“Box” holds a very important place in GBV history to me
as a Guided By Voices fan.
“Squirmish Frontal Room” was the first GBV song I’ve ever heard,
...which is included on “Box”.
Perhaps the real credit goes to CMJ New Music magazine.
In 1994 I moved from Southern California to Kailua-Kona Hawaii.
If you think radio on the mainland sucks,
You’ve never listened to the radio in Hawaii.
We were lucky to have a classic rock station,
As far as New Music goes, Good Luck.
I got to the point where I was dying to hear something new.
One day at Longs Drug Store in the magazine rack,
I found an issue of CMJ New Music,
which included a cd sampler of new music from various genres.
This was a godsend.
Around the same time, in my Quest to find new music,
I started videotaping MTV’s 120 minutes.
I would record the whole show,
the next day I would watch the tape looking for something I liked.
CMJ New Music every so often would make reference
to something called Guided By Voices,.
At the time I imagined them to be something like Gong or Crass,
because I didn’t know if they were band or some kind of a collective of some sort.
The last song on the cd sampler included in the May 1995 issue,
was “Squirmish Frontal Room”.
The paragraph in the cd liner notes referred to them as “Lo-Fi” Masters
but didn’t mention where they were from.
I just assumed they were British and I thought they sounded like the Fall,
which is cool.
I even went to J&R Music, which is now longggggg gone.
They had the LP version behind the counter and the cd set.
But I wasn’t going to buy a box set based on one song.
A couple months later,
CMJ New Music printed a glowing review for “Alien Lanes.”
I still have the issue somewhere,
I wish I could find it but my file system is out of whack.
But anyway, in the review the band is compared to Beatles Bootlegs,
The Kinks, British Invasion and the Ramones, among others.
MTV’s 120 Minutes played the video for “Auditorium/Motor Away”,
which included a short interview with the band.
The first time I watched the video, I wasn’t quite sure what to think.
Who are these people?
Where are they from?
One thing was sure, even though I didn’t know what was up,
something made me watch that video over and over.
As you remember, I videotaped the whole show.
After a week of that,
I returned to J&R Music and there under “G” was “Alien Lanes”,
I couldn’t believe it, it’s like it was meant to be.
How many times have I gone to that store and actually end up
getting what I went there for.
I’d like to say I fell in love with “Alien Lanes” right away,
but I didn’t.
I listened to a few songs a couple times and put it on the shelf.
A couple weeks went by and I found myself going back to the video
for “Auditorium/Motor Away”.
Then I decided I going to study this album,
there must be something I’m missing.
In high school I was in a class called “Exploring Music”,
the teacher, who also taught Glee, had a fake arm from World War II,
would wave his fake arm around like a conductor
when he would conduct or when listening to music he enjoyed.
On Fridays, we students would bring in an album and we would
break down the album and figure it out.
Me and my friend Mike had the class after lunch,
we would go to his house during lunch,
get all stoned and when we were late,
we told him we had to pick up a record.
We used to bring weird stuff like Zappa.
That was where I first heard the first Devo album,
which one of the students brought in.
The point of all that was, I was going to study “Alien Lanes”,
break it down and figure out what’s going on.
I started by listening to five songs at a time,
over and over till I knew them.
Then move on to the next five,
till I knew the album by heart.
This was my real initiation into Guided By Voices.
So I went back to J&R Music,
by this time there was a Guided By Voices section,
there was “Box” on cd, the “Grand Hour” and the “I Am A Scientist” eps.
I bought them all.
I thought I was being clever buying them all,
My thinking was, this must be everything they’ve ever made.
I would go on having everything they’ve done so far,
but was I wrong.
Not quite the tip of the ice berg in those days,
but there was sure a lot more to search out.
When I bought “The Grand Hour” ep,
I thought it was a hour long.
I thought the track “Alien Lanes” was the album.
I almost didn’t buy it because of that,
but being a new GBV addict, I had to buy it anyway.
Keep in mind,
This is before the internet or at least before I got on the internet.
The reason I wanted to get on the net was to go to
the bands website GBV.com and Luna Music which sold
Guided By Voices stuff on-line.
Right about now, you may be saying,
“This is more like a Tribute to “Box” than a review.”
Yeah you’re right, so here’s the review.
“Box”, the compact disc version,
compiles Guided By Voices first four albums,
“Devil Between My Toes”, “Sandbox”, Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia”,
“Same Place The Fly Got Smashed” and an album of rarities,
“King Shit & The Golden Boys”.
The vinyl version includes the band fifth album “Propeller”.
I don’t think I would recommend “Box” as a first GBV purchase,
but it is definitely required listening.
I almost immediately got into “King Shit and the Golden Boys.”
The next two GBV CDs I bought very soon after were “Propeller” and “Vampire on Titus”.
After I heard “Back To Saturn X Radio Report” from “Propeller”,
with the clips of “Fantasy Creeps” and “Sopor Joe” from “King Shit”
and “Chicken Blows” from “Alien Lanes”,
my conditioning was complete.
I was a total Guided By Voices freak who had to get everything
the band has ever done.
Twenty-Four years later,
I’m still here, my love of the band’s music has never diminished,
nor has the obsession.
Bob and the band are still bringing out the most important music
of our time to this day.
And “Box” kinda started it.
I want to thank CMJ New Music, MTV’s 120 Minutes
and of course Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices.
One last thing,
Isn’t it about time to release the first four albums
as standalone CDs and vinyl albums?
Even though I have “Box”, I would still buy them.
“King Shit” was released on vinyl a few years ago,
…How about the others, perhaps on colored vinyl, hint, hint