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By John Wenzel

Guided By Voices
Earthquake Glue
Matador Records

Rating - 4 Sponics (out of 5)

Fans of last year’s Universal Truths and Cycles
beware: there’s almost zero acoustic guitar and few of
Guided by Voices’ trademark song-fragments on their
latest release, Earthquake Glue. Ballsy and rough,
this album is not afraid to kick you in the throat
while you’re singing along.

Recorded by Todd Tobias and John Shough at Cro-Magnon
Studios in Dayton, Earthquake Glue is brimming with
boozy dirges and anthem-rock, loose and offhanded and
challenging in the best possible way. It isn’t the
grab-bag of styles that virtually every release from
Propeller to Mag Earwhig! was, nor does it feature the
unctuous gloss of Do the Collapse and Isolation

Its closest spiritual cousin is 1989’s Self-Inflicted
Ariel Nostalgia, an album that lucidly worked out Bob
Pollard’s Genesis and R.E.M. fixations among nervous
mid-fi guitars and thin drumming. Earthquake Glue
isn’t as ‘70s-inflected as Nostalgia, though it does
continue GBV’s recent trend towards Who-influenced
prog. Big riffs, Keith Moon-ish drum rolls, lots of
keyboards (for GBV anyway) and angular songwriting
outweigh shamelessly catchy melodies and lyrical
whimsy on Earthquake Glue. And for once, that’s not a
bad thing.

Bob Pollard’s sterling grasp of rock dynamics seems
likely to never tarnish when he puts his heart into
it. And since GBV is the only thing Pollard really
puts a shitload of effort into nowadays (the
occasional Fading Captain release notwithstanding),
fans should take notice when a new GBV album

“My Kind of Solider,” the opener and a last-minute
addition recorded at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio,
wraps its subtle melodies around a mid-tempo rock beat
and unassuming chorus. But don’t be misled: “Solider”
is the most polished thing on here. As if to
underscore that, “My Son, My Secretary and My Country”
follows with blurred, lo-fi horn intro and Pollard’s
absurdist, mantra-like lyrics. The juxtaposition is
mouth-watering. The warning shot “I’ll Replace You
With Machines” is noisier than a tank crushing a car,
the melodies seeping through cracked glass and twisted
metal. “Useless Inventions” takes the rhythmic logic
of the 1996 B-side “Why Did You Land?” twisting it
into a gloriously addictive indie rock coup and the
album’s best overall song. “Dirty Water,” “Dead Cloud”
and “She Goes Off at Night” are melodic but abrasively
textured mid-points. The current GBV lineup sometimes
seems a little too reliant on these types of songs,
although “Dead Cloud” easily could have been a high
point on The Grand Hour EP.

“The Best of Jill Hives” is a welcome pop-rock
moneyshot, all thin-throated melody and no scuff. “Mix
Up the Satellite” stumbles on some bizarre chord
changes and cheesy guitar tones, but the heroic chorus
emerges as the focal point. “A Trophy Mule in
Particular” is Pollard’s acknowledgement of the way
his genius is received by the masses: a blue collar
workhorse that always gets the job done amidst, “the
stock market tumbling/ and the rock market crumbling.”
It’s also a staggering giant of guitar-and-drums
interplay. “Apology in Advance” sounds even more
personal, the equivalent of Pollard telling the
listener: “You’re going to form your own opinion of me
regardless of what I do, so go ahead.” The epic
“Secret Star” mutates from bouncy intro to noisy
mid-section, to a fist-pumping ending that brings to
the fore Pollard’s expert mix of lyrical melancholy
and gorgeous melody. The chorus, especially, sends
chills down your spine in the triumphant vein of “Exit
Flagger” and “Christian Animation Torch

Leave your expectations at the door and gives this
album the repeated listens it deserves. Encouraging
and exasperating, Earthquake Glue proves that
GBV’s musical evolution never stops, even when we
sometimes wish it would.

copyright 2003, Sponic