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By Jonathan Valania
From MAGNET #36 September/October 1998
"I am a pharmacist, prescriptions I will fill you/Potions, pills and medicines to ease your painful lives," sings Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard on "I Am A Scientist." So it was probably no accident that the video-release party for the GBV documentary, Watch Me Jumpstart, was held at Barmacy, a New York City watering hole decked out like a '50s drug store. Pollard and a vanload of his Dayton, Ohio, drinking buddies were on hand, taking full advantage of the open bar, along with the usual array of hipster hangers-on and assorted slackerati. Missing in action, however, was the film's director, Banks Tarver, who was on assignment in Los Angeles shooting a documentary for MTV News.
Shot in the gray-light, blue-collar splendor of GBV's hometown and tour stops across the country, Watch Me Jumpstart captures the beery-basement mythology and popsmart charm of the band. Working in a sandpaper factory may not give you chops, but it does give you a will to rock.
The documentary started as a film-school project for the 38-year-old Tarvet, who up until four years ago was a civil-rights attorney in Texas. "[GBV]'had been making music much longer than I had been making film, but we shared the same DIY aesthetic," says Tarvet. "We made it up as we went along. I caught them just as they were making the big step out of the basement and onto Matador and national attention. I tried to make the film feel like a GBV record, like a collage. I used a lot of different film stocks."
Watch Me Jumpstart also features videos for "My Valuable Hunting Knife," "Official Ironman Rally Song" and "I Am A Scientist" (all directed by Tarver), as well as "Bulldog Skin" and "Motor Away." (directed by Scott Marshall and David Kleiler, respectively).
In other news, the Dayton-based Simple Solutions label recently issued Blatant Doom Trip, a GBV tribute record with contributions by Thurston Moore, Portastatic, Cobra Verde, Gem, Lotion and others. Also of note to GBV completists is the release of Japanese versions of Mag Earwhig/and Waved Out(Pollard's second solo LP) with additional unreleased material.
Guided By Voices recently played a stellar, sold-out show in NYC to break in the new lineup--Doug Gillard (guitar), Greg Demos (bass) and Jim MacPherson (drums)--and showcase new material for Ric Ocasek, who will produce the new GBV album. It remains unclear whether the album will be released on Matador, whose contract with GBV is now expired.
"This will be our big go-for-it record," says Pollard. "Everyone seems to think we've kind of plateaued. Even [Matador] is like, 'We seem to have hit a wall--what can we do to reach a larger audience?' And, of course, the answer is for us to work with a producer with a reputation that understands the band. If this doesn't work, I'm not going to even try. I'm 40 years old, and I don't know how much longer I can do this, But I've said that about every record. Every record is the last record,"
Pollard recently exhumed his leg- endary suitcase of 5,000 songs and began transferring them to CD, some of which may someday be released as a box set, "We have only gone through a tenth of the tapes and already have 150 unreleased songs," Pollard says. "Some of the songs date back to when I was a kid in the late '60s. There are a few diamonds in the rough, four or five songs that need to be worked with, but a lot of it is really embarrassing, I would sing a cappella into a tape recorder. I still go back to some of those songs in my head ... I wrote all my best songs when I was a kid."