On my recent review of Howling Wolf Orchestra’s “Speed Traps For The Bee Kingdom”
album, I stated that I thought that the album was recorded and possibly written in
pretty much a day or two.
That is obviously not the case with “Choreographed Man Of War.”
The songs are musically and lyrically crafted, much like the stuff
Robert Pollard was recording with Guided By Voices at the time.
“Isolation Drills” was released three months earlier.
On that album Bob’s songs were becoming moodier,
and dare I say, “Progressive.”
Not so much in the long endless soloing of some Prog bands,
but with more complex arrangements and changes.
If you think of it, GBV has always done that.
Look at “Over The Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox,” “Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory”
or even “Break Even.”
“Choreographed Man Of War” has a grittier sound than “Isolation Drills”
which is part of its charm.
If I had to categorize the album,
I’d call it Garage/Psych/Prog.
The quality of the songs is great.
Of the many things that amazes me about Robert Pollard,
he will write and record these amazing songs,
and he’ll put them out as a limited release,
then move on to the next record.
“Choreographed Man Of War” is thirty-four minutes long.
Bob could have easily record a couple acoustic songs,
perhaps with his “buzzing’ one-stringer” and with no effort at all,
write another pop/rock gem and voila,’
the next Guided By Voices album.
But instead Bob makes another Gem for the fans.
This is definitely one of those albums.
“I Drove A Tank” which opens the album,
was also the first song on “Isolation Drills tour.
I love the gritty choppiness of the song.
Where there should be a solo, there’s a drone,
then Bob comes back with the ending vocal,
then in comes a cool “Wah” lead guitar, played by Greg Demos.
“She Saw The Shadow” starts with Bob on guitar,
and after almost a minute, the drums kick in,
play by Jimmy Macpherson.
Like most of these songs,
“Edison’s Memos” really should have been on a proper Guided By Voices album;
too much of a gem to be just get tossed off.
When I made the Garage/Psych/Prog comparison,
this is the song I was mostly referring to.
I love the structure of the song with its multiple parts
and Bob’s “megaphone’ sounding vocal in the middle.
Also performed on the “Isolation Drills” tour.
In the first few seconds of “7th Level Shutdown”,
one would think this song would be some weird atmospheric track,
but it blooms into a beautiful but somewhat noisy pop song.
My only complaint is “40 Years to the Burning Bush,”
the intro is half the song, the rest of the song is great,
but right where you think it’s going to get to another part,
or at least repeat a part,
Not that it’s the first time Bob’s done that, lol.
“Aeriel” is 2/3rd instrumental with Bob strumming his guitar
with lots of echo,
then Bob comes in with a vocal and finally the band joins in.
Quite nice and weird at the same time.
“Citizen Fighter” is a choppy pop rocker, love the guitar and
Also love when he strums the strings then holds them and lets them ring.
Stands up with anything on GBV albums that came out in that era.
“Kickboxer Lightning” is one of those pop/rock songs that
Bob makes with seemingly no effort.
“Bally Hoo” though it’s not the last song,
it seems to be the album closer, with its refrain of “I Drove a Tank.”
This song is another case of the Garage/Psych/Prog paradigm;
which I love, right up my alley.
“Instrumental Beetle” which could be one of the longest songs, lengthwise,
that Bob has ever recorded, was performed live on the “Isolation Drills” tour.
Though not quite as long or irritating, it could be Bob’s “Sister Ray” lol.
But no really,
the song is Bob strumming away on his guitar with the bass and drums
pounding away while Bob sings a dreamy lyric.
About half way we hear a voice, not sure who.
Bob apparently he’s leaving a phone message to Bob,
while the guitar, bass and drums nosily play.
I kinda dig it, not something you usually hear on a GBV release.
Brilliant to end this album on sort of a noisy song.
To sum it up,
This album is Great!
Could of and should have been a regular GBV release or
at least a Pollard solo album.
Any fan of Guided By Voices especially the 2000 era,
should really search this album out.
If I listed my top ten albums of the Fading Captain Series,
not counting the singles, box sets, compilations or archival stuff,
“Choreographed Man Of War” would be in the top five,
and probably higher than five.
I just checked Rockathon,
they have it on cd for only Five Dollars,
If you don’t have it, why aren’t you ordering it now???
Here is the ad for it:
Choreographed Man of War 2001 CD - $5
10 kick ass Pollard originals recorded in Dayton, Ohio January 2001.
The Soft Rock Renegades are: the venerable Greg Demos (bass, lead gtr)
and Jim Macpherson (drums), Bob handles (of course) vocals and guitar.
If you are still there and not ordering it,
you must already own it.
If not, GO!!!!