It’s a trite image by now: the teenagers jamming in their parent’s garage or basement with cases of beer being emptied as feedback squalls out of second-hand amps. Maybe it’s a little sad too because we know it won’t last long; day-jobs will loom, hair will be cut short and instruments will be sold or put in storage to collect dust, never to be played again. If you haven’t ‘made it’ by 25, it would be wise to hang it up. Get a day-job and start contributing towards an RRSP. Living-for-the-moment eventually gives way to thinking about the future. As the saying goes, don’t quit your day-job.
For a moment, suppose you didn’t take that advice and you happened to be a thirty-two-year-old family man and school-teacher from Dayton, Ohio named Robert Pollard? Too good to be true? See those old dudes at the back of the club drinking bottles of bud? Now see them climb the stage as the crowd shifts their feet, unsure as they realised that they’re not roadies, they’re the band and when they start up, it’s pure rock and roll. Meet Guided By Voices, your new favourite band.
While slogging through the club circuit of Ohio and environs, GBV’s first albums were heavily influenced by REM but as the 90’s picked up speed, so did Pollard’s song-writing. He began finding a voice all his own and his unmistakable style soon solidified: two-minute low-fi anthems that were all hooks, full of the playful almost free-association lyrics that Pollard may have stolen from the kids he used to teach. In 1994, their gigging and journeyman efforts paid off and they released ‘Bee Thousand’, the band’s triumphant statement and arguably their ‘Sgt. Pepper’. It was met with shock, surprise and most importantly: excitement. People not only got it but they loved it and wanted more. It vindicated the band and made every dissenting voice sound like so much amp static.
Album after album came, including ‘Under The Bushes, Under The Stars’, ‘Mag Earwhig’, ‘Alien Lanes’, and ‘Do The Collapse’ until all the way up to 2004, when after a multitude of line-up changes, Pollard retired the band-name. He continued to release work under his birth name at the average of two albums a year and never slowed down his creative output. Flash forward to 2012 and he’s back, having reunited the ‘classic-era’ GBV line-up from the mid-90’s and releasing the all-original ‘Let’s Go Eat The Factory’ and it finds the rock and roll uncles in fine form. This is a story of the good guys winning by playing by their own rules; no soul-selling, no bargaining with record execs, just straight-up and honest rock and roll. Do yourself a favour and listen to Guided By Voices, your new favourite band. The next time someone tells you: ‘Don’t quit your day-job’… you know what to do.
SOUNDS LIKE: The Beatles, The Who, Cheap Trick, REM.
NOTABLE ALBUMS: Bee Thousand (1994), Under The Bushes, Under The Stars (1996), Mag Earwhig! (1997), Isolation Drills (2001), Earthquake Glue (2004)
KEY TRACKS: I Am A Scientist, Game Of Pricks, Man Called Aerodynamics, Not Behind The Fighter-Jet, Motor Away, The Unsinkable Fats Domino
Written for CAVE by Oliver Sullivan