Guided By Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Guided By Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven

by James Weiskittel Rating:8 Release Date:2017-08-11

The ever increasingly-prolific Guided By Voices are back (yet again) with How Do You Spell Heaven, a release that finds Robert Pollard and Co. in predictably fine form.  On the heels of an expansive double album (August By Cake) released just a few months back, it’s hard to imagine that Pollard could possibly have anything left in the tank let alone enough material for yet another full-length.  But this is no mere mortal band we are talking about here as Guided By Voices have been churning out one solid release after another for the better part of thirty years now.

How Do You Spell Heaven opens confidently with “The Birthday Democrats”, a rousing romp of a song that features a punctuation-mark guitar riff and some insanely catchy vocals.  The album continues to build momentum with tracks like the driving “Steppenwolf Mausoleum” and the groove-laden “Diver Dan” before reaching the album’s climax with the epic (at least by GBV standards) “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine”, easily the album’s best track and a sure-fire live staple for years to come.

There are a few more sonic detours taken on the record’s second half, with the moody “Low Flying Perfection” and the pensive album-closing waltz “Just To Show You” serving as B-side highlights.  For his part, Pollard sounds as inspired as ever on How Do You Spell Heaven.  His trademark satire-laced wit is on full lyrical display throughout the entire album, and his voice does little to betray his age.  As for the band (featuring Doug Gillard, Bobby Bare Jr, Mark Shue and Kevin March), they are in fine form here as well as How Do You Spell Heaven is clearly the work of a well-oiled live machine.         

Operating in such a profuse fashion can sometimes be a double-edged sword for a band; satiating the appetite of only the most die-hard of fans while leaving all other potential listeners overwhelmed by the ever-increasing thought of ‘where do I begin?’  And in the case of Guided By Voices it’s a fair question when considering that this release now makes nine full-lengths released since the band’s reformation back in 2012.  But it should be noted that this most recent era of the band is the rare exception to the 'quality over quantity' rule, as this writer would argue Pollard has been able to deliver his brand of guitar-driven indie rock on both fronts.  While far from the band’s most definitive work, How Do You Spell Heaven does a well enough job representing exactly what Guided By Voices is all about; an album that is sure to satisfy long-time fans as well as undoubtedly turn-on any potential new ones.

Comments (5)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I've been hearing about GBV for a good decade now but have yet to take the time. It's like "Breaking Bad," the show everyone assures me I MUST watch. Expectations grow beyond sustainability...you get it. So then, what's the one definite GBV album...

I've been hearing about GBV for a good decade now but have yet to take the time. It's like "Breaking Bad," the show everyone assures me I MUST watch. Expectations grow beyond sustainability...you get it. So then, what's the one definite GBV album in your opinion? In short, where do I begin?

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Thanks, James. I downloaded August and will give it a go. I'm really going to try to watch Breaking Bad this summer, too!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

You've really got to watch Breaking Bad, it's amazing. I missed it first time and ended up binge watching it. I have to admit to being a little put off by the size of the GBV catalogue. I never really got into them either and now I don't know if...

You've really got to watch Breaking Bad, it's amazing. I missed it first time and ended up binge watching it. I have to admit to being a little put off by the size of the GBV catalogue. I never really got into them either and now I don't know if I should.

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I get the same vibe from GBV fans that I did from REM fans back in the day - this secret society that, if you don't get, you're somehow not as hip as you think you are. Same vibe from Dead fans, too. I need to go in with an open mind, though. I...

I get the same vibe from GBV fans that I did from REM fans back in the day - this secret society that, if you don't get, you're somehow not as hip as you think you are. Same vibe from Dead fans, too. I need to go in with an open mind, though. I ended up loving REM but still don't care for the Dead.

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