#41: Guided By Voices & Airport 5 – Selective Service
Plunky acoustic intro, almost like someone still learning how to play, then it’s Pollard doing slam poetry over top. Clearly it was recorded in his living room on the boombox, but that’s par for the course in this discography. This one came to me today on the 2007 Crickets: Best Of The Fading Captain Series 1999-2007 compilation, though it was originally on the 2001 Guided By Voices & Airport 5 Selective Service album.
Y’all know I love me some Guided By Voices. True, I don’t often review them here… probably because there’s so much of it (they have over 100 albums now, plus all the side projects, EPs, 7″… it’s endless, really), and honestly I don’t know how much anyone else would care about all that stuff. OK, so I know a couple of you might, but by and large I tend to think of them as ‘my band’ so I spare you all my wahooing about a band you likely don’t listen to and that’s cool.
However, I was flipping through Premier Guitar magazine recently, and they have a monthly feature wherein they catch up with a band on tour and talk to them about their gigging gear (it’s called Rig Rundowns). For this particular issue, it was GBV! I thought this was brilliant, and I especially loved seeing Doug Gillard’s stuff. He’s one of my biggest guitar heroes.
You can also watch the whole video meet-up RIGHT HERE!
These are the machines that power the current touring line-up of one of my all-time favourite bands!
Y’all know I love me some Guided By Voices. Now, I don’t review my whole collection here because, well, it’d probably take up most of these pages (in all the guises and projects, they are very, very prolific) and you guys probably honestly don’t care to hear about every single release.
However, the band has dropped yet another new album on March 23, called Space Gun. I’m still awaiting my copy in the mail (should arrive this week), however I have this other bit of amazingness to tide me over until it arrives…
Ogre’s Trumpet is a live album recorded at House Of Independents in Asbury Park, New Jersey. As with many GBV releases, this one is released in limited numbers globally. There are 1000 double-LPs sets, and 1000 CD copies and that’s it that’s all, folks. When I saw it was being released, I immediately gave Rockathon my hard-earned and it arrived last week. No way in hell was I going to miss out!
11 of its 25 tracks are pulled from the last two records, August By Cake and How Do You Spell Heaven, and they all sound fantastic. GBV have so many classic tracks and the rest of the record is filled up with a pile of those. Oh, and there’s even a cover of the Monkees’ Saturday’s Child. Of course, it all kicks total ass.
The sound quality is actually really great, and the band plows through song after song proving that they are still a killer live act with every right to every stage they grace.
GBV! GBV! GBV!
Check Out The Track List:
Pearl Gates Smoke Machine
Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft
5” On The Inside
Cut Out Witch
I Am A Tree
Your Name Is Wild
The Ticket Who Rallied
I Am A Scientist
Gold Star For Robot Boy
Lord Of Overstock
The Birthday Democrats
Tractor Rape Chain
Game Of Pricks
Goldheart Mountintop Queen Directory
How Do You Spell Heaven
GBV fans rejoice! Our heroes are still kicking ass and taking names!
Yesterday, a parcel arrived at our KMA eastern offices from the illustrious and awesome Geoff of 100albumsin10years! Oh yes, a parcel of much goodness…
Inside was a note:
OMG. This contains three of my favourite things: Sloan, GBV, and COMMUNITY!
First up, the Sloooooaaaaann…
Check out that handsome ‘Navy Blues Brother.’ Yessir, that’s Sloan’s Andrew Scott on the cover of this May 1998 issue of Chart magazine. Inside the mag is a five-page article called Sloan: Fantastic 4, about the band and the new (at the time) album, Navy Blues, which is a rocker for sure, and there’s a bio page of the band to-date as well. Hot damn! There’s a ton of other stuff in this mag too, which I’ll surely cover in a later post, but right now I’m reading about Sloan so that other stuff will have to wait!
And then, tucked into the mag, to mark the page of the Slooooaaan article (natch), was a 7″ record. Oh yes.
[click the shite photeys to embiggen them…]
Guided By Voices – Planet Score b/w Zero Elasticity
Limited to 1000 copies, and including a free download of the tracks, this 7″ contains Planet Score and Zero Elasticity from the excellent 2014 album Motivational Jumpsuit.
This is thrilling on a couple of levels. One, I am a huge Guided By Voices fan and will always happily welcome any of their releases into my collection. And two, for years I have consciously skipped trying to collect the 7″ output by this band. There are soooo many, I mean, they put out about six albums a year for a decade and a half, and each record gets at least a couple of 7″ singles… That said, I always look at them longingly in the shoppes… and now here is one in my house! It’s GORGEOUS!
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!
I have looked for YEARS for a decent-shape, affordable copy of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand on LP. Trouble is, it’s been out of print since the late 90s, and copies for sale became more and more rare as time went on. Yes, I own it on CD. But this is an album that begs to be played on LP.
So, then a News post from November 8, 2014 on Scat Records’ site sent me into a dance of sheer friggin’ joy:
SCAT IS RE-RELEASING BEE THOUSAND IN A GATE-FOLD LP “VERY SOON”!!!!! This is not a limited run, so copies will be everywhere for all of us to enjoy! Buy lots, for everyone you know!
Scat will also be re-issuing the Bee Thousand Director’s Cut (the original was 3 LPs) on CD for the first time ever!!
Scat will also be reissuing Guided By Voices’ King Shit & The Golden Boys on vinyl! This is a wise move, as it contains Bee Thousand outtakes and other stuff unheard anywhere else. Yes, I own it on CD too (in the ‘Box’ box set). But on LP? Hells yes. A necessity companion piece to Bee Thousand.
Can I even begin to express to you how happy all of this makes me? The site doesn’t give exact release dates, but whenever it happens, I will be a first-day buyer of all three of these releases!
Happy happy happy happy happy happy Aaron!!!
I posted a while ago about the Guided By Voices beer, Beer Thousand, being released on the anniversary of their seminal Bee Thousand album.
Now would be about the time for this to be in stores in the US. If any of our American readers see it in their local beer stores, please let me know because it comes with music not available anywhere else! I WANTS IT THE PRECIOUSSSSS! I’ll pay for your beer (and postage) if you’ll send me the musics!
James sent me this news tonight.
If you don’t wanna read all of that, here’s the gist: Guided By Voices is breaking up. Again.
I’m known in these parts as a pretty huge Guided By Voices fan. I wouldn’t say rabid, because you generally have to shoot wild rabid things (and I don’t wanna be shot), but I sure do like me a healthy dose of this group’s awesomeness.
Thing is, they broke up before, in 2004. That one hurt more, because it seemed like a thing too good to be true (but that actually existed) was ending. Of course, Robert Pollard and his merry band of various and sundry reprobates and cohorts kept us supplied with a fairly constant stream of new music despite the end of that flagship group. Seriously, look up the related 6-year discography, sometime. To call these guys prolific is understatement of the year.
Then, in 2010, they came back and toured again with the ‘classic 90s’ line-up. And things were great. They made 6 huge records, toured and made us all believe in the power of GBV again. And now, this. Mid-tour, even.
Well, how do I feel about it? Mostly OK, this time. They had an incredible run, and then another one. And I am not fooled into believing that Pollard is even close to done releasing new music. He’ll probably have five more records out before Christmas. I don’t expect the content to stop at all. So, that they are no longer operating under the GBV name (again) sucks, but it ain’t the end of the world. Commenters on that article (link above) were saying they were already waiting for the next reunion tour. Ha. I don’t know about that one, but we said no way once before, so who knows?
The only thing I find really shitty about all of this is that they have a pretty loyal fan base (not many are actually rabid, just to reiterate), and to break up mid-tour is pretty shite. People bought tickets. Some were travelling from large distances to be there. Sure, they can get a refund, but it’s kind of a kick in the nuts to everyone who was supporting them. As my lovely wife pointed out, unless they really can’t get along, or there are health issues that make it impossible, they could at least man up and finish the tour. Go out on a high note, so to speak.
I have typed this before, and here I am doing it again:
[thanks for keeping me in the loop, James!]
James sent me this link, and I thank him for it muchly. You see:
Now, the rest is simple. Aaron wants some. A six-pack, even a single bottle. It matters not. But I must have it.
I also want that 10″ record very, very badly. Like, REALLY so very, very much. And then a whole lot more than that. Simply put, I MUST HAVE IT.
The article doesn’t say, but I’d have to (probably safely) assume that this will only be available in the United States?
To the person who can get this for me, this fall, I offer immediate cash monies reimbursement but, more than that, I offer my undying gratitude. UNDYING. That’s a lot.
AARON WANTS THIS BEER AND RECORD!!!!
Thanks for the heads-up, James!
Guided By Voices was on Letterman, recently, to promote Let’s Go Eat The Factory, the first new record by the original line-up in WAY too long.
The version they blasted out kicked ass, of course.
And Greg Demos, bass player, slipped and fell, landing right on his ass. He got back up and kept playing, but he probably walked funny for a day or so.
Yes, it’s been a pathetically long time since my last appearance here. But remember, it’s like John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans,” and man, I have been busy making plans to post here for WAY too long. So here’s some of the shit I’ve been listening to. More to come, ‘cos I’ve filled my iPod with all kinds of stuffs. Wahoo!
Terrible Hostess, Volume 2
Hooray for our friends at Mint Records! As you all know, Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle have just released a tasty new disc of excellent music called Let’s Just Stay Here. Talk about making our year! So, in honour of this release, our great friends at Mint sent us some really sweet swag… buttons and stickers (love the airline ‘Fragile’ stickers with Air Carolyn on them!), a Carolyn and NQ luggage tag, and a blood red dish towel to go with a beautiful copy of Carolyn’s Terrible Hostess: Recipes For Disaster, Volume 2 cookbook! Some of the recipes look downright tasty and I can’t wait to try them (with recommended music playing and recommended drink in hand).
Slayer – World Painted Blood
Business-as-usual chaos as only Slayer can muster it. Play this as loud as your player can go. SLAYER!
Slipknot – Slipknot 10th Anniversary Edition
The CD’s the real draw in this set, with all the brutal honesty and aggression intact… and bonus tracks! Sweet.
Hawksley Workman – We’ll Make Time (Even When There Ain’t No Time)
New Hawksley is coming! Get ready! James found this radio broadcast world premiere. It’s a one-idea slow build with enough lyrics to make anyone run out of breath, crashing full-on into rock-out bliss. Ah, Hawksley.
Guided By Sloan
Just noticed that in the liner notes for Sloan’s Navy Blues, Guided By Voices is listed as having shared the stage. Imagine THAT show! I think I’d pass out with bliss…
Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love
Spent the whole time listening to this recognizing all of the influences that have given them their sound (U2, Oasis, Coldplay and tiresomely beyond). Shame they haven’t found their own sound out of the list.
Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant
This would sound great live. Kind of reminds me of the Trews although, if they meant what they said in the first track, they don’t give a shit what comparisons I can make. Just a great, fun rawk record.
Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto
Oddly compelling, with weird party music and falsetto vocals. Could almost be the soundtrack to a 60’s stage show musical. Are we sure this isn’t a Darkness side project?
Yim Yames – A Tribute To
My Morning Jacket dude’s tribute to George Harrison. Stripped-down renditions show the strength of the originals and let the covers shine too.
Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
New country meets the moxy of the classic country ladies of days gone by, with a few dud tracks thrown in. This lady can sing, that’s for sure. One foot in a bold new direction, the other stuck in the same old schtick.
Iggy Pop – Preliminaires
Man, Iggy rules. Only this particular wild man could foist such a collection of jazzy. bluesy, rock-ish and Parisian-sounding stuff on our ears and get away with it. And without ridicule, too. Strangely compulsive, and not just because it’s Iggy (and therefore we must love it). A welcome diversion, so long as it’s not an admission that he’s finally slowing down for good.
Harry Connick, Jr. – Blue Light, Red Light
This takes me back to high school .Yes, I was THAT guy back then. Still am now, I’ll have you know. Great swing, astounding arrangements in the best of this style’s traditions. Could be the soundtrack to a grainy-colour 60’s musical, and that’s a very, very good thing.
Flight Of The Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky
We all love these guys by now, with their quirky humour that’s laugh-out-loud funny. Even if you set aside the images from the TV show in your mind, this is still an hilariously danceable record. These guys are really onto something.
So you all know that our new (to us) car has a tape deck in it. This has sent me backwards in time, as I’ve already noted in these pages. What fun!
Our neighbour across the road was kind enough to loan me his stereo, which can record from CD to tape. I’ve had great fun doing what we used to do years ago: sitting on the living room floor, listening to the songs record in real-time (you kiddies should try this sometime, instead of just dumping gigabytes onto your iPod), planning out what song comes next, reading and re-reading each records’ packaging, and loving every minute of the process.
And so, what was the first thing I made? Two GBV mixes, of course!
Fans will notice that I’ve cheated and just used the Human Amusements collection for the first parts of it (because all those songs need to be here and it was WAY easier to use this than to go hunting for each record they’re from and take each disc in and out), but then the rest of the mix is songs I’ve always felt got left off that set. I don’t envy the person whose job it was to distill 20 years of awesome music onto that one CD, which was meant to be representative of the work of one of America’s most diverse and brilliant artists. That would have driven me mad.
Anyway, my two 60 minute tapes contain the following (and they ROCK!)…
a salty salute
things I will keep
everywhere with helicopter
I am a tree
my kind of soldier
14 cheerleader coldfront
learning to hunt
game of pricks
tractor rape chain
to remake the young flyer
the best of jill hives
shocker in gloomtown
chasing heather crazy
my valuable hunting knife
the official ironman rally song
watch me jumpstart
back to the lake
I am a scientist
everybody thinks I’m a raincloud (when I’m not looking)
hold on hope
kicker of elves
the ids are alright
buzzards and dreadful crows
father sgt. christmas card
skills like this
smothered in hugs
jane of the waking universe
girls of wild strawberries
my impression now
window of my world
gold star for robot boy
Next up, I suppose, is a mix-tape of Pollard’s solo stuff, and then maybe a mix of stuff he’s released under other band names, and then next I could…
PS: I’ve even had so much fun making these mixes that I’ve created a new tag on this page, called ‘mix-tape heaven,’ which I will attach to all future mix-tapes I make for my car. Because surely there will be more…
You’ve gotta be sick of hearing me say this by now, but it bears repeating: I am a huge fan of Guided By Voices. Any and every release, if I can find it, will find its way into my house for constant rotation. To me this is as natural as breathing.
Well, here’s a DVD in 5.1 surround sound (released simultaneously, for those who prefer it, as a 2-CD package) of the boys themselves on television, at Austin City Limits on November 9, 2004. And it is a really frickin’ beautiful thing, indeed.
It’s all here. Some songs you know. A few you might not (but should). An exuberant crowd. Buckets of cups of beer and tequila. Relatively tight musicianship under the influence. And in the middle is that loveable mug Mr. Pollard himself, spastic dancing and high-kicking ringleader of the inevitable shenanigans.
If there were ground rules given to the band before the show, it seems pretty clear that they promptly forgot them and, by their very nature, turned the show into what it actually was: a GBV show. In other words, one helluva good time for all involved. They share drinks with the crowd, bum lights for their smokes, and generally prove to be what they always were – a people’s band.
Nate Farley drags some guy on stage for Sad If I Lost It and Cut Out Witch, and I thought ‘now there’s a lucky fan,’ but it turns out it was Pete Yorn. As if I knew what Pete Yorn looked like, hammered and singing along (and very badly, at that). Well, clearly, I didn’t. But there he was. And other fans do jump on stage, now and then, as the gig devolves into more of a happily drunken brawl than a music gig. But they are mostly respectful and the band takes it all in good humour.
This was recorded just over a month before their final show ever, in Chicago. I’ve already written in these pages about the beautiful 4-hour marathon that that became. This Austin set just goes to show you what a bunch of guys having fun can do when they are also, secretly, a well-honed and professional group of musicians. It is such a shame these guys called it quits. What a great band.
This set is 30 songs and a whole buncha fun packed into 97 blissful minutes, and watching this DVD will be the most enlivening thing you’ll do today.
It must have been so hard to choose the songs for this disc. Guided By Voices had a long, glorious career and they recorded a ton of songs that could have been (but were not) included here. For example, I recently made an MP3 disc from my CDs of the songs that I like (it makes a perfect car CD) and ended up with over 200 songs that absolutely had to be there, with many left over for a second disc. True, I’m a fan. But I still don’t envy the people whose job it was to create a one-CD compilation of songs by this band. Yeesh. It boggles the mind. That job would’ve kept me up nights.
Another challenge facing the compilers would have been the issue of varying sound quality. GBV was known to record awesome songs in their basement, sometimes using only a boombox or, at best, a 4-track. Such lo-fi offerings sound good and make sonic sense on an entire album of tracks recorded at that level. But pulling one track and then trying to boost it to match the quality of a later track that had been recorded in a studio must have been a nightmare, indeed.
In all, though, they didn’t too bad of a job, and a lot of the hits are here. Hits, you say? Well sure! OK, try this: If ever there was a CD containing GBV songs that you might have heard somewhere sometime, this is it. I won’t even begin to list what I like about the songs on this disc. Just scroll to the Track Listing (below) and get an eyeful of the song titles and, if you know wherefrom I’m coming, you’ll know what I mean when I say that this disc is really, really cool.
Many bands out there have dreams and hopes that in their careers, however long or short that may be, they might at one point record just one song that’s as good as any of the tracks on this disc. Most of those bands fail. Some don’t come even close. And yet here’s a band that played for two decades and this disc, while surely intended as a retrospective, is only a miniscule taste of the enduring and amazing list of songs they have offered to the music g-ds.
You know, 20 years from now when this kind of music sees a resurgence and a whole new crop of teens calls out the name GBV as an influence, you can say you read it here first: I TOLD YOU SO.
The club is open, indeed.
Collector-Geek Note: This disc also appears in the 5 CD / 1 DVD box set called Hardcore UFOs: Revelations, Epiphanies And Fast Food In The Western Hemisphere with a very different track order. It’s mostly the same songs, but the 7” versions of Game Of Pricks and Motor Away are removed (they appear on Disc 2 of the box) and are replaced by the album versions. Instead, the 7” version of I Am A Scientist is added. Then again, if you’re a GBV fan like me, you knew this already. Right on.
You probably found your copy of this U.K. single pretty easily. Me, I had to search fairly far and wide beyond the borders of my little town before finding a beautiful copy to call my own. But such are the lengths to which I am prepared to go for GBV. Indeed.
Most often, I find singles to be disappointing things. It’s so easy for bands to use them as vehicles for their mediocre radio-friendly hit, and then just fill in the rest with a couple of toss-off demos, tinny live songs or DJ NumbNuts remixes… stuff only the geek completists will listen to, or care about. Total cash-grabs.
Fortunately for the cool kids like us, GBV is not even close to comparison with most bands and, so, there isn’t a wasted second anywhere on this disc.
The Best Of Jill Hives, in its same version here as found on the album Earthquake Glue, is a pretty little pop song with a very catchy melody, absorbing lyrics and tight, interesting musical accompaniment. In other words, it’s a GBV song. Lots to like, here!
Free Of This World is an unreleased song, unless you also own the Matador At Fifteen set, where it is also listed as unreleased… Anyway, this tune is full of cymbal washes, acoustic guitar strumming and 70’s ballad sensibilities. Cool guitar solo, too!
Downed, taken from Cheap Trick’s second album, is a straight-ahead rock cover tune. For GBV it’s an unsurprising choice, given their usual influences, but still worth it. To my ears, the vocals seem a little buried behind the music, but who cares? Any song that has a cowbell in it has to rock, right? Right!
Clocking in at 09:43, this single may be short on time but it’s definitely long on GBV Goodness.
Most people around me have already heard me whine about the ending of Guided By Voices, so I’ll spare you repetition now. Suffice it to say, it was beyond sad to see them end. Over 21 years, and through a large cast of characters, the band created some of the most interesting, intelligent and invigorating music I’ve ever been privileged to hear.
This DVD, then, is a perfect document, recorded live at their final show. It’s a drunken, sprawling, career-spanning Chicago concert held on New Year’s Eve, 2004. The song selection is extensive (63 songs!), the band is in top form and, sure, drinking all night made the end of the show seem like a marathon (the concert runs 4 hours), but captured here is the magic that was GBV. Past members and friends joined the band on-stage, the record label sent the biggest bottle of champagne I’ve ever seen, balloons fell from the ceiling, Robert Pollard bummed smokes and shared beer (and the microphone) with fans… Perfection.
I never got to see GBV in concert, a fact I regret, but retrospect can only take you so far. This DVD will be as close as I’ll ever get, and it remains one of the best music DVDs in my collection. As if the concert wasn’t enough, there’s even some extras tacked on, including four live tracks from 1994, two videos of Pollard recording demos, and a cool fold-out poster of the last show’s set list.
All of the songs are well done, even if wrong notes were played, lyrics were forgotten, changed or went unheard because Pollard didn’t always have the microphone to his mouth… it all just adds to the overall picture. I particularly enjoyed the song selection from Encore #1, but the entire show kicks some serious ass.
The last track, Don’t Stop Now, is titularly apt seeing as Pollard has continued his blistering recording and touring pace with different musicians, but captured here is the essence of a band that will forever be remembered (by me) as lo-fi rock’s Kings.
I recommend that everyone see this, fan or not, and especially if you’ve never heard of them or any of their music. It’s never too late to get caught up, and let me tell you, it’s worth every second.
Guided By Voices meant something, and they always will. They had an appreciable influence on modern music, and their long journey, culminating in this final show, could be viewed as a coming of age, too. To quote Echos Myron, “We’re finally here, and shit yeah it’s cool!”