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Guided By Voices | Zeppelin Over China

Uncle Bob & his boys come through again — without having to mow down Bambi.

It’s been almost 25 years since my first Guided By Voices gig. It was at the old Crocodile Cafe in Seattle in 1994, on their Insects of Rock Tour, right after the release of Bee Thousand and their first dose of national publicity in Spin. They almost didn’t make the show — they had hit a deer or something on the highway and were hours late. Eventually, however, they showed up, took to the tiny, cramped stage and totally rocked everyone’s faces off while swilling beer like champions. Nothing is ever going to top that first time — but over the last 25 years, I’ve seen Robert Pollard countless times with countless lineups and loved every single gig. Just like I’ve dug pretty much every one of the 100 or so albums he’s released since then (or at least every one I’ve heard). You know why? Because Uncle Bob always delivers, that’s why. As he does yet again on Zeppelin Over China. It’s their first disc in nearly a year, which is basically an eternity for them. But don’t worry: Pollard has more than made up for lost time by making ZOC a sprawling 32-track double album. And making it the first of three planned releases this year. The 71-minute affair arrives jammed to the gills with Pollard’s usual ADD mish-mash of British invasion pop, classic rock majesty, psychedelic loopiness and garage-band grit. As always, it’s got a handful of instant classics, including the grandly anthemic Rally Boys, the thundering Holy Rhythm, the cowbell-plonk guitar-scratch rock of Carapace, the shape-shifting You Own The Night and plenty more. But honestly, everything here sounds just a little above average. Maybe it’s because his current GBVers — guitarists Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr., bassist Mark Shue and drummer Kevin March — have been together for about three years now and have settled into a good groove. Or maybe Bob was just on a hot streak this time out. But ultimately the reason doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that Guided By Voices have come through once again. And they didn’t have to mow down Bambi to do it.

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