2018 is proving to be a pretty excellent year for the 1990s. The Breeders released All Nerve with the classic Last Splash line-up (easily my favourite album of the year so far), Yo La Tengo came back with their best since And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (a 2000 release, but recorded in 1999) and Superchunk sound younger than ever on What A Time To Be Alive.
So, it would be odd (given the band’s insane release schedule) if Guided By Voices didn’t have an album out this year as well, one that continues to celebrate the sound that Robert Pollard and his rotating support cast have been endorsing since Same Place The Fly Got Smashed first marked them out as a band to watch back in 1990. The album, Space Gun, is the third by the current line-up and might be the best thing he’s recorded under the GBV moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.
It opens with the title track, a song that has a real timeless quality and could have been on any GBV album in the last 30 years. It is pretty great and would sound amazing as the set-opener at a live show, sadly something we are unlikely to see in this country soon (if ever).
From there on in it is a flow of uncharacteristically consistent songs, there is little in the way of filler here and none of half-formed snippets that can frustrate the casual listener. The hit rate is high here and there are half a dozen potential singles scattered across the album’s 39 minute run time. The title track and ‘See My Field’ have already been released as singles but ‘Colonel Paper’, ‘Grey Spat Matters’, ‘Flight Advantage’, ‘Daily Get Ups’ and ‘I Love Kangaroos’ would all sound great on the 6 Music playlist (don’t hold your breath). Of these the latter is one of the most surprising songs, 3 minutes of soft guitar pop that remind me what a huge REM fan Robert Pollard was when he started the band.
I know the obstacles that this band presents to new listeners, dozens of albums and some fairly challenging listens amongst them. I’ve not reviewed one of their records for a few years, it seemed a rather fruitless exercise that was unlikely to tempt new listeners. Please Be Honest was a test to even the most ardent fan and August By Cake (despite being pretty brilliant) was sprawling and scattershot. How Do You Spell Heaven last year was much more focused and consistent, and Space Gun is perhaps the culmination of that journey back to “classic album” status.
This is a very listenable record by a band at the top of their powers, well worth less than 40 minutes of your time. Play loud.
By Dorian Rogers