As a prettttty big Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard fan – I mean, I did name a certain musical project after a song of theirs – how could I not love Connections? The also-Ohioians (Ohians? Ohiniks?) made a pretty solid album called Body Language a couple months ago but I’m only hearing it now. If a certain record company of theirs wanted to send me a zip…well…I’d definitely enjoy it…wink wink nudge nudge…
I fell in love with The Brian Jonestown Massacre after seeing DiG when I was 15. I know that BJM frontman Anton Newcombe didn’t appreciate his portrayal in the film, but to me, the band I saw in that film was so incredible because it was almost as if all they had was their love of 60′s music and their conviction that they could make music just as good for their time. And that went a long way. I immediately went out and bought Their Satanic Majesty’s Second Request - that was a great album. I downloaded the rest of their discography and loved most of it – there were a couple albums I wasn’t that excited about – namely the newer ones, as much as I hate to say it. The BJM were a great band in the 90′s, partly because they were so out of time and place – there was nothing ’90′s’ about their music after Methodrone. By 2003′s And This Is Our Music they kind of consolidated their sound and they lost that great ‘fandom’ energy that made them so exciting up to that point, as they jumped from exploring one sound to another with each new album – all the time, still sounding so essentially like themselves. I stopped listening to them for a while, only returning after hearing them at a trashy hipster bar in Brooklyn in 2010 and remembering how great a band they were, especially if you listened to them in the right context. When I found out they were coming to Tel Aviv, I was psyched to have a chance to finally see them live after listening to them for so many years. I managed to get a guestlist spot to cover the show, and so here are my impressions of the BJM in 2012.
The lineup I saw included many of the key players from the band I fell in love with in DiG, such as Matt Valentine and Joel Gion. They all actually look pretty much the same, despite the fact the band I saw in that movie was really at least 10 years younger than the one I saw on Wednesday. Unfortunately though, it’s not quite the same band. These weren’t the young fuck-ups in an up-and-coming band with a hopeful future ahead of them and the world at their feet from the movie – these were musicians. Perhaps they were playing the music they knew and loved - indeed, much of the set was from their classic 90′s output – and perhaps they were having a great time doing so. But that ‘youth element’, that unpredictability they were so renown for, was nowhere to be seen.
Musically they sounded professional – not astoundingly tight, not loosey-goosey – but professional, able. They played the songs; they sounded like they did on record. Ironically, there may have been a lot of audience members in the 90′s who wondered why this band couldn’t put their shit aside and just play a fucking concert, but here they were doing just that with no problems and at all…and it just didn’t feel special. And with a band like the BJM it is all about the feeling. The BJM isn’t Radiohead - they’re not a band whose songs in and of themselves are really all that mindblowing – nor are they Led Zeppelin or some band known for being really tight and technically impressive. What made them so great in the first place was the feeling that they had and could infect their listeners with. And you can still hear that feeling on their 90′s records, but in 2012, it’s just not there anymore. Most likely this is something they can’t be blamed for – they’ve gotten older and they’re just not that young and exciting anymore.
I believe that there’s going to be a time when The Brian Jonestown Massacre are really, really cool again and we’re going to re-love them like we do Guided By Voices – but I don’t think we’re there yet. My advice to the band from this perspective would be: lay low for a bit and then come back and play a bunch of reunion shows that makes everybody piss their pants, just like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine did and continue to do. But that being said, at least in Tel Aviv, there’s plenty of demand for them right now – indeed, the show was pretty full – and maybe the bandmembers need the cash.
In the 90′s you probably heard this all the time if you were an indie rock fan. Well, we might be hearing it a lot now again with GBV reunited and showing the signs of steady album releasage. This new track off the upcoming album Class Clown Spots A UFO (comes out in June) sounds pretty much like most of the friendly, endlessly-enjoyable rock/pop Pollard dishes out at a retardedly fast pace with perhaps a bit of the sensitivity and light-sounding-ness that he’s been favouring of late. Admittedly, Let’s Go Eat The Factory wasn’t all that great despite some cool tunes (not an uncommon occurrence with Pollard albums) so it’s hard to say how good this new long player is going to be, but at least things are off to a good start, we’ll see what comes next. Could be great, could be not, could be anything with Pollard.
The new Guided By Voices album, the very Pollardian-ly titled Let’s Go Eat The Factory, is, like every album Pollard has seemingly ever put out, another solid collection of songs. Some are better. Some are worse. Take it as it comes. Despite the fact this marks the long awaited return of the classic 90′s lo-fi rockers – and the first with the “classic” lineup in quite some time – in Pollard’s discography it is not significant. It does not mark a return to form – Pollard’s been back in fine form for a couple years now – nor does it mark a new chapter in it as albums like Bee Thousand and Isolation Drills did. It really only differs from recent Pollard solo and Boston Spaceships releases in the name it is being released under, the lineup it was recorded with, and a minor emphasis on more collage-esque album assembly – maybe not even, considering that was sort of the deal with last year’s Space City Kicks.
But anyway. It’s got some great songs like “Doughtnut For A Snowman” and “Waves”. It’s nice to hear Tobin Sprout in the fold again. So whatevs. Fellow Pollard fans: you know the deal.
p.s. Can someone explain the album cover to me? I like…don’t get it…
What did you think of the album? Let me know in the comments section or over Facebook or Twitter.
This is super late, I usually post these a couple days after the month ends but I wanted to give my Loveless Mix some time to be seen in the little “Mix” box. Whatevs – these are some of my favourite BIG HITS of October. The yuge mix of weird shit, shoegaze, pop, indie-rock.
Shit, I haven’t really been posting much music by new unknown bands lately, but I’ve just been really busy and haven’t heard anything that’s made me all that excited. However, I am excited about the new Guided By Voices album coming out on January 1st, Let’s Go Eat The Factory. The first single dropped today on the internets and it’s pretty cool. It’ll be out on a 7″ with B-side “We Won’t Apologize” on November 22nd.
Firstly – this is what you expect, and what you want. It’s short, it’s catchy, it lyrics probably mean nothing, and it fucking rocks. I want like 13 more of these, yes please (20 is too many though, seriously). Is the song actually an ode to the legendary “Blueberry Hill” rocker? I doubt it. Pollard probably just thought his name sounded funny.
It would appear that Robert Pollard‘s second act rennaisance is continuing in full-swing with no signs of stopping. And this is coming from someone who was 6 the last time the “classic lineup” was in action.
What did you think of the song? What do you think the album will be like? Let me know in the comments section or over Facebook or Twitter.
If you’ve never heard of Big City Nights (though you should have, because Gold Soundzposted a song of theirs a while ago…and that’s all it should take…harrumph…), they’re this cool lo-fi band from a Toronto suburb (or something) called Brampton. Gold Soundz guest contributor Paula JP interviewed singer/guitarist Danny Lindsay, see below.
Years ago, Dan was my contact when I went to audition for one of the bands he was in. After I nervously sang scales all day warming up my voice, I met him only to learn he was kicked out of the band the night before. So instead of me auditioning, we spent the day jamming and talking about music. Since then, Dan has given me every new release he makes.
When I walked into Dan’s room to conduct this interview, I saw a poster of guitar chords, a futon, CDs scattered everywhere, instruments resting against his computer, and lyrics scribbled on the walls’ chipping paint.
“[Sometimes] I’m out of paper and I don’t want to forget a line,” he explained.
P: You’ve made 8 albums now with so many different songs: which is your favourite so far?
D: My favourite would be a tie between “Ever Say Ever” and “Beach Music”. If I had to pick I’d take “Beach Music”. It’s just such a happy song.
P: What initially drew you to play guitar and how long have you been playing?
D: I started playing in grade 7. I was a Kurt Cobain kid. I had a different Nirvana T-shirt for each day of the week. I wanted to learn every Nirvana song. All the guys on my street had guitars and I begged my parents to get me one but they refused because they thought I wouldn’t play it. It took months to convince them that I was serious, but finally my Mom got me a $100 Harmony (piece of shit) because I had a Penny Saver route that paid $5 a week. She probably realized I was never going to get a guitar getting paid that kind of money.
P: You’ve hit the road many times, hitchhiked across Canada; has the road been an influence on your writing?
D: The hitchhiking didn’t influence the songs in any huge way, but travelling and songwriting/recording both feel like methods of escape for me. Both get me out of my worried thoughts for a while.
P: You busk for the joy of taking your music outside…and when you find yourself in
a bind and need to eat. How generous are people and what is the best/worst response you’ve gotten to your music?
D: Some people are remarkably generous. On Commercial Drive in Vancouver in 2007 a woman gave me five cheese sandwiches (I was busking to get money for food so the sandwiches were perfect). The best response I’ve gotten was some guy screaming “I LOVE that song!” after I played a song, worst response was some woman walking by who yelled “That’s just TERRIBLE!”
P: Your lyrics are often convoluted (“Lost Polaroids”: “Said give me sweater September isbetter”) but you have straight forward song names (“Leave your man”). Are you leaving breadcrumb trail messages for people to decode something of personal significance?
D: Not deliberately, no. I do spend a fair amount of time on the words because it’s hard to write about the usual stuff like life and love without singing clichés.
P: What inspires you most at a live show (as an audience member and as the one in the lime light)
D: As an audience member, I love seeing the band enjoy themselves. I get really offended if a band acts entitled to your attention. Even good bands have to earn it, every single time they are on stage. I love it when bands love to play. On stage I love looking over at the other guys and seeing them really into it. It makes me feel like I’m part of a single organism.
P: “Make Up Your Mind” or “Feel It”, these minute(-ish) songs sound like you goofing off with your buddies, any reason you chose to include them on the album?
D: I always wanted this band to be a song dump for every idea I have, for better or worse. I like going back and seeing what kind of songs I was writing at a given time and what I was singing about. Admittedly this can result in some quality control issues (“Make Up Your Mind” is really fucking annoying and “Feel It” is even worse) but I don’t have enough fans to worry about alienating them or anything.
P: If you could have a private music lesson with any musician who would it be, on what instrument and why?
D: I would take a singing lesson from Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. He sings like a more optimistic John Lennon and he always sounds like there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
P: You told me you had writers block not too long ago, and then you came out with some pretty sweet songs. So how did ‘Stella get her groove back?’
D: I discovered a few bands I hadn’t heard like The Fresh and Onlys and New Radiant Storm King. Hearing stuff I haven’t heard before always helps me write better songs because it gets me excited.
P: Plan to dabble on any more foreign instruments?
D: I want to get better at drums and then relearn trombone (I played it in Grades 7 and 8). That’s about it for now. Definitely no sitar. I fucking hate the sound of that instrument.
P: Quite simply, what is your musical goal?
D: To be able to make a living playing music. Waking up on a Monday morning at 8 am, making coffee and then sitting down with a guitar to write songs sounds like heaven on earth to me.
P: What can we expect in your future recordings?
D: I’m trying to get away from using typical chords and song structures. I’m trying to use jazzier, uglier chords and still make things sound pretty. More major keys too. I’m working on a new Big City Nights record at the moment and there are some pretty weird songs on it. I’m excited.
Big City Nights‘ entire discography is available for free off their bandcamp. They’ll be playing Tiger Bar Groove in Toronto on Feb 24th with Persian Rugs, New Teeth, Sleepy Mean, and Gnar Tooth Shotgun Habit.
Last year I fell in love with the music of Robert Pollard.
I’ve known about Guided By Voices for a long time. At least since I was 15 or something and asked my guitar teacher to bring me some of their albums after seeing the name online. I liked Aliens Lanes and Mag Earwhig! (not Bee Thousand though, which for some reason I always thought was overrated), but it wasn’t until the Boston Spaceships album The Planets Are Blasted that I started to really go nuts for this guy.
The Planets Are Blasted was the clincher because, unlike those cherished mid-90s GBV albums, it was (by Pollard’s standards) a lean 14 tracks long. Even if each song was like 1-minute long, the classic GBV albums are like 30 songs long and I just would always lose patience with them. I also liked how with The Boston Spaceships (and even later GBV work that at the time I hadn’t heard) the songs were actually fleshed out rather than just tossed off bits of genius.
The more I listened to Planets, the more I started to get why people worship Robert Pollard.
It’s because he is the Superman of songwriting.
Though Pollard’s songs don’t (appear to) have any kind of deeper meaning and he’s not Bob Dylan writing stunning metaphoric imagery, or Lou Reed capturing the existential angst of city life, his grasp on hook craft and the abandon with which he rocks out may be unparalleled in all of rock music. When Pollard sits down to write a song, he never gets bogged down in any pretensions: he knows what he wants and what he wants are smashing rock hooks.
Song after song, Pollard’s verses are strong and melodic, but cut quickly to the chorus where he always seems effortlessly able to create incredible momentum and climax, often by repeating the same phrase over killer changes that manage to ‘lift’ it higher and higher. Sure, whatever, a lot of songwriters can write a solid chorus, but the sheer consistency with which Pollard can pump them out is astounding. It’s like he simply has the formula down for busting out pop songs. Or maybe he’s like that guy in Sandman who is driven mad by inspiration, except Pollard actually will turn all that inspiration into killer songs.
Like many 90s indie rockers, his lyrics seem chosen for their sound rather than their meaning, but Pollard just has this kind of earth shattering conviction noone else has. Even when he’s singing the most ridiculous thing, it always just sounds like, “yeah, totally.”
“He’s a terrible burden/On the quest for perfection/He’s such an infection/But it never gets him down,” he sings in “Johnny Optimist”.
Or another great line: “She may love her eggs,” from “Fair Touching” off Isolation Drills.
What do those lines even mean? They probably meant nothing when he wrote it, but you always know that even if he doesn’t mean it, he believes it. Maybe the first one means that he (the person being described) is a very far-from-perfect person, but he’s cool with that. Maybe the second means that she’s in love with youth and fearful of getting older and becoming infertile. Maybe. I don’t know. There’s always potential for meaning in Pollard songs, just like in everything apparently written nonsensically, but it’s that conviction of Pollard’s that truly makes him special. Even songwriters like Stephen Malkmus (who gets by on apathetic coolness) or Frank Black (who gets by on charisma and off-kilter-ness) who wrote some of the greatest indie rock of the 90s, simply don’t have the kind of conviction for material that is truly ridiculous like Pollard does. He seems like Jack Black’s character in School of Rock, a guy with a crazy record collection who’s very soul is possessed by rock; a kid who never grows up. Coincidentally, Pollard was also a schoolteacher before he started making enough money with his music to stop.
Of course, Pollard is also renown for being incredibly prolific, releasing at least a couple albums either solo or with one of his bands each year. He released more albums in 2009 than most bands release in a decade, or ever. Not all of these albums are great, and not all the songs on them are great, but they’re never that bad, and sometimes they are very awesome. One of the best things about being a Pollard fan is that you’re rarely kept waiting too long between one release and the next, and rarely are they disappointing. Even if he does release a shitty album, he’ll release another in a month that may very well kick ass. And he never changes but he’s never gotten boring either. If you keep doing something really, really well, who cares if you never change?
Actually that’s not true, Pollard has changed. His music has gone from short and scrappy to longer and finer tuned, from more rock to more pop, from 90’s production to 00’s production, and his songs cover a range of style like folk and grunge and different kinds of rock. But he’s never strayed from making the kind of balls-out, everybody-have-fun rock he’s always made and made better than anyone else at a pace that is beyond comprehension.
Superman is a Rocker. And His Name is Robert Pollard.
Here’s a mix of some of his best songs:
1. Guided By Voices – Bulldog Skin
2. Robert Pollard – Things Have Changed (Down In Mexico City)
This week’s band of the week is one of the most legendary and distinguished bands of indie-rock. Hundreds of thousands of hipsters consider them to be absolute gods and would grovel at the feet of their idiosyncratic leader if given the opportunity. This week’s band of this week is…
GUIDED BY VOICES!!!
The lo-fi baby of Robert Pollard began as a four-track basement project in the mid-80’s that pumped out albums of super-short (often less than 2 minute) pop songs for years before anyone outside the band’s immediate circle began to notice.
In 1994, the band released Bee Thousand (considered by many to be the group’s masterpiece) and became an overnight sensation, leading to a record deal with Matador. Though the band now had cash and a sizeable fanbase, they continued to primarily record strictly with four or eight track recorders, though they did experiment with larger, more professional recording, even working with super producer Ric Ocasek. In 2004 Guided By Voices officially broke up. Since then, Robert Pollard has continued to release music under a solo moniker at a frantic rate.
In addition to being defined by their penchant for lo-fi and maddeningly brief songs, GBV are also known for Pollard’s absurdist word play lyrics and being unable to filter out bad songs from genius ones.
Though many consider Bee Thousand to be the gem in GBV’s substantial discography, I’ve always found it overrated. Mag Earwhig and Alien Lanes, however, are great albums, boasting a plethora of glimpses into the mad brilliance of Robert Pollard in songs like “Bulldog Skin”, “Game Of Pricks”, “Closer You Are”, “Not Behind The Fighter Jet” and many, many more. The Tobin Sprout-penned “I Am A Tree” is also one of GBV’s best songs.
GBV is an essential band for anyone looking to understand the history of indie-rock and a crucial name-drop for any self-respecting hipster (or closet hipster). They also often fekin’ rock.