Guided by Voices – Little English League / Glue on Bicycle

I always enjoyed the play off between Tobin Sprout and Captain Bob; Sprout’s gentle and witty Byrds/Beatles-isms doing battle with the “Roky fronts the Who” schlock that Pollard promotes.

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I read somewhere that this LP wasn’t that great. Frankly I have given up keeping count of, let alone evaluating GBV’s records, it’s got to the stage where, like The Fall, I just stick them on and enjoy them all regardless of "merit". I really can’t see what will be gained by trying to set up a critical bar now, twenty, thirty years on: they still sound a mad brilliant band, full of contradictions and energy; and one psychotically intent on working their way through a tried and trusted prism of ideas and sonic gestures, things that they could patent if they had the legal wherewithal.  GBV knock out 5 LPs or so a year and, as I write Bob Pollard’s Honey Locust Honky Tonk is sat on my desk, about to be unwrapped and shoved into my PC’s CD drive.  (A side thought, God help you if you’re starting with GBV at this point, getting into GBV is akin to taking up collecting all the coins of Greece or something.)

Anyway, why review this, because someone said something bad about it?  Maybe. Crazy that I should go back and explore this LP; given the amount of GBV (or solo and Fading Captain) stuff I can play anywhere, anytime, but fuck it. I just thought I’d go on record and say that I think it’s a fine release. And no-one should make such a big deal about it.

Actually it’s a standard GBV record, (i.e. very good, a bit like Mag Earwhig! if you ask me) and in this particular case best played in conjunction with the mini LP that accompanies it, Glue on Bicycle. I actually wish they’d made these two releases one record as some of the whackier or rougher moments of Glue…like Jellypop Smiles or Full Framed Luberon would sit perfectly in here, forming counterpoints to the poppier main release. Of course there are some belting tracks, like Birds, or Cry Baby 4 Star Hotel, a ridiculously messy and slobby rock out, which could be off Bee Thousand, as well as the bits where you think they’ve just recorded what came into their heads whilst having an acid flashback, (i.e. Sir Garlic Breath, or Reflections in a Metal Whistle.)

The LP proper starts off at a stumbling pace; the sliding, squawky Xeno Pariah and Know Me as Heavy sound like some querulous drunk in the bar boasting about his days as Head of Sales. The first anchor is Islands which highlights one of the band’s great, enduring (and renewable) strengths, the creative relationship between Bob Pollard and Tobin Sprout.

I always enjoyed the play off between Tobin Sprout and Captain Bob; Sprout’s gentle and witty Byrds/Beatles-isms doing battle with the “Roky fronts the Who” schlock that Pollard promotes. Somehow the tracks from one always seem to bookend the other’s work really well, Pollard’s more plodding, sludgy workouts are always far better when they are clustered together like with Send to Celeste and Trashcan Full of Nails. And then the heavy, introspective mood instantly refreshed, picked up and dusted down by something like the incredibly charming, Byrds-tastic The Quiet Game from Sprout.  Or a gooey melody of Sprout’s, such as The Sudden Death of Epstein’s Ways, given the cold shower treatment by a blast from The Captain, (in this case Taciturn Caves.)

So, a great listen, and in response to whether this LP is any good, well… some of these young shavers and keyboard warriors on the net should just back off and get a beer down their necks and not give a shit.