No Where To Go But Up
Guided By Voices
“An eternity in the fraternity of long distance men,” Robert Pollard sings on his new album, Nowhere To Go But Up, yet another album from the indie rock n roll geysers, Guided By Voices. And he is certainly a “long distance man,” with 39 albums released so far: three, just this year. The latest album is a bit of a step into the full-bodied, high-fi world, and you can tell, even from the first track, that the stakes are higher than ever for Pollard’s fount of ever-blessing.
The album starts with the song, “The Race Is On, The King Is Dead,” and it is not the only song that deals with royalty, something rock n roll nobility, like Pollard, knows something about. As artists get older, they begin to deal with their mortality, and it begs the question, who’s gonna take up the mantle, (fill his giant-sized shoes,) when he sheds this mortal coil? But really, the album doesn’t deal so much with mortality, as with running flashing red lights and underrated horses. His lyrics, as ever, are puzzly and absurd and satisfying.
“Hard hats, high up / high hats, hard up,” he sings with tongue twisting nursery rhyme glee, on a song which talks about “dream fingers… / smudging the blue prints.” There is a sense for the bumbling nature of humanity, like the song “We’re Going The Wrong Way In,” or the song which talks about meeting other “long distance men,” like Leonardo DaVinci, (“And we just smiled / face to face / with nothing great to say… / I’ve seen your Mona Lisa,”) which ends with someone knocking down all of the props on the backstage table.
He knows something about backstage and all of the behind the scenes that go into putting on a good show, (nothing to speak of the hours he puts into just writing the songs,) and one of the ways I found myself testing these new songs is imagining how the songs would play in a live show. And Robert Pollard’s songs always seem to pass that test. Highlights of the album include “How Did He Get Up There” with its stop rhythm electric guitar, “Stabbing At Fractions” with its four on the floor beat, and “Cruel Rats” with its Pollard rock n roll howl.
It’s always a wonder, to listen to a new Guided By Voices record, and the latest record, with it’s beautiful production (a bit of a departure from his lo-fi output) makes this one of my favorite listens to his recorded music. His wonderful songs are getting the treatment that they deserve and his band sounds just great. Best listened with lyrics, if you can get ahold of them somehow. This album, out on Friday, is a treat from an artist who approaches art like a marathon runner, fit with plenty of satisfying three minute sprints.
Pre-order No Where To Go But Up by Guided By Voices HERE
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