I have to admit something,
I am really not a fan of band reunions,
Sure, it’s great to see bands live that perhaps
you may have not gotten the chance to see
during their heyday.
But if you did see them when they were happening,
you may be disappointed by the band’s reunion performance.
Also, if said band that reunited, decides to record new material,
rarely is it as good as what they’ve previously recorded.
And is usually better off forgotten.
Two rock bands of the late 80’s, that were very influential to the 90’s
music scene particularly to Grunge and Alternative Rock,
broke up before reaping the commercial success in the genre
that they both had a hand in developing.
Both bands reunited in the past ten years,
did long reunion tours, released DVDs and Blu-ray of those shows,
best-of collections and even some new recordings.
I didn’t get a chance to see either band live,
if it were humanly possible, I would have,
because I consider myself a pretty big fan of both bands.
But I did purchase some if not all of the DVDs/Blu-rays of the tours,
and the best of collections and some of the new recordings.
The live videos that both bands released, showed both bands still have it.
But I also have live videos of both groups during their heyday,
though the reunion shows were very good,
they don’t compare with the older shows.
But I absolutely cannot say the same about the reunion studio recordings
of these two bands,
which stand out like a sore thumb to their older material.
Guided By Voices seem to break every rule.
The Classic Line-up reunites, not only does a few tours,
they record six new studio albums, 23 singles with non-LP B-sides, an ep
and no Greatest Hits cash-in or live video.
(though it would have been nice to have a live reunion video)
The difference between GBV’s reunion albums and others is that
Guided By Voices reunion studio albums, build on the bands legend
by doubling the bands output with material worthy of the band in their Heyday.
It’s almost like the band wasn’t apart for as long they were.
As a matter of fact the “Classic Line-ups” first reunion album,
2012’s “Let’s Go Eat the Factory” sounds more like a follow-up to
the bands last album “Under the Bushes Under the Stars” from 1996,
than anything GBV recorded in between.
Of the six reunion albums that Guided By Voices recorded,
“Bears For Lunch” seems to be the strangest of them and the most daring.
It seems that in every five GBV albums, there is one that is stranger
or perhaps a little off kilter than the others.
I find this to be the case with “Sandbox”, “Vampire on Titus”,
“Earthquake Glue” and “Bears For Lunch”.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all great albums.
But I think there are some things, like sound production
and choices of versions of songs that were selected,
that might have improved the albums.
I’ll explain as I go song by song.
“King Arthur The Red” opens the album blaring out quite abruptly
like “Man Called Aerodynamics” opens “Under the Bushes Under the Stars”.
Sounds like classic GBV, almost like something I’ve heard before
from possibly a “Suitcase” or a dream.
What I love about Tobin Sprout’s songs that are interspersed among
the reunion albums and singles, is they usually bring a calm
to Bob’s more aggressive songs.
Tobin’s songs have a Psych-pop feel which sound like they were recorded
around 1968 to 69.
Tobin’s’ “The Corners Are Glowing” recalls Velvet Underground’s third album,
with its almost hypnotic rhythm, but without the grit and grime of the VU.
“Have A Jug” is Bob on acoustic guitar.
Sure, Bob could have easily recorded the song with the full band,
which most other people would do.
But unlike most people, Bob seems to have an endless amount of songs.
And I really enjoy when Bob puts short acoustic songs on albums.
“Hangover Child” is one of the three singles taken from the album.
This one really grew on me, especially as the song gets to the post
and the middle section.
“Dome Rust” starts out alright, but at the point it should kick in,
it doesn’t, could be because of the total absence of bass.
“Finger Gang” sounds like it was recorded right after “Dome Rust”,
it’s like they hit pause for a second then continued recording.
Just when you think the song is just Bob playing guitar,
it kicks in, Yeah!
Perhaps this is why “Dome Rust” doesn’t “kick in”,
because it may sound too much like a formula if both songs did.
“The Challenge Is Much More” is another great Pollard song,
could fit very comfortably on “Under the Bushes Under the Stars,
or an ep from that era.
Might have been a good choice for a single.
“Waving At Airplanes” is another Tobin Sprout gem,
It has that warm summer feeling,
like driving on a highway through the county in a convertible
or rolling down a grassy hill.
“The Military School Dance Dismissal” is a cool song,
one that Paul McCartney wishes he was still capable of writing.
But instead of giving this song the production it deserves,
this recording is Bob with his voice multiplied accompanied
by a piano.
Quite a beautiful song that deserves a better production,
like “Wondering Boy Poet” from “Vampire On Titus” could have used.
“White Flag” is a good album track,
just not sure if it is a good choice for a single.
“She Lives In An Airport” is probably my favorite song on the album,
great lyrics and hooks, with classic GBV heavy rhythm guitars.
“Tree Fly Jet” sounds like the band went Post-Punk
with the angular guitar and choppy beat.
After such an assault, the beautiful Psych-pop of Tobin’s
“Waking Up The Stars” is the calm in the storm.
Now this would have been an excellent choice for single.
If it were the late 60’s or early 70’s “Waking Up The Stars”
would have been a huge hit record.
When I first heard the opening guitar on “Up Instead Of Running”,
I almost expected,
“My name is James; James Riot is who I am”.
“Smoggy Boy” is a 35 second rocker,
the first ten seconds is the intro, a vocal from Bob,
then a Damned-like transition then it ends.
“Amorphous Surprise” sounds like a Circus Devils out-take,
with the buzz-saw guitars and Bob’s processed vocals.
Love it because I’m a huge Circus Devils fan.
Bob’s “You Can Fly Anything Right” is another one of those cases
where the song has so much potential that if Bob would only finish it,
perhaps bring in the band.
Like I said before,
I love those short acoustic songs that Bob put on GBV albums,
and when the albums don’t include them, they are sorely missed.
But sometimes they are too good to just release an acoustic demo of.
The third single from the album, “Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere”,
really sounds more like an album track, than a single,
but it does work perfect as an album closer.
I don’t want you to think that,
because I have some criticisms about this album,
that I don’t like it.
I just think that some of Bob’s songs on this album,
scream for more production,
while the versions included could be at home on “Suitcase”.
I really like this album,
but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone new to the band,
as a first Guided By Voices album.
But it is required listening for us fans.