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By Paul Matwychuk
November 20 2003
Guided By Voices
Human Amusements at Hourly Rates
Few bands cry out for a "best of" CD more urgently than Guided by Voices, a band so prolific that itıs hard for newcomers to know which of their dozens of EPs, CDs and LPs (not to mention a nearly equal number of Robert Pollard/Tobin Sprout solo albums and pseudonymous side projects) to buy first. Factor in their reputation as a band that would prefer to put out three uneven records instead of one or two solid ones, and youıve got a group that first-time record-buyers approach with caution, despite its exalted reputation among the indie-rock intelligentsia. How reassuring it is, then, to be able to confidently plunk down your money for Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, a 32 track career overview that lets you dive into the world of Guided by Voices without fear of hitting your head against Do the Collapse or Under the Bushes Under the Stars on your way down. Human Amusements contains material from as early as 1992 ("14 Cheerleader Coldfront," a wistful evocation of high-school memories from Propeller) and as recent as 2003 ("The Best of Jill Hives," the mysteriously beautiful single from their latest disc, Earthquake Glue). Supposedly the bandıs heyday was the mid-ı90s double-punch of Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand, but some of the strongest tracks here are from 2001ıs Isolation Drills (especially the power-pop gem "Glad Girls") and 2002's Universal Truths and Cycles (the chug-a-chugging rocker "Back to the Lake"). If I were pressed to pick a favourite, though, it would be a toss-up between the pocket-protector classic "I Am a Scientist" and the joyous ecological rev-up "I Am a Tree." I guess I am a Guided by Voices fan.