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August 9, 2001
By Stephen Cooke
Guided By Voices come in loud and clear
Dayton, Ohio. Located at The Crossroads of America, where Interstate 70
crosses Interstate 75, in the southern part of the state, between Cincinnati
It's part of that industrial wonderland affectionately referred to as The
Rust Belt. While it may be hard to imagine anything beautiful coming from
such a place, it is the home town of indie rock heroes Guided By Voices,
which brings its glorious coalition of pop hooks and rock riffs to Halifax's
Marquee Club tonight and Saturday.
GBV frontman Bob Pollard is quick to point out other Dayton achievements,
noting it is the birthplace of mechanized flight-as the home of Orville and
Wilbur Wright - not to mention the cash register and the flip-top on
"And where would we be without those?" laughs Pollard from his Dayton home,
just before honouring the Wrights by hopping a plane to Halifax. "We've
always played up the flight imagery on our records, because that's where
we're from. I always thought it was cool how early R.E.M. used the kudzu
stuff, the southern mystique.
"So we try to play up the industrial side and the flight aspect."
You can't miss it on the band's latest CD, Isolation Drills, with its
Photoshopped fleet of jets on the cover, and the band out standing on the
frosty tarmac. Only it won't be so frosty when the band touches down today,
and their reception should be more than warm, considering how local fans
have been spreading the word that this weekend's shows are the must-see
event of the year.
GBV's epic shows are legendary for the fury of their passion and playing,
plus a seemingly inexhaustible song catalogue that stretches back to the
band's earliest days in the mid-'80s.
"You guys are really putting the pressure on us, aren't you?" says Pollard
of the hype that precedes them. "There was some sort of press release saying
'Can these guys really be as good live as people say they are?'
"Talk about putting pressure on us. I'll tell you what, we'll be drunk!
How's that? We'll have a good time. We're not the tightest band in the
world, and if people are expecting complete tightness on every song, that's
not going to happen. Especially with Jim, we've only had one practice and
played a couple of shows with him, but it'll be fun and we'll play a lot of
Jim is former GBV drummer Jim MacPherson (he plays on Isolation Drills),
also an ex-member of The Breeders, who stepped in when Jon McCann broke his
hand while helping to move crates at a wedding.
Although some shows on the current tour had to be called off, and it was
feared that Halifax would be among them, MacPherson filled in to get the
band up to speed for August.
"Jon's a great drummer, but Jim's like a caveman," says Pollard. "He hits
'em really hard. I've told him he uses the dinosaur bones to play drums.
"But Jon's gonna be OK. The cast comes off at the end of next week."
Pollard's used to line-up changes, Doing a Guided By Voices family tree
would tax even the most ardent pop historian. Especially with Pollard being
the only constant member over the band's long history, from its first decade
toiling in obscurity in Dayton through the indie breakthrough of Bee
Thousand and Alien Lanes on Matador Records in the mid-'90s.
Now with Universal Music-distributed TVT Records, GBV has changed its tune
somewhat, trading the self-produced lo-fi sound of earlier records to work
with Rik Ocasek on Do the Collapse and Rob Schnapf on Isolation Drills. But
it's still Pollard's poetic and compelling songwriting that charges the
group, with concessions to the marketplace lying somewhat lower on the list
"We have had to change our approach slightly," he explains. "I obviously
have complete creative control over my music in my contract, but sometimes
you still don't get that because everyone at the label wants to have a hand
in everything, like packaging or the cover or sequencing. I like to do all
that stuff myself, but I did want to start using a producer to make bigger
music and sound more like we sound live."
Still, Pollard says that now GBV has established itself on TVT, he'd like to
return to producing the records himself, much like he does on his various
"I guess I'm just addicted to writing songs," he says. "And moreso than
writing songs, I'm addicted to making records. Besides Guided By Voices, I
put out three or four albums a year under pseudonyms.
"So it's hard for me to stop doing that, because it's what I like to do."