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Revolver Magazine (Sydney Australia)
By Leah Alderaan
A letter reads: 'The "Propeller" LP was my first exposure to Guided By Voices... A creepy obsession with the record immediately seized me and everybody that I've played it for - it's embarrassing how much I like it.' The letter was penned by Matt Sweeney from the band Chavez, who oddly enough would soon be touring and opening for the band he was praising.
Headed by singer/songwriter Robert Pollard, Guided By Voices is a band whose family tree reads like the guestlist to the Billboard Music Awards, whose many albums since their incarnation in the early 80s have received accolades worldwide, and whose fans write avidly to each other via the e-club "Postal Blowfish" and track the band's movements right across the States. And yet the band remains fabulous nobodies.
Their new album "Do The Collapse" ('I've always wanted to call the last five albums "Do The Collapse", but now it finally makes sense, at the end of the millennium' explains Pollard), produced by ex-Cars guitarist and vocalist Ric Ocasek (who has also produced albums for Weezer and Nada Surf), may well bring about a change. The lo-fi schtick is almost absent, leaning more towards stadium rock. There's a full-bodied sound about it, which had always been there in the past, albeit buried under the crackle and hiss of a four track.
During a soundcheck in Salt Lake City, guitarist Doug Gillard gives the run down on working with a Car. 'It was a great experience. Ric left us too much to our own devices. There were a couple of rearrangements, but we just had more trash to work with this time so we made use of that. He was very easygoing, very 'on an even keel'. And when we did basic tracks he went more for feeling than perfection. A lot of the tracks made it to the record with mistakes included, so the feel of the song is better. We kept the right mistakes in,' Doug adds.
The band's album "Do The Collapse" sees another departure - from the independent label Matador to TVT Records, who are better known for their recordings of screen themes. 'They started off doing television theme records; some of them they acquired the rights to and got the original themes from old American sitcoms from the 60s. When they couldn't get a lot of the rights, they put out two double records of what they had. That was the first release on their label, and then they signed Nine Inch Nails, and made them popular. Up until the last couple of years their roster has been mostly industrial sort of bands and techno. They recently signed XTC last year. So they're getting into a little rock here,' explains Doug.
While past albums for the band have been steeped heavily in the tradition of indie guitar rock, "Do The Collapse" has taken a turn into radio friendly territory, entailing multi track recording, and keyboards. While the brilliance of the songwriting and melodies of past albums should not be dismissed; "Do The Collapse" is the album that would be voted "Most Likely to Receive High Rotation", given the high end production and the incorporation of various musical styles. The first single "Teenage FBI" has exactly that, and with its touches of synth critics have already alluded to the Cars-esque keyboards. When asked about this comment, Doug's response came as no surprise - 'the keyboards were Ric's idea. The original version of Teenage FBI was released on a 7" two or three years ago, a shorter version with guitars. The way we play it live is a cross between the two of them, because we play the same length as on the album with the guitar lead and everything - except there's no keyboards involved. It's just a good old rock song live.'
Their new label TVT, are hitting high gear on the promotional push with the single, and are following up with the melancholic "Hold On Hope" around September. With a plethora of radio promotional staff, it's all systems go on "Do The Collapse", a luxury they scarcely knew before. 'TVT are working on college radio and whatever major they can get into; they've been working hard. So, finally the band's getting some airplay. There might be TV shows here and there. They're working on Conan O'Brien right now on. It's a pretty big show."