Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guided By Voices - Under the Bushes Under the Stars (1996)

Revisiting the Lo-Fi Indie Rock Band's prolific first studio Album

If any group in the world has attention deficit disorder, it's got to be the Dayton, Ohio based Lo-Fi Indie Rock band - Guided By Voices (GBV). For they discover a great melody, play with it for a minute or two, then toss it aside and find a new one. Maybe main songwriter Robert Pollard gets bored easily. Or maybe he is always trying to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the man who has written the most songs. 

Either way, the 24 tracks on their ninth album (and their first real studio album) released in 1996 - Under the Bushes Under the Stars did keep Guided By Voices in place as the kings of the two-minute pop masterpiece. Guided By Voices meld the quirky with the familiar on this release, as the band take classic pop melodies and hide them inside discordant guitars, fuzzy drum sounds, and fragmented arrangements.

"Rhine Jive Click" is driven by a simple guitar-and-cowbell rhythm, with drums being added only during the refrain. Tripp Lamkins of the Grifters joins the band on "The Official Ironmen Rally Song," but the song is one of GBV's simplest and catchiest tunes. The Grifters' guitar noise only shows up during a brief solo. "No Sky" is a classic GBV two-minute power-pop offering, as Pollard repeats "Could you keep a secret from me?" On "Bright Paper Werewolves," Pollard drops the line "Anyone can scratch/ and anyone can win" with a voice that oozes sincerity. GBV cuts loose on "Your Name is Wild" and "Ghosts of a Different Dream," letting the guitars breathe a little bit as they tear through these rollicking rockers. "Look at Them" dabbles in psychedelia until a crunching guitar pops up in the chorus, while "Atom Eyes" could've been written by R.E.M. around the time of Reckoning with its Byrds-like guitar work and sing-along chorus. 

Under the Bushes Under the Stars contains some of the oddest song titles you'll ever hear ("Man Called Aerodynamics," "Redmen and Their Wives," "Lord of Overstock," and "To Remake the Young Flyer" to name a few). The songs bearing these unique monikers have lyrics that are just as intriguing, with Pollard spewing out lines in his casual pseudo-British voice. Interestingly, many of Pollard's lyrics and song titles have been cited to have come directly from his fourteen years of experience as an elementary school teacher. Believe it or not, the guy was 40 years old when this album was released. And he still fronts the band besides a successful solo career. So much for the notion that indie rock is a young man's game. If you have been a occasional GBV listener, this is a good album to start with.


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