Guided by Voices
Two weeks ago in these pages I tipped a hat to the "shortsighted," "solipsistic," "retro-fixated" princes of American (and Canadian) indie rock. Though I didn't include them in the list that followed (because their 2003 album was a snooze)--who was I talking about if not Guided by Voices, the most successful bar band not including the guys who play on all those karaoke CDs? (Technically, I gotta backpedal on the solipsism where GBV front man Robert Pollard is concerned, since before semi-stardom hit he taught elementary school--a more responsible use of resources than any I've pursued. Hey, self-flagellation--that's indie!)
I have no idea if Human Amusement at Hourly Rates, GBV's new Matador best-of, is a proper distillation of the band's 37 jillion albums, singles and limited-edition one-sided cardboard flexis because I'm too shortsighted to have heard 'em all and because I suspect that for true GBV fans, distilling that recorded girth down to a single, handily annotated CD is a misunderstanding of the band's purpose in the first place. But I do know that it demonstrates my point pretty well. "Retro-fixated" needs no explanation whatsoever; half the songs and songlets here sound like Pollard would've loved a spot on the Rushmore soundtrack. The impenetrable lyrics and famously inscrutable song titles assure a fan-club insularity for which fan-club members live: "14 Cheerleader Coldfront," "Echos Myron," the immortal "Tractor Rape Chain." And the four-dollar recordings that've cured the older material like insubstantial hunks of salt pork betray an immaturity endemic to American princes (or, I suppose, shitty four-dollar jobs).
And yet every once in a while, as they will undoubtedly do Sunday night at Trees, the band plows haphazardly, almost accidentally, into a pleasure center you might forget is yours--a simple human amusement resigned to an hourly fate.
Guided by Voices performs January 18 at Trees, with The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.