Guided By Voices - Space Gun

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2018-03-23
Guided By Voices - Space Gun
Guided By Voices - Space Gun

I have a great admiration for Guided By Voices and Robert Pollard. Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are two records I never tire of. All their releases have something to commend them. Individual cuts like ‘Chasing Heather Crazy’ and ‘The Best Of Jill Hives’ are irresistible. That said, in terms of their entire oeuvre, GBV can be completely overwhelming. There’s so much good stuff scattered across so many releases, it’s a smorgasbord that’s impossible to digest. Another problem with Pollard being so relentlessly prolific, sometimes releases tend to go in one ear and out the other. At a certain point, saturation is inevitable and GBV records become nearly disposable and indistinct from one another. In defiance of all that here comes, Space Gun, another GBV record. And I confess, I find it hard to get as excited about it as I would by a new Tom Waits or Elvis Costello record (both of whom haven’t released anything in years). However, Pollard is no fan of letting dust settle. And if it means anything, he has announced that Space Gun will be the only Guided By Voices release this year.

At this point, fans know the formula. A fitting profusion of stadium anthems with intriguingly obtuse lyrics, sung in Pollard’s faux British Invasion vocals. What sets Space Gun apart from the glut, is how focused it is. Something GBV records have perversely resisted in the past.

‘Space Gun’ blasts off from the launching pad and then, before you can catch your breath, here comes the Psyche tinged, ‘Colonel Paper’. The driving balladry of ‘King Flute’ follows, dialing the intensity back a bit. ‘Ark Technician’ artfully mines early REM territory and is likely to summon some warm feelings of nostalgia in the process.

“I discovered lightning in a jar,” Pollard sings on ‘See My Field’. Which is an apt description of Space Gun’s ambitions. Yet, being a seasoned GBV buff, I can’t help but wonder when things are going slide off the rails.  ‘Liar’s Box’ however, seems hell bent on defying that possibility.  Full of fuzzy, hypnotic guitars and beguiling word play. ‘Blink Blank’, keeps up the ante, despite dipping into darker territory. Pollard’s ‘bum bum bum bum’ backing vocals providing just the right bit of catchiness to keep the tune from being too morose.

At 8 tracks in, ‘Daily Get Ups’ might not be Space Gun’s most compelling track but ‘Hudson Rake’ proves far more alluring. Meanwhile, ‘Sport Componant National’ harks back to GBV’s earlier, more lo-fi days in terms of approach. Tempos speed up and slow down. Toss in some showy time changes and at 2:49 minutes, ‘Sport’ is Space Gun’s most schizophrenic and hypnotic track. Chockful of classic GBV twists and turns. By contrast, ‘I Love Kangaroos’ is pleasant but middling fare. Lyrically, verging on the insipid. Which is rare for Pollard.

‘Grey Spat Matters’ is another in a long line of GBV stadium rave ups. Something that is likely to go through one ear and out the other at this point without causing too much damage. ‘That’s Good’ however, slows things down and is one of the more straightforward and haunting ballads Pollard has cut in quite a spell. The soaring strings, a nice touch. Close on its heels is another remarkable track in ‘Flight Advantage’. Pollard sounding at his most distressed and passionate. The kind of song that shoots off like a bottle rocket on the 4th of July. Boasting a muscular, dissonant riff to compliment a strong Beatlesque melody, and a lyric prophesizing that “spiders will dance”. On the flip side, Space Gun concludes with ‘Evolution Circus’, a rather glum number that makes for a lack luster send off.

There you have it, another consistently good GBV album. By and large, one that sticks with you.  Before you know it, Pollard will be tossing another project your way. So, enjoy Space Gun while you still have time.

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