It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, it’s late May and I’m driving back from New Jersey with my wife and two-and-a-half year old daughter to our home state of Pennsylvania. We’re driving back from a christening. Were it twenty or so odd years ago, we might have been driving back from a GUIDED BY VOICES show, instead. My daughter fell asleep on the long ride home and I ask my wife if we can check out this tribute record. She acquiesces, we hit play and the memories come flooding back. Begin obligatory history lesson here…
The output of Dayton, Ohio’s Guided by Voices continues to be an inspiration to countless home tapers and basement rockers. Led by fading captain, Robert Pollard, the group began its life in the late 80’s as middle America R.E.M. wannabes. Over the course of several albums and various lineups the group slowly began mutating into the lo-fi auteurs we all know and love today. Incorporating home recording techniques, experimental song structures and Pollard’s kaleidoscopic melodic sensibilities; the group soon found itself the toast of the indie rock movement of the late 1990’s. Standing alongside with such classic group of the era such as Pavement, Sebadoh and Superchunk; thanks to classic albums including Propellor, Vampire on Titus, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under The Bushes Under The Stars. (Lest I forget, it’s also important to mention, in addition to Pollard’s brilliant songwriting, the writing contributions of Tobin Sprout, who one might consider the Chris Bell to Pollard’s Alex Chilton.)
While the group ended its initial run back in the mid-aughts, the group’s “classic 93-96 lineup” ended up springing back into life in 2010 for some reunion shows and soon began making up for lost time cranking out a slew of new albums and singles (along with one new EP to date). U.K. imprint Bad Paintings (who is releasing some of band’s newer efforts as limited edition cassettes – Let’s Go Eat The Factory, Class Clown Spots A UFO, Bears For Lunch, Motivational Jumpsuit and Cool Planet) have teamed up with another U.K. label, Critical Heights, to bring us An Unmarketed Product, a cassette compilation (in a limited edition of 200 copies) being released in conjunction with these new-era GBV tapes.
An Unmarketed Product is a collection of mostly heretofore-unknown groups (from the aforementioned labels’ rosters), sticking mostly to covers from GBV’s mid to late 90’s era songbook for their renditions. This is understandable, since most of their best-known songs come from this time. Keeping in mind Mr. Pollard’s faux British singing accent (which he picked up from his love of British Invasion groups such as The Who), it’s super interesting to hear a collection of English bands singing with these songs with their proper accents and creates for an interesting juxtaposition.
The album kicks off in a proper fashion with Fawn Spots’ punk-inflected take on “Motor Away” and then transitions into Luke Saxton’s space age, bachelor pad-flavored take on “Echos Myron,” which for some odd reason, seems to forget the songs’ bridge and last verse. Some other highlights include Keel Her’s absolutely perfect take on “Crutch Came Slinking” from their King Shit and the Golden Boys outtakes LP. The track does a fantastic job transmutating late 20th century Dayton, OH to modern day England, while retaining all of it’s Beatles-esque lo-fi charm. Elsewhere, Finnmark’s take on “Jar of Cardinals” takes a much more decidedly post-punk tack, bringing to mind such groups as Joy Division and Wire (obviously one of Pollard’s favorites). Barbados! check in with a slow, dirgy take on “How’s My Drinking?” from Pollard’s “divorce album” Isolation Drills. Most of the rest of the set features bands mining various degrees of lo-fi pastiche and influences to complete the set with satisfying, if sometimes forgettable results. Take for example, Worm’s deconstructed take on “I Am A Tree” which lands somewhere between Sebadoh’s Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock and a Nirvana b-side, for example.
An Unmarked Product definitely makes for a solid listen, leaving me with a hankering to go dust off my GBV vinyl collection from 19 Something and 5 (and points beyond). While some group’s covers may play it a bit safe, trying not to veer too far from the original source material, it is still is a collection with plenty to offer die hard fans of the group, presenting some new angles on old favorites. Let’s face it, with songs this great, it’s pretty hard to mess things up.
Genre/ Tags: Compilation
An Unmarketed Product CS: Tracklist:
1.) Fawn Spots – Motor Away
2.) Luke Saxton – Echos Myron
3.) H. Grimace – Over The Neptune
4.) Finnmark – Jar of Cardinals
5.) Keel Her – Crutch Came Slinking
6.) Incredible Weapons – Dragons Awake!
7.) Barbados! – How’s My Drinking?
8.) Savaging Spires – Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
9.) Worm – I Am A Tree
10.) Kasey Keller Big Band – Drag Days
11.) Sam Forrest – Gleemer
12.) Slowhammer – Teenage FBIAn Unmarketed Product – Guided By Voices Songs By O
13.) Brown Brogues – My Valuable Hunting Knife
14.) Ex-Painters – Acorns & Orioles
15.) Echo Brigades – Please Freeze Me
BUY the cassette from Bad Paintings – limited to only 200 !