If you told me in 1995,
after buying my first Guided By Voices album, “Alien Lanes,”
on the chance that it might be good,
that I would be reviewing their 29th album for a website,
I would say you were nuts.
But here we are in 2020,
and Robert Pollard is at the top of his game,
as prolific as ever, with a top-notch line-up,
perhaps the best yet.
Why do I say that?
Seven excellent albums, perhaps their most adventurous.
The band can handle Bob’s more “experimental” material,
yet play as loose as the “Classic” line-up.
I really enjoyed the six “Classic Line-up” reunion albums,
actually, much more than the albums from the pre-break-up line-up.
Because even though I was a big fan of the albums “Propeller”
through “Alien Lanes,” I always felt,
“Under the Bushes Under the Stars” was the band at it’s best.
And the reunion albums were a continuation of that,
especially with Tobin Sprout contributing some of his best stuff.
The fact that the albums were put together,
with recordings made by Tobin and Bob separately along with
full band recordings, gave the albums a patched together quality
not unlike older GBV recordings.
The albums with the current line-up,
are mostly full band recordings sprinkled with some of Bob’s home recordings,
much like his solo GBV album, “Please Be Honest.”
This line-up, with “Surrender Your Poppy Field” being their seventh album,
while other bands would be at the point of inspirational exhaustion,
Pollard and the band show no sign of slowing down.
Being a fan of rock history,
I can say there has never been another band or songwriter
as prolific as Robert Pollard.
And to frankly tell you the truth,
it pisses me off that Pollard isn’t held up as the genius he is.
While the music world’s lesser talents get the praise,
none of them hold a candle to Pollard.
I am very critical to performers I consider myself to be a fan of.
And many, I’m not going to name, names,
seemed to almost have an animosity towards their fans.
I will say this, it was tough being a Bowie fan, God rest his soul,
but it’s true.
He pretty much challenged his fans to follow along.
With everything Bob has ever released,
I never said, I just don’t like this or why did he do that?
Everything Bob records seems to be a piece of the same puzzle,
without sounding like something that was rehashed.
That is the genius is the last seven albums,
each one different than the other, some more challenging,
but the gems make themselves known through repeated listening.
That was always the Magic of what Pollard does.
“Surrender Your Poppy Field” like 2017’s “How Do You Spell Heaven”
is perhaps the more adventurous of this line-ups seven albums.
These two require more repeated listens.
But when these albums finally hit you,
they could end up your favorites.
“Surrender Your Poppy Field” is not the “Big Studio” album,
the last album, “Sweating The Plague” was.
Which really didn’t surprise me, knowing Bob.
There are some aspects of the album that are similar,
like the multi-part songs like “Mother’s Milk Elementary” from
“Sweating The Plague.”
I had to laugh while listening to the opening song,
“Year Of The Hard Hitter,” remembering what someone said about,
“Mother’s Milk Elementary,” in a review for the last album.
He found it hard to follow, with the changes and it bothered him,
I wonder if he ever heard “Shocker In Gloomtown?”
“Year Of The Hard Hitter” is incredible, Pure GBV heaven!
Excellent guitar solo by Steve Hackett… uhh I mean Doug Gillard,
perhaps his best on record or at least his most prog.
then it goes into a death metal thing.
”Surrender Your Poppy Field” does have its big studio moments
like the excellent single, “Volcano”, which sounds like Pixies at their best.
I love that little off beat thing this line-up does with ease.
I just love the power of the guitars,
the sound is what I would describe as “Devastatingly Beautiful.”
If I had to picture what it sounds like, is Sparks flying from a Grinding Wheel.
“Queen Parking Lot” is the band going lo-fi,
this could easily be a Bob home recording like on “Please Be Honest,”
or could be the band unmixed.
really sounds like classic Guided By Voices,
“Arthur Has Business Elsewhere” is another great song,
it’s a waltz, with some kind of pipe organ sounding keyboard or mellotron
and those devastating GBV power chords.
You can almost see Bob doing leg kicks to this one.
Another instant GBV Classic!
“Cut-De-Sac Kids” is another of those songs with a lot of changes with it,
and like “Cat Beats A Drum” if you substituted the guitars for keyboards and
synth, it would be prog.
I really like when Bob goes in this direction,
it really adds depth to the albums.
he first started this kind of thing on “Mag Earwhig!’
“Windjammer” reminded me that the Who have a new album out,
and that there is no way that any thing on it is better than this song.
It would be a perfect song for them.
The ending is like classic Who, listen to Kevin March’s drum rolls
and the jagged strumming guitar is classic Townshend.
You can almost see Pete Townsend doing his windmill strumming.
“Steely Dodger” sounds like another of Bob’s home recording,
but I wouldn’t doubt if it were a band recording that was “lovingly fucked with.”
“Stone Cold Moron” Holy Crap, this is nuts!
This is what attracted me to the band in the first place,
feedback, grungy guitars and a distorted vocal by Pollard.
Oh oh, I think I’m being pulled over by Officer Pollard!
“Physician” is a great Pop/Rock number, which half-way through morphs
into something else.
This is obviously a full band recording,
but almost sounds like it was purposely mixed to sound lo-fi.
Brilliant, love the false ending.
“Man Called Blunder” is another great single from this album.
There is really no stopping Pollard.
For some reason when listening to “Woah Nelly” I thought of
the David Bowie song, “After All,” not that the songs sound the same,
perhaps it’s the tone of the song, like a dirge.
A nice song to break up the album
“Andre The Hawk” another waltz-like song with strings
along Kevin March pounding the drums
“Always Gone” could easily be an Under the Bushes Under the Stars out-take,
this is a great example how the current line-up,
can imitate the older line-up.
The album ends rather oddly with “Next Sea Level” which starts
rather experimental then goes into a sort of Psych thing
after a Pollard vocal.
But that’s really my thing,
I love when Bob and the band experiment and mix it in with the
Guided By Voices thing.
”Surrender Your Poppy Field” is an excellent album.
It’s an album where Classic GBV and current GBV collide.
Here are a few other notes
The vinyl lp has a number stamp on the cover:
In a moment of stupidity, I thought,
“Wow that was a pretty big pressing.”
Then I realized, Duh, that’s the release date of the album.
The album comes with a sleeve with the lyrics,
it was a nice touch putting the record itself in a
high quality plastic sleeve.
Thanks, GBV Records!
The cd itself has the GBV logo printed on it