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Eye Magazine
Stuart Berman
November 14 2003

Guided By Voices
Hardcore UFOs Box Set
Matador Records
4 Stars

Guided By Voices
Human Amusements at Hourly Rates
Matador Records
4.5 Stars

Most songwriters dream of writing enough great songs to fill one box set;  Bob Pollard's on his third. In fact, the Guided by Voices guru is such a devout musicologist and ceaselessly prolific writer, it's almost as if he writes songs just so that he can put out box sets.

For 15 years, he's been breaking down the totality of British art-rock -- from The Beatles to Genesis to Wire -- into pieces of a puzzle that is both astonishing in its breadth and daunting in its disregard of whether those pieces form a coherent picture. Fortunately, for the easily intimidated, Pollard separates his diamonds from the coal on Human Amusements at Hourly Rates a near-perfect, single-disc set that's essentially the indie-rock answer to The Beatles' 1(though with source material this vast, personal faves are bound to be omitted). But this 32-song career overview constitutes just the first chapter of Hardcore UFOs, a six-disc boxed behemoth that, as the title implies, exists for the most die-hard space cases.

Unlike 2001's closet-clearing Suitcase box, this 129-song set is divided into logical subsets: an extensive B-sides and obscurities round-up (amazing that a song as pristine as "My Thoughts Are a Gas" was buried on an old Matador comp), a faith-testing disc of unreleased ephemera (worth trudging through for the raw demo of "Portable Men's Society"), a live compilation that captures GBV at their Budweisered best/worst (including a triumphant "My Impression Now") and a re-release of the band's way-out-of-print 1986 debut, Forever Since Breakfast(whose REM-ish post-punky pop feels oddly poised compared to the lo-fi lunacy that followed). Want more? There's a DVD featuring Bank Tarvers' bittersweet GBV doc, Watch Me Jumpstart, live footage and all of the band's videos.

As Pollard insists in Jumpstart, he can write five songs while taking a dump, "and three of them will be good." This is the cream of the crap.