Guided By Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven

by James Gerard 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.

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