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CMJ - August 1999
By Matt Ashare
It was bound to happen eventually. And it had certainly been hinted at on
more than one occasion in the past. Indie-rock's quintessential four-track
heroes would have to make a clean break from the cozy world of DIY home
recording and take the 24-track plunge. And who better to facilitate such a bold
step forward then Cars auteur Ric Ocasek. After all, if you're gonna do
something silly, you might as well go all the way. And Slick Ric is one of those
studio specialists for whom 24 tracks has never really been enough to satisfy
his panoramic vision. He's more into numbers like 36 and 48. The Gods of Silly would
indeed be pleased.
And so, after flirting with the concept of making a full-on professional studio album on 1996's Under The Bushes Under The Stars and then again on 1997's Mag Earwhig!, only to be lured back to those nasty old lo-fi habits by the irresistible snap, crackle and pop of the four- and eight-track, Guided By Voices threw caution to the wind and hitched a ride with Ocasek on the lo-fi highway. The result, Do The Collapse, finds Dayton, Ohio's best answer to Oasis working for a new boss, TVT Records, and sounding bigger, slicker and, well, come to think of it, more like Oasis then most of us would probably like to admit. GBV frontman Robert "Bob" Pollard, who also happens top be the last original member in a band that now features former Cobre Verde guitarist Doug Gillard, ex-Breeders drummer Jim Macpherson, and former Amp/Breeders Nate Farley on bass, is less likely to balk at such comparisons these days than you might expect.
"We've always wanted to make a really big, classic, arena-rock sounding Guided By Voices album", he relates over the phone from his home in Dayton. "But I guess we just didn't feel that we were ready to do it until now. Part of it just had to do with having the right band. But even when we were doing all of that four-track stuff, we still played like a real rock band live. But now we've got a band who can really play the classic stuff- all of those sounds I always heard in my head-especially Doug, who I think is one of the best guitar players in the world."
Pollard says he originally hooked GBV up with Ocasek, who adds some very Cars-y synths to the opening tracks of Do The Collapse when the band was still planning to make another album with Matador. "We'd already decided to do this kind of record because I really wanted it to go through that deal Matador had with Capitol. I was talking to the people at Capitol about it, and they were totally behind the idea. They said that as long as we were willing to make a real studio album with a big name producer and everything, then they'd handle it."
Unfortunately, the Matador/Capitol deal fell apart before Pollard had a
chance to put his plan in to action. And when Matador let GBV's contract expire,
Pollard decided it was time to move on. "There were a few (labels) that
were interested, but TVT offered us the best deal, in terms of me having the
freedom to put out my own little indie records. Plus, TVT's got XTC."
For those of you who already miss the hiss and hum of the old GBV, don't despair, Bob's keeping the old lo-fi aesthetic alive on his own The Fading Captain Series label, which put out the Pollard solo disc Kid Marine last year. One of the label's newest releases is In Shop We Build Electric Chairs: Professional Music By Nightwalker, 1984-1993. Pollard claims that Nighwalker is "an obscure Bloomington, Indiana band." But, damn if it doesn't sound suspiciously like Bob Pollard and his former GBV buddies Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell kicking it old school with a raucous little home-recorded session. Old habits do die hard.