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By Keith Cameron
Guided By Voices
*Fourteenth album from Dayton, Ohio psychedelic jungle dwellers.
Newsflash: they still like The Who*
Guided By Voices' appearance in a Strokes video last year prompted a thought: maybe Bob Pollard could offer Julian Casablancas some tips on overcoming writer's block. This is the third album GBV have released since The Strokes' debut,as much testimony to Pollard's undiminished songcraft as any debilitating side-effects of fame. More pertinently, Earthquake Glue sees a return to the satisfying stylistic cohesion of 2001's Isolation Drills, the final fruit of GBV's brief dalliance with major league production values (tragically, due to label hassles, never released in the UK), while retaining the impressionistic aural fug, that's so key to the band's appeal.
It's a happy accommodation of Pollard's dual - or is that duel? - impulses, a nuggety fusion of classic rock and surrealist pop. From the opening Sonic Youth-via-Byrds declamation of My Kind Of Soldier down, Earthquake Glue exudes an unshakeable ring of confidence. Pollard's obfuscatory instincts, his urge to carpet bomb the senses with musical and lyrical vignettes, are in near perfect harmony as GBV buff up then nail that garage-rock Townshend trophy to their sideboard. I Replace You With Machines riffs on a bed of lo-fi mulch, while the yearning scope of She Goes Off At Night and Apology In Advance suggest that in latest drummer Kevin March, Pollard has finally found his Keith Moon. Occasional synth strafes and horn parps aside, the instrumentation is basic, the intent pure, the overall demeanour that of a thumbs-up from an old friend. When Pollard's in touch with his melodic centre - Useless Inventions and The Best of Jill Hives would walk onto any of first four R.E.M. albums - and GBV are so in tune with the romantic essence of their singular rock'n'roll dream, they are on nigh on peerless. 'Copyright divine intervention,' sings Bob Pollard, wisely. Of course, he's already written the next album.
Bob Pollard talks to Keith Cameron.
How would you now assess your experience with a big label and big budgets?
“We genuinely rallied around the notion we could sell a million records! But I had enough smoke blown up my ass that I started to believe that we could. Whichdidn't happen. There were different factors involved. One of which was our age. The other thing is, I don't really think our songs are, by contemporary standards, hit material. But at the time I believed it, and TVT was backing us,they believed it. But then I thought, We're going away from what we really do, and hits are not important. It's important that you don't alienate the fanbase that you've already established and that you please yourselves. And you gotta have fun. There was a point where I wasn't having that much fun, I was about ready to throw in the fucking towel.“
How do you rate the new album?
“Almost every song on the record could be on college radio. It's poppier, it's more melodic, I think. And the packaging's really cool. Although I'm not gonna include the lyrics. I don't think it's lyrically as good as the last one. On
Universal Truths and Cycles most of the songs started off as poems, I wrote the melodies later. Wheras on this one the music came first, so it was a bit more difficult for the lyrics to be poignant, or whatever. (Laughs) Though I don't know if you can call my lyrics poignant!“