Imagine it’s the mid 70s in Ohio and you’re down in your parent’s basement. Or upstairs in your Greg Brady-esque, beaded-curtain attic loft.
In either case, there’s shag carpet everywhere (even on the walls), probably a (pre-ironic) lava lamp, some faux black velvet posters featuring day-glow images that pop under the black light (which is the sole source of incandescence), and a record player in the corner. Classic rock gatefold albums are stacked on the bumper-pool table, and you and your friends are listening to The Who. Doesn’t matter which LP—Live at Leeds, Tommy, Who Are You?
Then you put on a Big Star album as a bong emerges from under a scratchy plaid wool love seat, prompting someone to say, “We could do this. We should form a band!”
For most of us, this sounds like the plot of a lost episode of That 70s Show. But for Bob Pollard and the members of Guided By Voices, it’s their life. They hopped in their Trans-Ams, brought back some rudimentary home recording equipment, went into the garage and channeled British Invasion and 70s anthem rock riffs until their hearts were content.
Thing is, they didn’t do it right away in the 70s; they waited until the 90s to get started!
And we’ve loved these odd, quirky, low-fi, DIY, power-popping old bastards ever since. From the first time we heard Bee Thousand until seeing them live in support of 2001’s (more professionally produced) Isolation Drills, we dug them every weird step of the way, giggling with pure innocent rock joy every time Pollard swings his mic like Roger Daltry, high-kicks like Pete Townshend, and bunny hops like Paul Weller, all while chugging [h]is 19th “Bud Heavy” and screaming “I’m 44 fuckin’ years old and still doing it!”
That was ten years ago. After breaking up in 2004, we’ve been left with periodic solo releases from Pollard that put something in the empty tank, but it sure hasn’t been jet fuel.
And now, after a tour of the band’s “classic lineup” (Pollard is the only consistent member over time) last year that included several major music festivals, GBV is back with its first new album since 2004’s Half Smiles of the Decomposed.
The new disc, Let’s Go Eat the Factory, is available on iTunes today and in stores tomorrow, and picks up where the band leaves off. It could be 2001, 1994 or 1968—at their most obtuse, the band still sounds like they’re opening for Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd. At their most hook-laden and straightforward, they sound like they’re opening for Cheap Trick at Budokan. In the latter vein are catchy sing-alongs like “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” “Chocolate Boy” and “Doughnuts for a Snowman.” These are songs to fist-pump to. Songs to high-kick to. Songs to bunny-hop to. These are songs to grow old to, even as you’re busy staying young…
Clearly, their love of peculiar song titles continues (we all remember such gems as “Tractor Rape Chain”), as does their inability to edit out half-formed first takes of tripped-out song snippets. And yes, the album has ridiculously low production values. But it wouldn’t be a GBV record otherwise.
So watch out indie rock scene, GBV is back—older but not wiser; timeless but still immature. They’ve been unfrozen from a prior rock-n-roll age to unleash “Human Amusements at Hourly Rates” (except on Factory, even an hour is too long—the disc contains 20 songs and clocks in at under 40 minutes). So Let’s Go Eat the Factory together… I’ll meet you in your parents’ basement!