Review: Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory
Published on January 13th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The buzz: The first Guided By Voices album since 2004’s Half Smiles of the Decomposed, and the first recorded by the “classic” line-up – namely Robert ‘Bob’ Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell – since 1996’s Under the Bushes Under the Stars. This particular version of GBV were also responsible for Rocksucker favourites and generally accepted career high-points Bee Thousand (1994) and Alien Lanes (1995), so it was with no little excitement that news of not one but two new albums arrived in our inbox like some ex-supermodel all smothered in hugs. (No, we’re not really sure what that’s supposed to mean either.)
Sounds like: Well, the good news is that the ramshackle bittiness of those great mid-‘90s albums is still intact with twenty-one tracks to sift through, not one of them any longer than just-over-four-minutes and at least half of them clocking in at under the two-minute mark. The less encouraging news is that the songs themselves, while generally competent, largely lack the spirited, bitter-sweet sparkle of their erstwhile counterparts.
“Doughnut for a Snowman”
There are moments that could easily have slotted onto any of those albums – the sweetly jangling “Doughnut for a Snowman”, poundingly melodic “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” and discordant-yet-fragile “Go Rolling Home” are particular highlights – but there’s nothing to rank alongside the likes of “Game of Pricks” or “Echos Myron” as songs that will get those neck hairs standing on end when you sing them to yourself after a few beers, and little to match “A Good Flying Bird” or “King and Caroline” for the kind of sheer lo-fi bliss-out that few others have ever been capable of.
It’s perhaps unfair to judge the merits of this album solely against the backdrop of what’s gone before, even if listening to it does have you hankering for those life-affirming past glories. With his Mouseman Cloud solo album set to come out in March, Pollard proves that he’s still a creatively fertile mind with the brooding, string-soaked “Hang Mr. Kite”, the psychedelic frogmarch of “Imperial Racehorsing” and the oddly Shack-like “Chocolate Boy”, while “How I Met My Mother” is a cracking title if not much else.
“The Unsinkable Fats Domino”
Sprout for his part contributes the fairly inconsequential fuzz-blast of “Spiderfighter”, the fragile spot of sunlight on the wall that is “Who Invented the Sun” and uneventful rocker “Waves”, before finding his feet with haunting piano instrumental “The Things That Never Need” and the affecting synth ballad “Old Bones”, while Demos’ songwriting credits accompany the album’s loosest, most ramshackle moments, one of which works (“Go Rolling Home”), one of which doesn’t particularly (“The Big Hat and Toy Show”) and one of which just sounds like a drunken toss-off (“The Room Taking Shape”).
Let’s Go Eat the Factory will have its detractors and its advocates, but to Rocksucker’s ears at least, the truth lies somewhat mundanely in the middle. Nevertheless, roll on Class Clown Spots a UFO; at the very least, you might not come across a better album title all year.
In a few words: A fairly average Guided By Voices album, which in itself is no disaster.
Robert Pollard will release new solo album Mouseman Cloud on 12th March, also through Fire Records. For more information, please visit robertpollard.net or click here to read more about the album on Fire’s website.