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Dissected: Guided by Voices

Sixteen albums later...

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    dissected logo Dissected: Guided by VoicesWelcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Robert Pollard’s Ohio outfit.

    I love the Foo Fighters’ latest album, Wasting Light. It was in my Top Ten for 2011, and it’s the band’s strongest effort in at least a decade. Around the time of its release, however, there was a lot of talk about how it was recorded on tape to give it this “rawer feel.” Well, as great as it turned out, it’s about as raw as a well-done steak. Truth be told, the sound and style they chalked up already hails from a select few garages in Dayton, Ohio; though rather than look up any flights (or count bus fare), one only needs to shimmy through the aisles of their local record store and thumb over to G, specifically Guided by Voices.

    We’re a couple of years into the band’s latest reunion, and yet it still feels so good. Not only has Robert Pollard and the “classic” lineup dazzled festivals two times over by now, but they’ve also issued two new albums in this year alone: January’s Let’s Go Eat the Factory and this week’s Class Clown Spots a UFO. In light of all this, Len Comaratta and I decided to revisit the group’s exhausting back catalog, soaking up hours of fuzz and poring over dozens of minute-long tracks.

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    So, let’s “Motor Away” on our “Hardcore UFO’s” as we rally on the “Tractor Rape Chain” and, oh, did I mention they have some truly random song titles?

    – Justin Gerber
    Senior Staff Writer

     *Fan club album Tonics & Twisted Chasers will not be featured here, so hold your tongues!

    Devil Between My Toes (1987)

    guiddbyvoicesdevilbwmytoes e1339524972741 Dissected: Guided by Voices

    Hot Freaks (Band Lineup): Robert Pollard, Mitch Mitchell, and Kevin Fennell

    Others on album: Tobin Sprout, Payton Eric, Jim Pollard, and Steve Wilbur (who engineered the album and used his studio to record the album)

    Number of Songs: 14

    Long as the Block Is Black (a.k.a. songs longer than 3 minutes): One, and it’s epic as far as GBV goes. “A Portrait Destroyed by Fire” clocks in at just over five minutes!

    Avg. Length of Song: 2:13

    Number of Instrumentals: Five

    Number of Songs NOT Written Entirely by Robert Pollard: Five, with four of them co-written with Pollard’s brother, Jim (“A Proud and Booming Industry”, “Bread Alone”, “3 Year Old Man”, and “Crux”).

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    Guided by Sprout or Gillard?: Sprout. Let’s face it. If there is a choice to be had this early in the game, it’s gonna be Sprout… at least until 1998, when Gillard joined up!

    The Part in That Song That Makes You Want to Rule the World: The entirety of album closer “Captain’s Dead”.  After hearing the jangle pop sounds of R.E.M. throughout the album, finally here is a hint at what’s to come.

    Verdict: Easily the “cleanest”-sounding album with little to none of the lo-fi aesthetic found on later releases and certainly nothing like what GBV would go on to sound like by the time of the “Classic Lineup”. Not since their debut EP, Forever Since Breakfast, has GBV sounded so much like R.E.M. – Chronic Town/Murmur era specifically. “Old Battery” and “Discussing Wallace Chambers” channel Peter Buck’s jangly rhythms, and “Hey Hey Spaceman” has the feel of a poppified “Driver 8” (with far more whimsy). -Len Comaratta

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    Sandbox (1987)

    guidedbyvoicessandbox e1339525226568 Dissected: Guided by Voices

    Hot Freaks: Robert Pollard, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell, and Jim Pollard (Robert’s brother gets full-on band credit!)

    Number of Songs: 12

    Long as the Block Is Black: 2. “Barricade” and “Get to Know the Ropes”

    Avg. Length of Song: 2:16

    Number of Songs NOT Written Entirely by Robert Pollard: Four, two of which (“Common Rebels” and “Lips of Steel”) were written by the entire band.

    Guided by Sprout or Gillard?: Sprout. Despite not playing or even having a production credit, he is mentioned in the “Additional Thanks” section of the album liner notes.

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    The Part in That Song That Makes You Want to Rule the World: Pollard channeling The Beatles when the band sings the titular line “He’s a long distance man” with beautiful vocal harmony.

    Verdict: The harder guitar sounds are evident from the get-go and do little to help Pollard’s lyrics, and many, including Pollard himself, dislike this album when put up against the remainder of the band’s catalog; but taken on its own, it is a pretty decent early album from a band still trying to find their sound. The R.E.M. sound makes a reappearance on “Can’t Stop”. -Len Comaratta

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