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Guided By Voices
Half Smiles of the Decomposed
Matador Records
UK Review

A final album from a band with only one consistent member--in this case mainstay vocalist/ songwriter Robert Pollard--may be a strange concept (fans have asked why Pollard doesn't just revamp the GBV lineup again), but we are assured that as the Guided by Voices moniker has been a burden to live up to, Half Smiles of the Decomposed will be the last album bearing their name. The songs are nothing short of exuberant, energetic and fantastic. From the appropriately-titled opening "Everybody Thinks I'm a Raincloud"--light but portentous--it's obvious that the band's trademarks of vaguely lo-fi production and classic songwriting are present and correct. The sound continues throughout the album, highlighted on the wiry "Sleep Over Jack" and the lilting "Asia Minor" and onwards. Throughout, the album exudes an air of confidence and power--all the way to its final, inexplicably titled "Huffman Prairie Flying Field". Indeed, the sound is reminiscent of early REM and should appeal to fans who lost interest after "Green". However, in the end, the sound is still pure GBV, and serves as a fitting epitaph to a wonderful, charming career. --Tom Allott

US Review

After twenty-odd years and twenty-odd releases, this is the final album by Ohio's famed geniuses. It's their most serious and mature record in years, more akin to those recorded in the mid-90s than the most recent releases. At the same time, it's influenced by both American and British mid-60s chime-pop, pointing out the intricate interweaving guitar lines, the stunning wordplay, the vastly melancholic and somehow still uplifting tone, the impeccably tossed-off phrasing, and the stately, plump rhythm section. Elegiac and remorseful; a jewel of a farewell.