and punched me."

   Pollard said he felt the band had been "betraying" fans
who paid $ 20 for a mere half-hour of opening act material.
So Guided by Voices soon dropped out of the tour.

   He promises bigger and better things not only from the
album (due out March 26) but at this weekend's gig: "Our
live show is going to be better than in the past, because we
have Greg Demos back for the tour. He's an energetic bass
player, and he adds another dimension to the live show."

   Demos, a lawyer most of the time, rejoins main songwriter
Pollard, guitarist; songwriter Tobin Sprout, guitarist Mitch
Mitchell and drummer Kevin Fennell on the road.

   The new album follows last year's "Alien Lanes" and
1994's "Bee Thousand," the band's breakthrough. This time,
Pollard said, the veterans of lo-fi pop graduated to
24-track machines in several studios, recording tunes with
their Dayton neighbor Kim Deal (leader of the Breeders and
the Amps) at her Memphis studio and with Steve Albini in

   It's a far cry from 4-track recording in Sprout's
basement or Pollard's living room. Pollard said the new
tracks have a "bigger and boomier" sound but still are
crafted in the same way -- avoiding over-rehearsing. Band
members learn each song fresh, one at a time, rolling tape
while it takes shape. Once they get it down, that's the take
they use -- no do-overs, on to the next song.

   "When you do that," Pollard said, "the song, when you
record it, still has life, and this way you don't squeeze
the life out of it."

   Two Albini-engineered tracks made it onto "Under the
Bushes." Pollard wasn't pleased with his vocals on some
tracks, so he asked Albini if they could re-record some
material on a basic 4-track.

   "He agreed," Pollard said. "I was surprised, because he
usually doesn't want people messing with his stuff."

   Have Guided by Voices abandoned the lo-fi movement that
took off in recent years with the success of bands such as
Sebadoh, Beck and Pavement? Pollard said the genre and the
tag can be limiting.

   "There still will be bands who record in their
basements," he said, "because it's a lot of fun and cheap
and it has a nice personal feel. But if you want to get
anywhere and sell records, you have to progress to a better
sound and recording facilities."

   Not to mention radio airplay, which they're aiming for
with the first single, "The Official Ironmen Rally Song."
But playing alternative-radio politics was never an obstacle
for GBV's influences -- British bands such as the Zombies
and Yardbirds, who, like Pollard, could write a mean hook.

   In the '60s, he said, it was simple: "You made a good pop
song, and they put it on the radio."