Bob has always tempered his latest big studio recordings
with more lo-fi releases.
When putting together “Mag Earwhig!”, Bob apparently re-cut the album,
mixing in lo-fi recordings with past GBV members, with the big studio Cobra Verde
line-up of GBV.
Upon releasing “Do The Collapse”, which was to be GBV’s big studio album,
Bob started the Fading Captain Series which included new and older
recordings, that were not big studio recordings.
I have always believed Bob did this
because even though he did want to make a big rock album,
he didn’t want to abandon the more rawer sound which allowed for more experimentation.
He also didn’t want to alienate the fans that loved the raw sound.
“Big Trouble” though originally released in 2000,
was recorded live in 1990 at MC Video, with Bob on vocals,
Tobin Sprout on guitar, Mitch Mitchell on bass and Larry Keller on drums.
It’s believed Keller was an employee of the video store.
The songs were made up on the spot,
with most of the song titles coming from video tapes from the store.
The album was released in 2000 on Bubblegum Marble Vinyl
as #8 in the Fading Captain Series in a limited number of 500.
The recordings are pretty raw,
“A Farewell To Arms” is bass driven because that’s what the boombox
condenser mic favored. still a good song and performance.
“The Lawless 90’s” starts off with a “Don’t Be Cruel” riff,
but with the feedback and noodling; it’s a weird psych jam.
“39 Steps” starts out slow and droning, then kicks into a jam.
“Tit For Tit” is a rocker with some of Bob’s more maniacal singing,
Of all the songs “Sabotage” is probably the most known,
having appeared on three releases in 2000, including,
the first Suitcase box set, “Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft.”
and the condensed, “Briefcase (Suitcase Abridged: Drinks and Deliveries).
“A Farewell To Arms” and “Big Trouble” were also included on
the first “Suitcase” box.
A lot of people are going to think I’m crazy,
but I really like this album.
But I could really understand why many fans wouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong,
I would never compare it to any of Bob’s other, greater material,
but it’s a nice curio in the GBV catalog.
The sound is Boombox quality,
Which, most likely, is the original source of the recording.
Having recorded many times on a boombox,
the sound is very recognizable to me.
The condenser microphone built into the boombox,
usually favors one sound over another.
So, from song to song, sometimes within a song,
whatever instrument is in the forefront changes.
So there really isn’t any mixing of the recording,
it’s basically whatever the boombox gives you.
I do like the Garage sound of this record,
because I have always been a fan of the genre,
and I am a big fan of all things Bob.
but I think the recordings could really be cleaned up.
Perhaps digitally splitting the instruments and vocal into separate tracks,
do some sound equalization, a little mixing and you could have a damn good album.
Realistically, “Big Trouble” was never a big seller,
so, it would not be cost effective to bother with any kind of
clean-up or repair of the original recordings.
But being that the original vinyl release in 2000 was limited to
500 copies, shows that this was only to be something
for the loyal fans who would want it.
Which includes me.
I actually consider “Big Trouble” to be a historical document of Guided By Voices at the time.
The recording was made in 1990, which would be after GBV’s fourth album,
“Same Place The Fly Got Smashed” and before their fifth in 1992, “Propeller”.
In Jim Greer’s book,
“Guided By Voices - A Brief History, Twenty-one Years Of Hunting Accidents
in the Forests of Rock and Roll”, whew,
Don Thrasher say,
“Right as we finished ‘Same Place The Fly Got Smashed,’
Toby moved back into town.”
So technically that would make “Big Trouble” Tobin Sprouts first appearance on
a Guided By Voices album, isn’t it basically GBV anyway?
And even though “Propeller” wasn’t released for another two years,
I’m sure Bob and Tobin were working on songs that would appear on the album
and future releases around and after the recording of “Big Trouble.”
So “Big Trouble” is as important to the history of GBV,
as the Beatles early Star Club or Decca Demo recordings
are to Beatles history.
And “Big Trouble” is probably more listenable.
Perhaps it was just a fun, get drunk, record and see what we come up with album.
But it’s still a part of GBV history.
The album was re-released in 2005 as a compact disc only release,
titled “Bigger Trouble”, with a release of 1000 copies,
not surprising it is still available through Rockathon.
The sound quality is the same as the vinyl version,
but there are seven bonus tracks.