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By Shawn Conner
Guided By Voices
Hardcore UFOs Box Set
Hardcore UFOs: Revelations, Epiphanies and Fast Food in the Western Hemisphere, the third Guided by Voices boxed set in seven years, is both an unbeatable introduction to one of the Strokes' favourite bands and a completist's dream. Of particular interest to anyone who's ever had a pop melody burrowed into their brain for days, the first disc, Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, collects GBV's best, or best-loved, songs in chronological order. (Human Amusements is also sold separately, with the songs organized differently.) Any doubts that singer Robert Pollard is one of the premier songwriters of the last 30 years are laid to rubble under the force of "14 Cheerleader Coldfront", "Tractor Rape Chain", "I Am a Scientist", and 29 more hook-filled pop and rock piņatas. Demons & Painkillers, a collection of singles and B-sides that include A-list material like "Kiss Only the Important Ones", "June Salutes You!", and "Choking Tara (Creamy)", would all be career pinnacles in any other act's catalogue.
The unreleased novelties on Delicious Pie & Thank You for Calling, on the other hand, sound like someone using a beat-up 4-track to record the sound of a barrel's bottom being scraped. However, Live at the Wheelchair Races is all live and all rocking, with rarely performed songs tackled by a variety of lineups. Forever Since Breakfast is the first CD release of GBV's 1986 debut EP, and while Pollard's nascent genius for a hook is apparent, it's ultimately overshadowed by the group's obvious early debt to R.E.M. Finally, a DVD of Watch Me Jumpstart, a 1996 documentary shot by Banks Tarver, is valuable as a snapshot of a bunch of insecure musicians who have just experienced their first success. It hits on all the points of the Guided by Voices story: the years of toiling in Midwest obscurity, Pollard's job teaching Grade 4, and the continuously revolving personnel. The documentary also offers an amusing glimpse into the songwriter's thought processes as he leads Tarver on a stream-of-consciousness tour of Dayton, Ohio. "It's like a candy store for adults," Pollard notes when they stop for beer at a liquor store. Passing a bar called L.A. Lounge, he is struck with inspiration for a song title: "To Live and Die in L.A. Lounge". We'll have to wait for the next boxed set to hear that one.