Precocious Young Men: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 87
Guided By Voices - Zeppelin Over China - Guided By Voices Inc. - 32 songs - CD, LP, digital
I did have the thought that it might be a little irrelevant what I think of any new Guided By Voices release. After all, most GBV fans will buy anything they put out and it's relatively rare that someone's gonna just happen to pick up one of their records to check them out. Also, by the time this review is published, there'll be a new one out. I know that sounds like "ha ha because Robert Pollard puts out a new record every week," but seriously, there's a new LP out April 26th, which is before the publishing date of this review. But I decided I'd review it anyway, because maybe someone reading this has heard of Guided By Voices but doesn't really know anything about them and this will sway them one way or another, or, like me, already appreciate some Guided By Voices stuff but are hesitant to pick up anything they put out because they're not sure if it'll be worth their time (I realize this sounds a little harsh, but you've gotta understand that Guided By Voices and any other Robert Pollard projects put out quite a lot of material– it can't all be great). So here I am to help. You know what? This isn't a bad record at all. It sounds quite a lot like "Isolation Drills"-era GBV, I'm assuming in no small part due to the presence of lead guitarist Doug Gillard, who's got some great playing scattered over the four sides here. The entire first LP is really good, with a solid array of songs (my favorite, probably of the whole record, is "Your Lights Are Out," which is upbeat but also melancholy and is just a great tune). Other highlights include the near-glam stomper "Carapace," the more subdued college rock sound of "Send In The Suicide Squad," and the driving "Wrong Turn On" (I especially like the part where the drums stutter off the beat and then back into it– that's a cool touch). "Think. Be A Man" is a cool pounder with the great closing line, "the little girls do not understand" and to finish off the first half of the record is "You Own The Night," which starts as a total pop hit (with the opening line, "What's it like being all that?," which is pretty good), disappears into a seemingly unrelated second part, and then bursts back into the song. It took a while for me to come around to it, but I kinda like it. How about the second half of the album, or record 2 if you have the LP version? Well, like a lot of double albums, it starts to drag a bit. That said, however, I think there's enough decent material that, okay, the second LP is warranted, but only because it's Guided By Voices and the "why didn't they lose some of the filler songs on here" argument is utterly irrelevant. My favorites from the second LP are "Nice About You" (which has a very familiar melody, but I can't think of why), "Where Have You Been All My Life" (which is the closest this album gets to punk and has a melody that almost sounds drunken– I bet this one's fun live), "Enough Is Never At The End" (which is all piano and strings, which is kinda weird to hear on a GBV album but is an interesting change of pace), and "My Future In Barcelona" (which is another one of the best songs on the whole thing). Once I saw that Doug Gillard was responsible for horn and string arrangements (and there are some nice ones on here– particularly on "The Rally Boys" and "Vertiginous Raft") that made me think, "Oh, so he's like Mick Ronson to, I guess, Pollard's Bowie." I don't know how far you can stretch that comparison, but I've brought it this far and that's where I'll leave it. Solidly a good album, I'd say. 4/5
Pink Holes - Pink Holes - Smog Veil Records - 4 songs - 7"
This was the only Record Store Day release I was interested in this year; I'm not sure whether that says more about me or the state of RSD. These are four songs recorded after the Pink Holes' last vinyl release, which was "Breakfast With The Holes" in 1985, and previously released on the CD reissue of that record in 2001. It's an interesting era for the band, where they've kinda learned how to play but haven't yet devolved into the complete pointlessness of 2 Bobs yet. I gotta say, three of the four songs on here are pretty good. I'm not too into "Billy Monster," which they have here as the opening track, but "Frustration Factor" and "Under The Covers" are both decent, sloppy punk tunes ("Under The Covers" was previously released under the more obscure title "Fungarian Function," in case all you Pink Holes fans out there were confused) and "Love, You Bet!" is actually one of my favorite Pink Holes songs, a great and unexpectedly catchy cowpunk kinda tune. It's got windchimes on it, what more could you want? Les Black's vocal performance is pretty stellar across the board here. I also like that this was definitely recorded in the mid-to-late 80s and has the drum sound to match, which is really bizarre to hear on a Pink Holes record, of all places. Wanna hear some complaints about the packaging? The front and back covers are great and the whole thing folds out into a giant Pink Holes poster, but on the other side of said poster, there is an outrageous amount of completely blank panels. What, there were no photos of the band you could put there? No posters? Information about when or where it was recorded? Nothing? You're already printing the thing double-sided, why not have something there? Stupid, but maybe that's the point. Anyway, worth your time and a nice piece of local punk history to have on vinyl. I just wouldn't have picked "Billy Monster." 3.5/5
(smogveil.com, available in stores exclusively at My Mind's Eye and Blue Arrow Records)
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