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Greenville News - South Carolina
March 7 2001
By Donna Isbell Walker
TOUR EVOKES PERSONAL SONGS
Transcribed by Billy T
Guided by Voices lead singer Bob Pollard is
something of a sponge when it comes to songwriting.
During his 15 years as a fourth-grade
teacher, Pollard wrote songs that wouldn't seem out of place coming from a 10
year old. Many of those songs featured wild imagery and long flights of
"When I was around 10-year olds, I kind
of assumed the mindset of a 10-year-old. It was definitely reflected in
my songs," Pollard said in a recent phone interview. "Whereas
now, I'm around ....30-something drunks," he said jokingly, referring to
That's not to say that the songs on Guided
By Voices' forthcoming album, the rocking "Isolation Drills", are
the sonic equivalent of a weekend bender.
They are, however, opaque and enigmatic -
and intensely personal. A year on the road will do that to a musician.
Guided By Voices had just come off its most
extensive tour, one that seemed likely to vault the band from its celebrated
niche in the indie rock pantheon into the mainstream of rock and roll.
The tour left its mark on Pollard and his
bandmates, and it didn't change their musical status all that much either.
"We were gone most of the time, and it
took its toll...on most of the band members' lives. It turned out that I
began writing these really personal lyrics based on, like, people who were
left behind and people that I met. So without revealing too much and
hurting any feelings, its probably the darkest, most personal record I've
made,' he said.
Of course, it isn't always easy to pick out
the personal references in Pollard's lyrics, to find the core meaning in a
line like, "Cigarette lifter/the frozen violins?Solid movement.'
Pollard has often written about his life,
but with the truths hidden under dense layers of words. Still, that
doesn't necessarily make it easier to reveal himself musically.
"It's harder," he said.
"But that's just the way things worked out. When I'm performing
live, its actually easier to sing about things that don't mean anything, like
hot freaks and robot boys and things."
Aside from the lyrics, Guided By Voices'
sound has always been assigned the low-tech, garage-rock slot by perennially
categorizing music critics. That's OK by Pollard.
"I don't want to make a big,
really, really slick record. I want to make a really good record with a
good, room-filling guitar sound. I really like the sound of, like, music
that was recorded in the early 70's...I'm not into music being overdone and
The voices guiding Pollard and his bandmates
just could be voices from the past.