Way back in the early days of what we know as the internet,
there were discussion boards like “Disarm The Settlers” and
I remember that some GBV fans were not happy with
“Under The Bushes Under The Stars,” after it’s release,
claiming the band sold out, by recording in a regular studio,
instead of the usual 4-track home recordings.
Or what some fans say after the release of every new GBV album,
“It’s ok, but not as good as the last.”
When “Mag Earwhig!” was released the following year,
suddenly “Under The Bushes Under The Stars” was great
and the new one was disappointing.
Which in hindsight is funny, being that everybody loves those albums now,
and they use those albums to measure everything thats come out since.
But thats all good as long as sooner or later they get used to them.
I don’t automatically love everything Bob does,
sometimes it takes quite a few listens,
but I try not to give my opinion till I know the album.
I bought “Alien Lanes” in 1995, probably a month or so after it’s release.
Once I finally got into it, I searched out any and everything I could from GBV.
I’m like that when I get into a band,
I have to get everything.
So before “Under The Bushes Under The Stars” came out,
I had all of their albums on cd to that point, (thanks to “Box”)
and a few eps.
But one thing bothered me,
sure I loved the lo-fi stuff, one of the things that attracted
me to the band in the first place.
but it would be great to have an album by GBV that I came play loud,
without fear of shredding my speakers.
I found out about the release of “Under The Bushes Under The Stars”
when the latest issue of CMJ New Music Monthly appeared in my mail box.
I became a subscriber by that time because I didn’t want to miss
an issue and living in Hawaii, it was my only way to hear new music,
of course there was also MTV’s 120 Minutes,
who started playing the video for “The Official Ironmen Rally Song,”
on their weekly late night show.
Anyway that issue of CMJ included “The Official Ironmen Rally Song,”
which I instantly fell for and ran out and bought the cd.
Miracle of miracles, the local cd store actually had it.
The moment “Man Called Aerodynamics” came blaring through
the speakers, I knew this wasn’t going to be the typical
Guided By Voices album.
Though there are some short songs,
there are some that are almost four minutes long,
unheard for GBV songs.
The intro to “Cut Out Witch” is actually as long as some of their
In the past, Guided By Voices songs sometimes sounded like sketches
which at times seemed unfinished and thats part of their charm.
But with “Under The Bushes Under The Stars”
though still a little rough around the edges,
was a big sounding alt rock album compared to their past stuff.
The original version of “Don’t Stop Now” was Bob and one guitar,
which was beautiful in it’s simplicity.
But the studio treatment with the cello and the full band on this album,
turns the song into a tremendous anthem, which is still a live favorite.
Bob showed growth as a writer and his use of pop/rock hooks, which
really shines with “Your Name Is Wild,” “Underwater Explosions.” and
“The Official Ironmen Rally Song.”
His songwriting also showed a depth that he never did before,
with, “Redmen And Their Wives,” “Big Boring Wedding” and “Office Of hearts.”
Bob’s vocals on “Under the Bushes Under the Stars” show more confidence,
strength and authority than before.
When he sings lines like,
“Leave them in the state grip the nurses hate them,
but it's up to you and me, my faithful sin-eater.
to give them a glorious lightbath and remove their wrapping,
their burning flag birthday suit.”
“They want to get out of here, but they can't find the exit
they cling to the cinema and they can't find security.
then they finally got recognized,
so they left in obscurity and misery.”
I’ve always thought Bob was a great lyricist,
but these and his lyrics on this album floors me,
very Peter Gabrialish, but better.
Not to discount Tobin Sprout’s contributions to
“Under The Bushes Under The Stars,”
Here Tobin becomes George Harrison to Pollard’s Lennon/McCartney.
Tobin Sprout also shows a lot growth as a writer, with gems like,
“To Remake The Young Flyer”, “It's Like Soul Man”,
and the shimmering pop/rock of “Atom Eyes.”
With “Drag Days,” GBV shows that R.E.M. is still an influence
and “Sheet Kickers” shows a Nirvana influence,
but unlike Kurt Cobain, Pollard sings,
“And I would like to die with you
I'd like to try but I'm not suicide,
and I would like to kill you
but that would suit you fine, I realize”
The band really steps up to the plate with their performances.
I don’t know if it’s because the move away from the 4-track
or because the band was well rehearsed from playing live,
but they sound like a much tighter recording unit,
while still having that raw heavy punk-like rhythm to their playing when needed.
The vinyl version of the album included an LP and a 12 ep
with an additional six songs.
The compact disc includes all the tracks and list them all on the disc itself,
but the back of the cover lists only the first eighteen tracks.
Which gets a little confusing when the album continues.
Those additional six tracks are not just mere throwaways bonus tracks,
they are just as great as anything on this album.
I used to be a huge R.E.M. fan,
To me, the thing about R.E.M. was they had the possibility
or perhaps the promise of making an album this great.
But it just didn’t happen,
“Under The Bushes Under The Stars” is the kind of album R.E.M. wishes
they could make, but were apparently not capable of making.
The band broke up after a tour for this album,
ending the band on a very high point.
In my opinion with their greatest album.
A+ Brilliant, Timeless.