Reviews

Guided By Voices

Over the past twenty years Dayton, Ohio, band Guided By Voices has defined the lo-fi, four-track recording aesthetic; opted for glossy production on two major-label albums; and returned to Matador, the label on which it released its best work, after realizing that the mainstream would never truly embrace its quirky hooks, Brit-pop melodies, and often nonsensical lyrics.

For their fourteenth album, Earthquake Glue, GBV principal Robert Pollard finds himself comfortably refining the sound captured on 2002's Universal Truths and Cycles. The result falls somewhere between the polished sheen of Isolation Drills and the trebly and hissy Bee Thousand. The 44-year-old singer/songwriter still laces strings of non sequiturs throughout his lyrics: "With the stock market tumbling and the rock market crumbling/So where am I now?/For I am a soldier," he sings on "A Trophy Mule in Particular."

Though he originally earned critical acclaim for his seconds-long pop fragments that end before they really begin, Pollard chooses to craft fully realized and sculpted songs such as the orchestral "Mix Up the Satellite." As always he wraps his songs in the Union Jack flag, with brazen musical references to Daltrey and Townshend on the proggy "Secret Star." Meanwhile the arena-sized power chords of "Apology in Advance" conjure images of a teenage Pollard striking windmills on his air guitar while listening to his Seventies rock heroes.

Many of GBV's albums are cut-and-paste efforts, a hodgepodge of power pop, punk rave-ups, acoustic ballads, and sound experiments. But Earthquake Glue is cohesive and whole. Moving effortlessly from guitar anthems to angular indie-rock, the group aims for the ultimate mix of art-pop.

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Jeff Skruck