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TimeOut New York
August 19-26 2004
By Kevin Wolfe

Guided By Voices
Half Smiles of the Decomposed
Matador Records
 

It's only a slight exaggeration when folks say that Robert pollard, former grade-school teacher and wildly prolific Guided by Voices front man, releases an album every month. (Including reissues, this disc is the fourth of the year for him, either with GbV or one of his myriad side projects.) Still, part of GbVís charm has always been watching its catalogís nearly boundless expansion.

Now, after nearly 2O years of helming his rough-hewn rock & roll gang through numerous lineup changes and touring schedules that men half his age might not be able to handle, Pollard has decided that itís time for his merry band to do the collapse. If this is, as Pollard promises, the termination point for Dayton, Ohioís favorite sons, itís a fitting finale to a delightfully unlikely career.

Half Smiles of the Decomposed strikes a Zen like balance between the groupís early no-fi-pop rough drafts and its sometimes awkwardly glossy later work. Todd Tobiasís even handed production teases out the best elements in this batch of songs, enlivening the gorgeous, twilit "Girls of Wild Strawberries" and the defiant march "Sons of Apollo." Meanwhile, the off-kilter "Sleep over Jack" reminds us that Pollardís stash of daring musical curveballs is seemingly endless.

There has always been a hint of the regal about Guided by Voices, and Half Smiles serves as a grand valediction, confirming the bandís place among rock royalty.