Motivational Jumpsuit is the first Guided By Voices album since “drumgate” and as such slightly less of a classic line-up album than their previous post-reunion releases. Changes on the drum stool aside this is an album that continues the general style of the last four releases and may well be the strongest of the bunch.
At first I struggled with the album, it seemed very straight and focused but lacking in anything to really grab my attention. Coming back to it a few weeks later my response couldn’t have been more different. To start with the album opens with ‘The Littlest League Possible’ a perfect 80 seconds of psyche-punk-pop reflecting on being a cult musical concern. It is followed by ‘Until Next Time’ which proves to be one of those proper lo-fi low off-key gems that could be on pretty much any GBV album since the band started.
Importantly, because it indicates a confidence in Pollard’s writing, this album has a couple of bona fide classic singles. ‘Vote For Me Dummy’ may be the albums key track and sounds like a lost recording from the ‘Earthquake Glue’ album. (It is the common wisdom that the original “classic line-up” albums are where to go when listening to GBV and that things went downhill after that line-up split. I tend to disagree. Sure Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are brilliant but I love Mag Earwig, Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue almost as much. I’d take them over the last classic line-up album, Under The Bushes Under the Stars, any day of the week.)
The other great pop single on the album is ‘Planet Score and even has a video starring Breaking Bad’s Matt L. Jones. This song is one of those alternative reality chart hits that makes me wish I had control of the Radio 1 playlist.
Tobin Sprout also has a lot to offer, he has fully settled back into his role on these albums, playing Colin Moulding to Pollard’s Andy Partridge. The wistful 60s influenced ‘Jupiter Spin’ alone makes his contribution worthwhile. His songs add a balance to Pollard’s tracks and that is one good reason why this line-up of the band works so well.
Even as a committed fan I sometimes struggle to keep up with, and process, Pollard’s frenetic output. There are likely to be more GBV albums coming this year and keeping up is my problem and not theirs. If the next album is as engaging and fresh as this one then bring it on.
By Dorian Rogers