Yes, there is a new Guided By Voices record, Let’s Go Eat the Factory. How is it? It’s pretty good! Sounds more like the records PRECEEDING Alien Lanes than the ones after. Especially great are the Tobin Sprout songs (and there are a good number of them). I could wax on further, but there are good reviews out there….
But instead, let’s talk about some other Pollard-related music that may be flying a bit under the popular radar. First up is/was the final Boston Spaceships album from last year : Let It Beard. Here is Pollard’s most fully realized rock project; careening, dense and VERY well-produced. Lotta R+O+C+K here for sure. Many superstars join in on this last blast of full-band proto-prog, but the best is J Mascis who rips out some old-school 90’s guitar shredding on “Tourist Ufo“. “Christmas Girl” has the best power-pop horn arrangement I’ve heard recently and songs like “Make a Record for Lo-fi” reaffirm that Pollard works best with spirited collaborators that can help flesh out songs to the point of finally sounding fully realized. *
Speaking of worthy collaborators: also released (with no fanfare) towards the end of last year was the 9th Circus Devils album, Capsized! Circus Devils are Pollard and the Tobias brother and you should know these records are weird. Not good weird but great weird. Most Circus Devils albums are fairly unclassifiable, so I won’t try here. Capsized! does have a high percentage of creepy Twin-Peaks era piano driven tracks (“End of Swell”, “Safe as Vegetable”) as well as more straight ahead rock tracks. (Though they have titles like “Cyclopean Runway” and “Leave the Knife Curtis“.) Wacky is not usually a condition I enjoy (at least repeatedly) in music, but if your song is called “Gables Ear Wax”, you sorta know what you’re in for …
At this point in the game I’d rather be surprised, and that’s one of the best aural benefits of a (any) Circus Devils album, they exist more in the experimental zone of the Faded Captain Series.
And finally to my point about the new GBV record: I’m happy they are together, (and I’ve read they actually have their next record done already), but for the last few years I’ve grown very accustomed to listening to WEIRD, EXPERIMENTAL Pollard. It’s a strange juice, no doubt, but one that I’ve found has many rewards through continued listens. Like the man himself says “You can never be strong, you can only be free“. Well, I hope Guided By Voices keeps it going (if it’s good) because they are a strong musical force. But I also hope that Bob Pollard stays free; free to make weird Circus Devils albums, and other recording entities that will hopefully confound and confuse.
* (If you care to hear how these songs sound un-fully realized, you can download (for free) the whole Let It Beard album in boombox form over at GBV Digital.)