Guided By Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard -
Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department

Fading Captain Series #4
1999

by Propellerless

At Guided By Voices shows,
I find myself watching how fans react to songs the band performs
which the fans themselves might not know.

Two years ago I saw the band in Nashville,
when the band performed songs like “Lucy and Tabby,”
“Question Girl All Right,” “Mobility,” “What Are All Those Paint Men Digging?” and
“Royal Cyclopean”, which are songs Bob recorded
with Boston Spaceships, ESP Ohio and Ricked Wicky,
you can see who in the audience didn’t know these songs.

When the band performed the Monkee’s “Saturday’s Child” during the show, even fewer
fans seemed to know the song.
But I was a Monkee’s fan in the day, yeah I’m that old.

I saw the band quite a few times during the Do The Collapse tour.

That tour was great because the band was touring with
not only “Do The Collapse”, but all three of Bob’s solo albums including
three from the newly started “Fading Captain Series.”

When the band played “Submarine Teams,” “Far-Out Crops,”
“Tight Globes,” “Frequent Weaver Who Burns,” “Pop Zeus,”
“Time Machines” and “Alone, Stinking and Unafraid.”
you can tell which fans didn’t get those releases.

Man were they missing out!

When it comes to “Do The Collapse”, unlike most older fans,
I think it’s a great album and important at the time.
Can’t say I’m a fan of Ric Ocasek adding the cheesy Cars keyboard
to “Teenage FBI”, it's irritating, but I guess I’m used to it.

I’ll even defend “Hold On Hope”,
ever hear Glen Campbell’s version?
“There hides the cowboy,
His campfire flickering on the landscape.”
Really makes it a tear jerker.
that song was made for him, RIP Rhinestone Cowboy.
Really gives the song a whole new meaning.

But anyway my point is the songs the band performed
during that tour which came from the Fading Captain releases,
were not just as good as the tracks from “Do The Collapse”
but perhaps better.

When Bob originally put together “Mag Earwhig”,
it was going to be a big rock album.
But Bob thought it might be too much of a shock for
GBV’s fans who like the Lo-Fi stuff.

So he recorded some lo-fi stuff with ex band members to slot in between
the “Big” studio tracks recorded with Doug and the Cobra Verde line-up of GBV.

But “Do The Collapse” was the Big Production album,
no lo-fi stuff creeping its way onto that album.
This led many fans to believe it’s all big multi-track studios from now on
for Pollard and Guided By Voices.

Bu that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Robert Pollard, a few months before the release of “Do The Collapse”
would release two records in the Fading Captain Series,
which is an outlet of Pollard’s smaller productions, side projects
and archival material.

Some of the records in the series might be for the collectors
and the more hard core among fans,
But albums like “Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.”
stand up there with some of Guided By Voices best,
definitely includes some of the best songs Bob’s ever recorded.

My Point there is Bob did do the big studio thing,
but released enough lo-fi stuff to satisfy the most hare core
of the lo-fi fans.

The music on “Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.”
was performed by Doug Gillard on his four-track.
With Bob’s vocals recorded at Cro-Magnon.

“Frequent Weaver Who Burns” opens the album with Pop/Rock goodness
with hooks and harmonies John and Paul would be envious of.
A favorite from the “Do the Collapse” tour.

“Soul Train College Policeman” is Bob doing his best Peter Gabriel.
I’m a Gabriel fan from back in his Genesis days.
I’ve always seen his solo albums as just barely hinting at
what he was capable of doing, but never delivering.

I think Bob does Gabriel better than Gabriel.

“Soul Train College Policeman” was amazing when GBV performed it
on the “Do The Collapse” tour.
At the dynamic part you can tell who in the audience knew the song.
The others were like, “What the Hell?”
and we were in GBV Heaven.

“Pop Zeus” is a Pop/Rock Anthem which was also a concert highlight.

“Slick As Snails” is one of my favorite all time songs by Bob.
there are at least a hundred or so, perhaps more.
but this is truly a gem up there with Bob’s best stuff.

I love Doug’s choppy guitar playing,
but holy crap!
A great lead solo on a GBV related record?

Doug’s screaming lead solo proves that Bob has the right guitarist
for the job.
He can play in the GBV style, yet pull out these amazing guitar lines.
Doug Gillard IS Bob’s Mick Ronson.
Back in Pop/Rock heaven we have “Do Something Real”
Bob rerecorded this song on Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick’s 2016
solo album,  “Greetings From Bunezuela!”
It’s good but lacks the original recordings charm,
with the stop start rhythm.
Another great live favorite.

“Port Authority” is like “Nursery Cryme” era, Genesis.
I remember when I first heard this song,
I thought,
“Ok this song is going good, but I’m sure it’s just going to end abruptly,
like some of Bob’s songs tend to do.

But halfway through it builds to a dynamic ending with a great Pollard vocal.
Great song.

“Soft Smoke” and “Same Things” is basically two songs,
but they segue into each other and perfectly blend as one.
“Same Things” is probably the most Psych moment on the album,
Damn Great!

I’ve been discovering a lot of obscure 60’s Psych lately
and I’ve come to the conclusion that Bob has a lot of Psych
in a lot of his recordings.
This is one of the many instances.

Two more songs that were “Do The Collapse” concert highlights,
“And I Don’t (So Now I Do)” and “Tight Globes,” proves
that Robert Pollard has hit he’s stride when it comes to
Pop/Rock Hooks.
This album is filled with songs that would be hit singles,
if the music industry weren’t so f***ed up.

“Messiahs” hints at what Bob would end up doing years later
with Todd and Tim Tobias in Circus Devils.
Kind of Prog with weirdness.

“Larger Massachusetts” sounds like a cross between “Ten Years Gone”
by Led Zeppelin and the Who.

“And My Unit Moves” ends the album which features just Bob on vocals
and apparently Doug on piano.
A nice ending to a great album that has a great blend of Pop/Rock Anthems
and some Prog/Psych moments.

A++++ Excellent!

A great album that no Guided By Voices fan should be without.
If you did miss it,
Bob is rereleasing the album soon.
So there is no excuse to get one of Bob’s Greatest albums,
Keep an eye on Rockathon for release news.

As far as Doug Gillard,
Bob is very lucky to have him in the band as are we fans,
and I’m glad he’s back with the band.
I was happy with the whole “Classic” Reunion thing,
but the current 2018 line-up with Doug is perhaps the best.

The tightest musically but can still play the classic songs the way they
were meant to be played