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By Chris McCoy
Guided By Voices
Why aren't Guided By Voices all over the radio? There's absolutely nothing on Earthquake Glue that Middle America would find the least bit offensive. The songs have great beats, Pollard is a melodic genius, and all of the sonic experimentation here is in service of the often stunning songwriting. "Beat Your Wings"' melancholy cymbals and sublime, Thin Lizzy guitar bridge should be inescapable, crowding all that Coldplay crap off the airwaves. Hundreds of thousands want to speed through the teenage night blasting "Of Mites and Men" on their car stereos, but they don't know it because they've never heard it. It's a testament to the distorting power of marketing on the public's taste for popular music that "Useless Inventions" isn't stuck in your head right now. In other words, Pollard's lackluster career is proof that record companies and radio conglomerates are run by a bunch of creeps. If Pollard weren't some kind of industrial-strength rock-and-roll machine, he wouldn't have gotten as far as he has.
Pollard's prodigious output may be a result of an extremely short attention span. The rush of ideas means he can't stay on one riff for more than a few seconds. In the past, this led to perfectly formed minute-and-a-half songs and multi-page set lists for two-hour shows. But lately Pollard seems to have outgrown that style. There's only one song on Earthquake Glue shorter than two minutes, Pollard making the relatively epic lengths fit his band's personality by turning each song into a Pete Townshend operetta. The Who influence will jump out at you on first listen, but there are bits of Television, R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, T. Rex, and George Harrison's lightning guitar tone from The White Album in there as well.
Guided By Voices' cult has been slowly expanding for years, but if there were any justice in the world, Pollard would be filling up stadiums instead of bumping up against the glass ceiling that has been in place since the Replacements screwed up their Saturday Night Live appearance. Pollard doesn't let it get him down, and I hope he can put out records this good for the rest of my life. But the frustration he must feel comes through in "A Trophy Mule in Particular," when, in a rare moment of candor, he sings, "Stock market tumbling/Rock market crumbling/So where am I now?/For I am a soldier."