When Robert Pollard broke up Guided By Voices in 2004 it seemed an odd decision to make. The band had always been a revolving group of players based around him, and the logical thing to do (if he was bored with the current incarnation) was to find a new set of players as he had done in the past. Looking back it makes more sense, Guided By Voices created an expectation of the kind of record he needed to produce and he wanted a change from that.
Despite having a number of line-ups it is the band that loosely came together for Propeller, and would go on to record Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand, that would be seen as the classic line-up of the band. This line-up of Pollard alongside Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell reunited in 2010 and have since played a number of well received shows reviving the Guided By Voices brand.
Given the popularity of this version of the band, and Pollard’s relentless musical output, it was no real surprise to hear that the band were to release (at least) two albums in 2012. The first of these to be made available is Let’s Go Eat the Factory, a modest 21 song set of vintage Guided By Voices lo-fi pop brilliance.
What is immediately evident when listening to this album is that it is a classic Guided By Voices record. It doesn’t sound like Boston Spaceships or solo Robert Pollard it sounds like Guided By Voices. There are some developments in the 15 years since this line-up played together, most notably cleaner production and more keyboards, but from the ragged guitar intro of ‘Laundry and Lasers’ you know exactly where you are. These are songs from the garages of Dayton Ohio, played by a group of old colleagues who never grew out of wanting to play noisy poppy rock music.
The three songs selected as singles ‘Doughnut For A Snowman’, ‘The Unsinkable Fats Domino’ (the song here that sounds most like late-era GBV) and the forthcoming ‘Chocolate Boy’ are all examples of Pollard’s mastery of the short pop song. These can be added to the already long list of GBV songs that should have been hits, and reasons why he should be a household name rather than a cult icon.
The other key factor that makes this album a classic Guided By Voices record is the inclusion of six songs written and sung by Tobin Sprout. His more esoteric arrangements and plaintive vocals were the perfect counterpart to the Robert Pollard songs when I first discover Alien Lanes, and they achieve the same thing today. Pollard is at his best when he has another musical talent to work along side and Sprout’s contributions set against his give the album more texture and depth than if just Pollard had contributed tracks. The playing, although rougher than on late-era GBV records, is excellent and Pollard can clearly tailor his songwriting to the strengths of the band.
It is a very enjoyable album that is high in quality from start to finish and, in ‘How I Met My Mother’, it has one of the best song titles I’ve seen in years. I have mixed feelings about the nostalgia and cynical reasons behind most reunions, but if the end result is as good as this then it has to be worth it.
The album is released by Fire Records in January 2012 and is already staking a claim for the top 20 chart at the end of next year. I’m sad that I’ll not get to see the band play, as their ATP appearance has been cancelled, but I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of their recorded output in the coming year.
By Dorian Rogers
We have four copies of this album to give away on our Competitions page.