Guided by Beer

From FFWD Weekly, Robert Pollard’s favorite beers:

1. Tequila

2. Miller Lite

3. Bud Lite

4. Guinness

5. Michelob

Plus Uncle Bob has a “literary magazine” out now, entitled EAT, available at Rockathon Records — collages, “more than 30 pages worth of poetry,” and (this is gonna be great) “over 100 new band names.”


Wondering Boy Poet.

Here’s part of John Mulvey’s review of the new box set (their third!) from Guided By Voices, Hardcore UFOs, from The Wire:

At their best, they present meticulously crafted songs with all the spontaneity and never to be repeated excitement of improvised music…

Yet it would be wrong to see GBV’s music as an avant garde re-imagining of rock history. What propels their finest performances isn’t self-consciousness — [Robert] Pollard saves that for the freshman surrealism of his song titles — but an apparently naive, instinctual grasp of what some guys, some gear and electricity can create. Tellingly, the essays accompanying Hardcore UFOs don’t dwell on theory, or on Pollard’s peculiar compunction to call his every fragment of melody a song. Instead, the writers focus on bleary memories of bonding over old records, sport and inland oceans of American beer. GBV are just a bunch of Midwesterners hammering away in the garage, goes the subtext, and Pollard is a genius comfortable in the body of Everyman.

Surely it can’t be that straightforward. Siltbreeze label head Tom Lax’s tale of GBV playing a tiny Philadelphia gig in exchange for his copy of Amon Duul’s Yeti suggests Pollard has more esoteric tastes than most teachers in the Dayton area. And what of songtitles like Catfood On The Earwig”, “The Ascended Masters Grogshop”, ’14 Cheerleader Coldfront”? Their scrupulous eccentricity confirms Pollard as an only partially suppressed aficionado of Prog rock as well as psychedelic whimsy.

While there’s the “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll” camp — and if you’ve ever seen them live, there’s no question regarding that — I’m inclined to be among the “Surely it can’t be that straightforward” folks.

Check out the lyrics of “Wire Greyhounds,” for instance (from the 2002 album Universal Truths and Cycles:

My tongue that moves slow
A minute before the evil street
Breath woman captures a ghost
Blurring sweat heads eat noodlestuff

Sit up and beg

For slivers of language
That the night air might offer

Pin back your ears
And feed…

The man’s a poet.


Guided By Voices, 8/20/03, Bimbo's, SF.

For two and a half hours, Guided By Voices was the greatest rock and roll band on earth. Robert Pollard and the boys literally tore into the songs, barely giving the audience time to come down from the previous song’s high. (“It’s another busy day for the cut-out witch 1-2-3-4!”) The band was in particularly fine form, racing through chord changes on a dime, with Pollard doing his deadly sincere rockstar moves (the Mick Jagger pout, the mic cord twirls, and early on in the show when he was a little more sober, a couple of David Lee Roth high-kicks). (“This is arena rock… in a bar!”) By his sixth Miller Lite or so — you could tell because he would toss and spin ’em in the air and catch them before twisting off the cap — he was hollering, “If I’m outta beer, I’m outta here,” to which the audience obligingly responded by sending bottles of Bud to the front.

Most of the material was from the brand spankin’ new album Earthquake Glue, but that didn’t stop the jumping, dancing, flailing crowd from bobbing their heads along. And laughing too. Pollard at some point was staring at “his friend,” a cricket on the floor (I think it was a moth), which inspired a riff on Buddy Holly. (This wasn’t nearly as headshakingly absurd and hilarious as his comments that we were living “in paranoid times, boys and girls,” and that Saddam Hussein could be anywhere or look like anyone. “Saddam Hussein could look like Lou Reed. Saddam Hussein is Lou Reed.”)

The 30-minute encore — after 2 hours of nonstop playing plus a 5 minute break — was simply pure, crowd-frenzy joy. (It was after I found myself singing along with the diehards up front to the “For Chrissakes, Charlie” intro to “Skin Parade” that I realized what a GBV geek I’d become.) The band laid down the songs, one after the other: “Christian Animation Torch Carriers,” “Echos Myron,” “Glad Girls,” “Tractor Rape Chain,” “Teenage FBI,” “Hot Freaks,” “Everywhere with Helicopters,” “I Am A Scientist,” “Motor Away”… with the crowd up front yelling out the lyrics. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun at a concert in a while. (And to the woman in the middle near the front in the sleeveless black blouse and the cat’s-eye glasses, waving her arms in the air: thank you for being so enthusiastic. It was infectious.)

(This is turning out to be a great year for concerts for me: the Vetiver / Devendra Banhart / The Angels of Light concert at the Bottom of the Hill, the once-in-a-lifetime Current 93 concert at the Great American Music Hall, and now this…)


Uncle Bob Says…

On why I have no real blog entry today:

That’s why I love San Francisco. You’re irresponsible. You drink. You shirk work. How many of you have to go to work tomorrow? Shirk work. Fuck work! You tell your boss that Uncle Bob said “Fuck you!”

– liberally paraphrased from Robert Pollard at the Guided By Voices concert last night at Bimbo’s in SF


Best Albums I Heard in 2002

The best albums I heard in 2002:

  • Guided By Voices: Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)
  • Sonically, it’s leagues away from their lo-fi classic Bee Thousand; the production is wholly beefed up, and the usual song fragments now get the full Who treatment. But Robert Pollard’s amazing songwriting still shines through.

  • Diana Krall: Live in Paris (2002)
  • Her last two albums were profound disappointments — too much gloppy strings and not enough swing — as they relegated her piano-playing to the background. But on this live album, Krall acquits herself very nicely, with long, almost fiery solos, and on the DVD the groove within the band is crystal-clear.

  • Jacques Louissier Trio: Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2000)
  • I became obsessed with the Goldberg Variations (and Glenn Gould) over the past few years or so, and so it was a lovely surprise to hear jazz interpretations of the pieces. There is little room for the band to fling itself into the material, jazz-wise, as it conforms very strictly to the pieces’ original durations, so they make do extremely well with those time constraints — a bass solo here, a samba rhythm there.

  • Puffy: AmiYumi Jet Fever (2000)
  • The best pure pop rush of the year. I don’t know much about Puffy — do they write their own songs, even? — but if there was some pop candyland realm out there somewhere, Ami and Yumi would be the reigning queens. Makes my previous pop favorites, the Cardigans and Girlfrendo, seem indie-rock by comparison. Puffy cribs from a whole slew of different genres, and steals riffs from the Beatles, and puts them all together into a too-sweet power-pop lollipop. Or something like that.

  • Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996)
  • I got turned on to the Swans fairly late in my musical listening life, and it’s a wonder I wasn’t into them earlier. Soundtracks distills industrial clang, gothic death strum and nihilistic wallow into a sonically bleak and adventurous double album.