It’s a little odd after listening to the chronicles of the early years of Guided by Voices on Jeff Gomez’s “Self Inflicted Aura Nostalgia” podcast, to be dropping the needle on the groups’ latest effort Space Gun. For those not familiar, the podcast has been systematically dissecting every one of the group’s albums in chronological order.
Having left off on the Propeller episode at the time of this writing, the album that would prove to be the big breakthrough for Robert Pollard and his crew from the magical land of Dayton, Ohio. In many ways Space Gun sees GBV on the other side of that story that began some 30 years earlier. From their humble beginnings self-releasing home brewed albums to being the toast of the 1990’s indie rock boom, and beyond. With a few bona fide classic albums, a major label run, a break up, a reformation, and countless Miller Lites along the way, their most recent record sees Robert Pollard back at home plate in some ways. Putting out music on his own label (Rockathon) these days and just generally doing whatever the hell he damn well pleases. Pollard is a self-described boy with balls, as one of the lyrics from “I Love Kangaroos” on the new album points out. He’s not wrong.
A new record from GBV in addition to fresh efforts Yo La Tengo, Superchunk, and even The Breeders all being released in the last few months has really got me feeling like Dale Cooper in the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return. “What year is this?” Despite the seeming temporal displacement, as far as I know, it is indeed the year of our lord, two thousand and eighteen, and Space Gun is slated to be the group’s sole release of the year by all accounts.
The latest incarnation of the band features a mix of veterans, Doug Gillard and Kevin March along with newcomers Mark Shue and Bobby Bare Jr. It’s pretty obvious that lots of touring and the recording of a double album together has gelled them into an expert arena rock unit in a very short time. Fans looking to catch a contact buzz off the groups’ trademark lo-fi recording techniques and frayed song fragments will just have to be content to put on their well-worn copies of Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes instead, as Bob has put the 4 track in mothballs for this one. But really, it would be their loss, as this is a tightly focused effort that’s chock full of hooks, and features the most recent incarnation of the group firing on all cylinders, all recorded in glorious high fidelity. There’s the meaty Who meets Wire riffage of the title track, and the minor key melancholic beauty of “That’s Good.” “Colonel Paper” shows that Pollard hasn’t lost his knack for surreal word play, while “See My Field” will help satisfy those who might have a hankering for classic GBV melodies. On the darkly psychedelic “Blink Blank,” Pollard sings,
“At quests for new triumphs / We are the champs / With endless revisions / And typewriter cramps.”
They are lyrics that in some ways neatly sum up Pollard’s quest with Guided by Voices over the years. Odds are that Space Gun is far from the final chapter for the group or it’s fading captain. Isn’t it great that we all get to tag along for the ride?
For more evidence of the latest lineup’s live prowess, look no further than their new double live LP, Ogre’s Trumpet also available via Rockathon.
BUY Space Gun from Rockathon Records
Guided By Voices – Official Webspace