Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Previously driven cars

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 1999 at 12:00 AM

I am not a fan of Guided by Voices because of their now mythical, rough-cut, non-sensical, lo-fi rock heroics: i.e. recording their music – partly by necessity, partly for its angsty realism – so it sounds like the underneath of an angry buzzsaw-table drowned among the weeds of a twisted British folk lyric. Instead I’m a fan of the deeply morbid three-and-a-half-minute-long pop anthems that have surfaced on GBV’s records since the band’s 1994 release, Bee Thousand (on longtime home Matador). Basically, I’ll take well-crafted pop brilliance over sonic devolution-revolution anytime.

That said, Do the Collapse features some of the best tunes Bob Pollard – the drunken, Princelike figure who commands 95 percent of GBV’s songwriting credits – has churned out, though the cynic in me notices that this breakthrough comes on an album produced by the Cars’ Rick Ocasek and released on the un-Matador-like label TVT. But when a sell-out sounds this good, only the most spoiled indie-rocker could whine. More to the point, when it means that GBV finally jettisons the lion’s share of its rock-retro fetishes – from wanna-be Beatles b-sides to REM necrophilia – then there’s hope that musical transcendence will win the day.

And it does. The singles are plentiful and the lyrics on such songs as "Hold On Hope" ("Well that’s the chance we take/ to be always working/ reaching out for/ the hand that we can’t see/ everybody’s got a hold on hope/ its the last thing that’s holding me") are simply beautiful. This may be GBV’s version of a throwaway album – all more or less straightforward and sonically pleasing – but so what. The Cars never sounded this good.

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