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Decade in the Wilderness
Drum Media - Australia
By David Olivetti
Special Thanks to Alex for sending the article!
The mistake of saying Greg Demos is in the band and used to play with The Amps and Breeders appears in the original article
Guided By Voices may well be the greatest band that never was. After ten years in relative obscurity, Guided By Voices are floating down the (main) stream, perplexing audiences with their unique take on guitar rock. Talking to Robert Pollard, singer/songwriter and heart/soul behind this Ohio (indie) rock band, one realizes that this extremely prolific songwriter (18 albums to his credit) is genuinely ecstatic about the way things are turning and that the years of perseverance is paying off.
‘I don’t regret the progress of Guided
By Voices. l think it’s good that we were in obscurity for ten years before
somebody found out about us,’ Pollard admits, speaking from his hometown of
Dayton, Ohio, having just completed a successful East Coast tour of the USA.
’That makes us an established mature band yet a relatively new band in the
public eye. We’ve been around as long as bands like Husker Du, REM, and The
Replacements but some of those bands have gone over the hump a little bit
whereas we're still rising.
Up until Do The Collapse Guided By
Voices were a somewhat scattered affair. The band was a rotating roster, while
the relationship with their (now former) record company, the hip New York
label, Matador Records, was rather relaxed. The current band is a vital group
of lo-fi castaways starring Doug Giliard, Greg Demos (The Amps, Breeders) and
Jim MacPherson (The Amps). while their move to TVT Records, home to Gil Scott
Heron and XTC, signaled a conscious shift relating methods of operation. Plans
were put into place, strategies were followed through and a weighty commitment
came from all concerned. The band, buoyed by the success of the album and
subsequent tours. offers this all as a means to an end. ‘We jumped to a
bigger label, and a label with more resources, especially for the radio. l
think if you get your songs played on the radio that’s what sells records,
but we’re doing our bit too. We’re playing a lot more, we’re touring a
lot more than we used too, so I think everyone’s working together so that
equals better shows.
Do The Collapse is a
marker in terms of a band realizing their ideas. Produced by former Cars Ric
Ocasek, who has previously worked with Suicide and Weezer, the album is a
dynamic synthesis of striking melodies, delicious guitar distortion and
surreal lyricism. After repeat doses one is pleasantly addicted. It certainly
deserves more than a cursory audition. Tracks like Optical Hopscotch, Wormhole and Strumpet
Eye offer backroads to Pollards strange, animated landscape, while Hold
on Hope and Dragons Awake, are well produced ‘heart on your
sleeve’ rockers. Pollard recognizes the differences from the bands previous
work and offers why the response has been so positive.’ We spent a lot of
money, it was recorded by Ric Ocasek and it sounds a lot better he says,
matter of factly 'They’re different, they’re more fleshed out. I took more
time on them and I know they rock harder. In my opinion they’re better’
The new album, however has provoked a mixed
reaction. Q Magazine rated it five stars, while Britain's NME called it
‘genius’. Fanzines, the long time fan base of Guided By Voices, and voice
of the underground, haven’t been so kind. It’s intent for artistic
grandeur - to sound bigger and fuller - has confused listeners and critics.
Ironically for a band adored for their lo-fi sound, Do The Collapse is
the direction the band, and especially Pollard has always aimed for. He is
quick to shut down the dissention coming from certain quarters.
‘We're just doing our own thing: is the
response. ‘We’ve always been about guitar rock. There are a lot of people
who the reasons they loved Guided By Voices are because we were a lo-fi band.
Most of the people that truly love Guided By Voices is because of the songs
and so they’re still there, but there are some people calling us some sort
of a sellout but I disagree totally, we’re still pure rock. It’s like even
when we did the lo-fi stuff we’d set up Marshalls and stuff in the basement
and try to get the best sound we could, it just happened that we didn’t know
what we were doing. So now we’ve finally got to the point where we have
enough respect from other people in the industry and people I respect, that
they’re willing to work with us and get a better sound. For someone to be
disappointed with that I don’t understand, you’d think they would be happy
I understand, you know, some people feel
like they’re losing us to a larger audience and they feel like, ‘hey, this
band which at one time was my private little thing has now gone public’, and
it scares them. I remember when I used to find bands that I thought were cool
and I thought I had discovered, and when they started to be more widely accepted
I would be disappointed.
Guided By Voices capture the essence of
what makes live performance so exciting, a vibrant exchange of energy between
performer and audience. ‘We put on a good rock show. It’s really a drunken
energetic rock show. I have heard that people in Australia like to drink and
rock so we’re compatible: Well, some of us do, Robert. However, this goes some
way to illustrate the exuberance that motivates their live performance, sure to
translate into some wild, very loud rock shows. ’We play for two hours,
sometimes two and half-hours. We’ve got a discography that including all my
solo albums is up to around eighteen albums now. There are different fans of
different records so I want to make sure we have something for everybody in our
set. Sometimes it takes a while for us to get going, for the alcohol to kick in.
‘My band is getting along really well right now, says Pollard.’ We’re enjoying ourselves and there’s no one pulling back and causing dissention. When you have that chemistry - you have a good time. It’s good that
Guided By Voices play Newtown RSL Fri
is out now, available thru WT/MDS.