Guided By Voices
Thirty years, two reunions and twenty-five albums in, Guided By Voices still have a raw hunger. Though their music has matured to a more contemplative and dense sound, they still bring a fury that makes their music feel intriguing and meaningful. Though they leave little breathing room in their record, it’s never without a powerful moment in any one song. If anything it only suffers from spreading its creativity into so many small chunks.
The roar of distortion and feedback creates a raw tension of on “Space Gun” giving a strange sort of spiritual energy to the band’s rush of melodies. This constant build of noise translates into the funk of “Colonel Paper,” which decidedly shifts its grooves into something more danceable. Across much of the album however is a real sense of momentum that propels each song forward with purpose. Even on short songs like “King Flute” this meaning makes the song feel like an important part of the album’s overall voice.
Though the more rustic tones of “Ark Technician” may feel less direct at first, Guided By Voices layer them with enough hooks and dynamic moments to make it all tie together. They bring a more worrying emotion to the bass of “See My Field” as their heavy walls of sound create an oppressive but still invigorating hit of harmony. As long as “Liar’s Box” holds its discordant notes up, every time it releases them is utter bliss. While they do occasionally push their harsh noises a little too far, it never takes away from the soul of their songs.
“Blink Blank” really captures the first truly spacey moods of the whole album, as their exotic riffs and chorus effects create a dark cloud over the track. Guided By Voices time-tested mastery of melodies really elevates each song here as well, giving interludes a sharp punch and even a tiresome fourth chorus something new to say. With “Daily Get Ups” they use this in heaping handfuls to deliver a wallop of listen that continuously ramps up the energy. “Hudson Rake” however leans into its more emotive hits of feedback to tell a story, as the more familiar writing lets them say something new.
There’s an interesting kind of channel-surfing energy to “Sport Component National” that seamlessly switches between parts that do at their core feel completely different. As jarring as it can be at times, the song powerfully does in barely three minutes what something like “Jesus of Suburbia” took nine minutes to do. “I Love Kangaroo” bounces in its lighthearted folk however, creating a 90’s sense of nostalgia and whimsy in its lovely chords and poetry. There’s something all too familiar about “Grey Spat Matters” that is just noticeably predictable, but doesn’t hurt the song as a piece of the album’s whole.
“That’s Good” slow-burns the waves of sonic fury more than most of the album, and creates a real emotional need for its satisfying string-laden finale. The clashing warmth and darkness on “Flight Advantage” gives the song a constantly engaging contrast, that keeps its never-ending barrage of rhythm from getting too tiring. “Evolution Circus” closes the album on a combusting fireball of a track, that lets loose with so many riffs and drum fills you’ll be dancing too much to realize the album is already over.
Words by Owen Maxwell