Guided By Voices
Review by John Keegan
The current, classic lineup based GBV are not in denial of this fact. They look like they have been hanging out with you in local rock dives almost since you can remember. They’re not pulling out the Grecian formula. They wear what they want to wear. Some are trim. It doesn’t take long for bassist Greg Demos to work up a grin and put some sweat into pummeling the front row. Mitch Mitchel keeps the low key cool. He scowls, occasionally cracks a Cheshire smile and has a great cranky tone. He hits a windmill now and again and fires up another butt.
Some guy gripes that Pollard should have quit while he was ahead. What are aging rockers and their audience to do? Begrudge the musician for continuing to make music – and a living? Assume that a prime has been reached and that decay is the only available trajectory. What does that say about the audience? Tools? Also past prime and on the decline? What happens to the artists’ past? Does it evolve or dissolve? Does it wear an Ouroboros medallion? Does it produce air or lead ballast?
Pollard is prolific. GBV has put out at least three discs in the past 18 months. The band played forty plus tunes. Most are under two minutes. They play the obligatory and deserving hits. They cut a wide and deep swath through the catalog. The new tunes show that the mine has deep veins. The riffs are straight forward. The lyrics often more so than the titles imply. Solos are short and on point. Tobin Sprout, stage right, pinch hits on a few vocals. On guitar he starts clean toned sentences that Mitchel finishes. Mitchel barks out a terse reply and Tobin punctuates it. Nothing fancy but the interplay sounds great. A pinch of Kinks, a dash of Bowie, a tablespoon of Who into Pollard and the boy’s blender and out comes a crisp and nutritious GBV.
Mid-set, Pollard tells the audience that you can’t really rock unless you’re old. How did we get here? When will science discover the fabled lost decade? Is there an inverse relationship between age and loving music? Does time change the compact between artist and audience? Does it change the reasons we go to shows? Tonight, when the music reaches through you and turns your inside out, will it feel qualitatively different than it did some night, some band, some show, somewhere, some time ago? Pollard tells the kids to keep practicing. And, as everyone knows, practice makes…