Guided By Voices – August By Cake

I am thrilled to announce the arrival of this momentous album at the KMA’s eastern offices.

Disclaimer: It’s hard for me to write about a Guided By Voices album. I tend to love them all unconditionally, even the weird ones. In this way, it’s akin to having children. But my bias is obvious and unswerving. Fair warning. 🙂

***

Not only is it the band’s first double album, but it also marks (remarkably) Robert Pollard’s 100th album.

Yes, you read that correctly.

There’s no question that the man is prolific, and no matter who is in the line-up, or what project is currently afoot, the music just keeps on coming. Currently, this band under the GBV banner involves Pollard (vox, guitars), Kevin March (drums), Bobby Bare, Jr. (guitar), Doug Gillard (guitar), and Mark Shue (bass). Can I just say (as loudly as possible) how happy I am that Gillard opted to return? He’s long been a guitar hero of mine.

And the record itself? At 32 tracks in 72 minutes, it’s a sprawling opus. With songs ranging in length from 1:01 to 3:44, there is a ton of stuff to digest, here.

Does it flow well as an album? Haha not really, given how much the sounds shift and grow and change. There’s epic rocking, pop sweetness, acoustic jamming, psychedelic weirdness, instrumental noise, wonky drunken leaners… But don’t be daunted. These are all GBV tricks of the trade! There is so much to love.

For this one, you could probably take out a bunch of the tracks and make a top-rated record that everyone would love. But that’s not how Pollard rolls. He branches out, he tries new things, and he includes what he frickin’ well wants to include. And it’s very often that songs that seem weird or awful the first time around are the ones that grow on you later, and become favourites over the immediate hits. THAT is how you know the band has vision. They know you’re gonna come around. We always do.

Me, I love this effort. Love love love.

Long live Robert Pollard. Long live Guided By Voices (and all the various side bands and projects, ad infinitum). Long live Rockathon!

Here’s to the next 100!

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Posted on April 20, 2017, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I’m not sure if it’s more impressive that he’s released 100 albums or that I’ve never heard any of them. You’d think I’d have bought one by mistake at some point.
    Well, I guess I’ll have to open Spotify.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may not have heard an album, but likely a few songs. There was a period there in the 90s when they were at their most popular, produced by Rik Okasek, songs on TV show soundtracks, etc.

      If you’re gonna try it (and I say right on!), go for the hits set before you try a full album. It’s a 1CD called Human Amusements At Hourly Rates, though even that does their work a disservice, and doesn’t cover any of the current stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 100!!! Good grief. Though I guess it sounds like they’re filled with sketches and ideas rather than fully realised songs.

    But anyway, much like Zack, I’m not sure if it’s more impressive that I haven’t heard any of the 100 albums!

    Like

    • There may be a few sketches here and there, but honestly I think most are fully realized songs, whether they go for the full-on structure the modern ear expects or not. Just because they’re short doesn’t mean they’re not finished! Ask the punks!

      Their discography is so sprawling and unique that it’s hard to recommend one album to new ears… I said to Zack “If you’re gonna try it (and I say right on!), go for the hits set before you try a full album. It’s a 1CD called Human Amusements At Hourly Rates, though even that does their work a disservice, and doesn’t cover any of the current stuff.”

      Like

      • I’ll check something out. I wouldn’t have thought a hits set would really be a true picture of a band like this, but I know they’re a good way to access a band.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No way does that hits set cover enough to give a proper picture. Why it isn’t a 10CD, I’ll never know! 🙂 I said as much when I reviewed the damn thing too.

          Anyway, I dunno where to even tell you to get into it, at this point (and since the 80s!). There’s just so much. Let me know how you get on with the hits set, then I can maybe help guide(d by voices) from there, if you’re interested.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Mr Robert Pollard is unique, that’s for sure. The last one I acquired was ‘Let’s go eat the factory’ (2012) which was probably about a dozen albums ago!
    I wish you substantial enjoyment as you digest this new opus from a man who redefines ‘prolific’.

    Like

    • PS. How do you rate ‘Cool Planet’ Aaron?

      Like

      • I remember liking Cool Planet, but it’s a bit jumbled in my brain with all the rest of his stuff. I do intend to get into reviewing more of his stuff, so I’ll make sure I hear that one again.

        I don’t tend to review them here ‘cos I don’t think too many of our readers even listen to this stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I suspect that’s true. Of course, I’m a dilettante, having only a tithe of the RP related catalogue. But I’ve thought a couple of time of reviewing my favourite – Universal Truths and Cycles – as long as that wouldn’t seem an intrusion on your turf!

          Like

    • LGETF was awesome too! I recommend you grab this one if you see it in your travels. It’s good fun.

      They might have to invent a new word that means “incredibly crazily massively prolific” just so they can define this guy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an occasion! A double for your 100th frickin LP!

    I have heard some GBV and continue to be intrigued by the weirdness.

    As for reviewing them all, but not here? I say do it here!

    As

    Like

    • Nothing but the best from Pollard et al.! Yeah, it’s crazy how long they’ve been going but sooooo awesome that they have!

      Intrigued by the weirdness… ain’t that a line of Pollard’s? Haha probably. Yeah, there’s something to what they do that’s so catchy but also unlike just about anything else out there. The lyrics are nuts. I love it.

      I may well do reviews – I just didn’t know if anyone would care or not!

      Like

  5. Wow! 100 albums is quite unbelievable. Like Zack, not familiar with them other than I have heard of them. If they are weird, I might like it.

    Like

    • With Pollard and crew(s), 100 feels like just the beginning!

      Well, weird is a relative term. They still rock, and write great pop tunes, and experiment with all sorts of sounds sometimes… lots to discover in their catalogue, that’s for sure!

      Like

  6. Holy Toledo, 100 albums, he is prolific – and seemingly with no diminishing marginal returns, fantastic!
    I would be honoured if you’d be my GBV tour guide when I get to their Artist of the week feature later this year!

    Like

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