Alien Lanes was a very important album to me,
because it was the first Guided By Voices album I ever heard.
The album got my attention because of a review in CMJ New Music Monthly,
it wasn’t all that positive of a review though.
Because like most professional record reviewers,
they don’t have the time or patience to really understand an album,
that has so much depth before they review it.
Thank god I’m not a Professional.
What impressed me, was the performers CMJ compared this album to.
The Kinks, Beatles bootleg recordings and the Ramones among others.
How could I not like it?
Not long after MTV’s Alternative Music show, “120 Minutes”
played the video “Auditorium/Motor Away.”
I lived in Hawaii and the only ways I could hear new music,
was CMJ, which I used to subscribe to, and 120 Minutes,
which I would videotape every week, and watch multiple times
in my search for new music.
After watching the GBV video a couple times,
I ran out and bought the CD, which surprisingly the local CD store had.
At first listen, this album went right over my head,
I put it on the shelf and went on listening to something else.
A couples weeks later, I figured I’d give it enough listens to understand it,
because I knew there was something there,
but I had to absorb it.
There were so many songs and the songs were very short,
it would be hard to get to know the songs,
just letting the album play all the way through.
This is where I developed what I call the
“GBV Way of Learning an Album”.
What I would do is play five songs at a time,
and not move to the next five, till you completely know the first five.
Then I'd move to the next five.
Once you know all of the songs on the album,
then listen to the album all the way through, from there on.
I still do it that way,
Thats how I knew “August By Cake” backwards and forwards within days.
“Alien Lanes” is a flawless album, with not a duff song in the bunch,
Though I really enjoy “Bee Thousand”, I couldn’t say the same about it.
“Alien Lanes” was perhaps GBV’s most British sounding album at the time.
Some would say that it was GBV’s “Sgt. Pepper”,
but I would compare it also to “Sgt. Pepper's” twisted clone,
“We’re Only In it For the Money” by the Mother’s of Invention,”
not so much for the music itself,
but the way the songs are short and segued into each other.
The album flows with ease from one great song to another.
The album opener “A Salty Salute” has since become a major GBV anthem,
played on pretty much every tour since.
So many classics, like “Watch Me Jumpstart”, “Pimple Zoo”, “As We Go Up, We Go Down”,
“Closer You Are”, “Striped White Jets”, “Blimps Go 90”, “My Son Cool”
and of course, “Motor Away”, “Game Of Pricks” and “My Valuable Hunting Knife”.
“Ex-Supermodel” sounds like Peter Gabriel with snoring,
“Chicken Blows” is Psychedelic Beatles, while “Always Crush Me”
with the megaphone always reminds me of Pink Floyd.
Robert Pollards songwriting takes a huge leap forward on “Alien Lanes”,
while Tobin Sprout hits a whole new level with, “A Good Flying Bird”,
“Straw Dogs” and “Little Whirl”, truly making him George Harrison
to Bob’s Lennon/McCartney.
Like I said,
“Alien Lanes” was the first album I heard from Guided By Voices, and my favorite.
The reason I say it’s my favorite isn’t sentimental,
it’s because it’s an amazing album that doesn’t let up for a second,
with it’s excellent songs that stay in your head long after the album is over.
But saying it’s my favorite, doesn’t mean I stop there
and don’t move beyond that album,
I actually consider GBV’s latest “August By Cake”
a close second.