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By Kevin Elliot
Guided By Voices
Half Smiles of the Decomposed
Of related interest: Sandbox, Bee Thousand, Earthquake Glue
The cult of Bob has an almost infinite catalogue of hiss and fuzz, solo experiments, line-up shuffles, arena rock and classic nuggets from which to reference. Those who’ve followed along will realize Half Smiles of the Decomposed is the aural equivalent of a completed jigsaw puzzle linking all disparate points in between.
Fans that left at the turn of the century are invited back with “Girls of Wild Strawberries,” a song that recalls the pop of Pollard’s effortless halcyon days with a leisurely guitar jangle, an instantly memorable chorus and the return of Tobin Sprout, who plucks out a song-ending solo evoking drunken summer nights of long ago. Likewise, closer “Huffman Prairie Flying Field” sails away soaked in decade-old distortion.
The complex compositions that never quite blossomed in studio configurations are more understated. Pollard has found a sixth member in producer Todd Tobias, who organizes the ringleader’s whimsy into seamless sonic mazes. “Asia Minor” and “(S)mothering and Coaching” would have been seen as Genesis pilfering on earlier albums, but now play like miniature epics indicative of Pollard’s syncretism. On a grand scale, looking over their history, Half Smiles of the Decomposed is the ultimate GBV record: the culmination of a million great ideas poured into one glorious goodbye.