Guided By Voices - August By Cake

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2017-04-07

One of modern music's most prolific artists (this side of Buckethead), Ohio’s own Robert Pollard and his musical vehicle Guided By Voices has spent the past three decades brazenly indulging each and every musical whim while releasing dozens of records along the way.  And regardless of what period of the band you choose to dive into, be it their seminal lo-fi early 90’s work or the major-label gems that would follow, GBV has always adhered to their early DIY values, crafting a sound and aesthetic that has truly embraced the independent in Indie-rock.

Following line up shuffles and a reunion (or two), Pollard has been on a tear recently, releasing a handful of albums (three in 2012 alone) and touring incessantly over the past few years.  And while the band's ‘mainstream’ days may be well behind them, Pollard seems unconcerned with the past and focuses instead on the band’s next show, song, or record far more than their legacy.  August By Cake, the band’s first double album, is the latest effort in GBV’s artistic blitz, and if this record is any indication, Pollard is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.

On the heels of an all too appropriate “Ladies and Gentleman!”, August By Cake opens with the confident strut of “On The Inside”, a blissful slab of alt-rock punctuated by generous blasts of horns.  The guitars continue with songs like the driving “Goodbye Note” and the plodding “West Coast Company Man” while tracks like “What Begins on New Year’s Day” and “Sentimental Wars” bring some offsetting moments of calm to the proceedings.  

Any way you slice it, thirty two tracks is a lot to take in, but August By Cake simply doesn’t mess around.  The songs are lean and mean and the album rarely loses its sense of momentum.  For his part, Pollard sounds revitalized and inspired, spitting out line after line (laced with his trademark authoritative wit) with an admirable sense of ease.  August By Cake is also fleshed out with a handful of songwriting contributions from other members which undoubtedly adds to the overall sense of balance.

With a band as prolific as Guided by Voices, the most difficult aspect of diving into their music is that the sheer quantity of it immediately begs the question where do I begin?  There is, of course, always a ‘golden’ era that a fanbase will be quick to cite, but Robert Pollard’s recent work with the band has been an incredibly consistent run that demands attention.  For fans who maybe weren’t aware that the band was still churning out classics, August By Cake is the perfect place to begin reacquainting yourself with one of music’s most enduringly unsung acts.

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