Written by 4:39 am Audiophile Music

Guide By Voices – Live! Sounding Great In Austin

Mark Smotroff finds the club always open on video, the Web, and even his turntable…

In the universe surrounding Ohio’s indie rock legends Guided By Voices (GBV), the phrase “high fidelity” isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. Their records — while often wonderful, many times amazing or at minimum fascinating and fabulous — are sometimes a mixed bag of both high and low fidelity home brewed, self made recordings, basement jams, boom box cassette sketches, noises, cobbled-together snippets and other tidbits one doesn’t necessarily consider as prime candidates for play on a higher end, audiophile grade system. GBV’s recordings are in many ways the real-time documentation of a great band down in the trenches creating frequently astounding pop music any way they can. They are no doubt all about the music and accordingly GBV arguably helped save rock and roll for a new generation to discover anew.  

AR-GBVAustinCityLimitsScreen225.jpgAccordingly, since this is Audiophilereview and I know that many of you are looking for pointers on music that sounds good as well as music that is good for you (and there is a difference at times), I’ll turn our focus to a 2004 concert performance that has just been reissued on CD and DVD as well as on vinyl for the first time ever.

GBV’s appearance on the now equally legendary TV program Austin City Limits may be just the magic elixir many of you have been waiting for: a live recording of these rock ‘n roll saviors from Dayton that sounds really good!  Guided By Voices Live In Austin, TX was recorded for broadcast on national television so the production values are quite high, capturing the band on a bit of a bitter sweet high after more than 20 years together and just before they were to take a much needed break (it was at the time the end of their “farewell” tour).  

Now, while there are numerous live recordings and bootlegs around — the band even sold official downloads of their shows for a while — a near complete concert, widely distributed to the masses on vinyl LP, has been somewhat elusive. In 2010, an officially released 2001 concert was issued in a limited quantity (so limited that I still don’t have a copy!) and there is an epic DVD of the final show from the 2004 tour (The Electrifying Conclusion). But, oddly enough for a band that prides itself on live shows — and which boasts a catalog of more than 100 albums released! — there haven’t been many official live releases. 

Thus, New West Records’ re-release of Guided By Voices Live In Austin, TX — issued as part of its series of their Austin City Limits television concert releases — is a welcome addition. This is a well mixed, well produced, live concert of the band in pretty much all its almost-unhinged, beer-swaggering glory. There was a CD and DVD issued of this concert back in 2007 but the new CD sounds bigger and wider than the original edition I have. New mastering at work, I suspect.  


It’s worth noting that in the face of this fine sounding live GBV album, there is just a wee bit of irony and wonderment when Robert Pollard says on Side Three before the heartbreaking “Sad If I Lost It” : “Guided By Voices taught the world that you can suck and still rule. You can get out of sync and… it doesn’t sound good but it still rules… That’s what we taught the world… Its the last thing we taught the world…”

Of course, it does sound good… and of course, they don’t suck…  

So, the big “new” news here is that this fabulous concert is now available on spiffy 180-gram vinyl and the results are really nice.  Songs like the amazing Badfinger-Meets-The-Who-like gem “Windows of My World” sound tremendous when all the guitars kick in.  You can tempt your palate online with a post of what appears to be the original half-hour broadcast up on YouTube as a little teaser — there is much more on the new set (which, again, looks and sounds much better than the stuff you’ll find online!).

All in all on Guided By Voices Live In Austin, TX you get some 30 tracks sprawled across four discs, two CDs or one DVD on this collection, in many ways a live greatest hits and the performances are exemplary.  Apparently it was perhaps a bit too exemplary as much of the concert was not actually broadcast — so, do be forewarned that GBV’s shows from the past were legendary for their inevitable on stage boozing and sometimes frank language, and this set is no exception.  I’m neither endorsing or condemning, only pointing out that GBV are a pure indie rock ‘n roll thing even when appearing on a PBS-broadcast television show so, kids, go into this with an open mind. 


Its all there for your indulgence on either 44.1 kHz, 16-bit CD, 180-gram vinyl LP or DVD in 48 kHz, 16-bit PCM Stereo or basic DTS 5.1 surround (the rear channels providing mostly venue ambiance). Alas, Guided By Voices Live In Austin, TX doesn’t seem to be on the online streaming services like Tidal, but you can hear a lot of other GBV albums up there — including the fine early Greatest Hits compilation  Human Amusements at Hourly Rates —  if you happen to have a subscription. 

Despite several members of the band working their way through buckets of pre-poured glasses of beer during this Texas TV concert recording, the group sounds remarkably together. Loose and rocking, drummer Keven March and lead guitarist Doug Gillard (both in the current incarnation of GBV, by the way) provide the essential bedrock which kjeeps the whole menagerie in check. So even as the beer consumed by lead singer Robert Pollard takes effect, they still turn in some fine performances, all very, very rock ‘n roll. So much so that when they finally get to the last songs on the set, including their classics “I Am A Scientist” and “Echos Myron,” you realize just what a powerhouse band GBV is.  

Live In Austin, TX is an exciting series of releases from New West Records and Austin City Limits. I will be exploring some of their other releases in future reviews so be sure to tune in again soon, folks….

Same rock channel… same rock time…  

Indeed, the club is open

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