Robert Pollard is a rock and roll force of nature. An inspiration, consider that he has churned out thousands of songs over the course of his career — with a remarkably high percentage of them being terrific — keeping to a standard set by a long line of influences ranging from The Who and The Move to The Beatles and Rolling Stones.
“Prolific” is an understatement, but then lets add in all the vehicles for his art. On top of all that songwriting he keeps his band — Guided By Voices (aka GBV) — going while also maintaining a fairly epic solo recording career (which kind of overlaps, but lets keep them separate for the moment).
And (in a loud voice) THEN… (and then, in a soft voice after a pause) and then … Pollard has been running his own company, Guided By Voices, Inc., for well over a decade, self releasing anything and everything he damn well wants to via Rockathon Records and all the usual channels like Amazon and of course independent music stores. There are boxed sets of unreleased demos…. albums… EPs… singles… CDs… downloads… live concert recordings… and even books and gallery showings of his equally epic collage artistry, much of which graces the covers of his recordings.
Pollard’s barrage of 45 RPM EPs and singles would probably leave 80s “new wave” music marketing innovators like Jake Riviera and Dave Robins breathless; the folks at Stiff Records would likely be envious of Pollard’s accomplishments. That’s insider music industry stuff but those who get the references will understand my point..
To that, in a quite brilliant marketing move — released hot on the heels of two, two-LP sets of studio material (Zeppelin Over China, August By Cake), two, two-LP live albums (Ogres Trumpet, Live From Austin, TX) and a fine single disc collection (Space Gun) — GBV is releasing another new album called Warp and Woof (which should be out by the end of this month).
BUT… (in a loud voice)… (and then, in a soft voice after a pause)… But… what is so brilliant is that they have pre-released the entire album as a series of four, six-song, seven-inch black vinyl mini-albums. Hey, if you can get your fans to buy your music twice, what the heck? As a fan of the band and an avid collector of their often limited edition (and typically quite cool / fun) releases, I am all on board with this… This is how you can support your favorite independent artists, folks. Buy their physical stuff, don’t steal their downloads and don’t rely just on streams (where they make next to nothing).
Anyhow, here on four tightly packed, 33 & 1/3 RPM seven inch black vinyl mini albums (no center hole adaptor necessary!) we get to hear the new Warp and Woof album in advance of its actual formal release, albeit in a different track list sequence (click on the Amazon link embedded with the album title mentioned here to view that).
As is the case with every GBV album, there are songs that are initial winners and others that grow on you with consecutive listens. This time ’round the instant should-be-a hit is “My Angel” from the Wine Cork Stonehenge collection, a fine rocker in the Who-meets-Stones vein. “Thimble Society” underscores just how good these guys are at coming up with killer rock riffs yet “Tiny Apes” — with a different production aesthetic — could almost be a lost ’60s bubblegum hit. “Skull Arrow” drives off an infectious Townshend-y acoustic pulse (listen for the tight little Roger Daltry-esque mini scream at the end of its 1:04 running time).
The 100 Dougs EP has a number of goodies too but the stunner here is actually written by GBV guitarist Doug Gillard, a gorgeous rocking instrumental called “It Will Never Be Simple.” This feels like some missing soundtrack to a road film (imagine new young lovers taking a motorcycle ride down the California coast to a private party at Al Jardine’s house in Big Sur circa 1971 and you’ll have an idea what to expect).
“Bury The Mouse” is a baddass rocker with a kickin’ opening groove that loosely echoes Captain Beefheart’s 1967 Safe As Milk track “Dropout Boogie” “Coming Back From Now On” turns The Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” riff inside out before slamming into a driving Who-ish moment (all this in less than two minutes!). The first song off of Warp and Woof to be featured as a single is “Angelic Weirdness” which is on the Umlaut Over The Özone EP — its a great little pop rocker which kicks into “More Reduction Linda,” in finest GBV-meets-Who fashion.
Acid Rock kicks off with a big layered guitar pumper “My Dog Surprise” but leads into the lovely acoustic flavored “Even Next,” replete with synthesized strings before a brief punch up at the end. There are so many gems here! Guided By Voices and Robert Pollard are no doubt on a fine creative roll.
The recording quality on the CD-quality downloads sound pretty great in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz fidelity. I’m not hearing any nasty anomalies which often get in the way of digital versions for me. The EPs themselves have some issues fidelity wise due to the physical space limitations. But, hey, they are still fun and cool to get for the groovy cover art. And you get these fine sounding WAV files to enjoy as you may (I organized mine into a single playlist, retaining the order of each EP). Of course, you could just wait for the new album. But… hey, if I did that I wouldn’t have been able to give you this preview so…
To end, I’ll just restate an earlier theme: support your favorite independent artists!
Warp and Woof is not up on Tidal yet but most of the GBV catalog can be found there in CD quality. These include (click on the highlighted links here to jump to Tidal) the last single album Space Gun, Zeppelin Over China, How Do You Spell Heaven, August By Cake and Please Be Honest (“Zodiac Companion” is such an epic opener!).
So much rock goodness here. What are you waiting for? Start listening!