From the I Wish I’d Said That Department: A few days ago, somebody online wrote that Earth Man Blues was Guided By Voices’ greatest album in weeks. Good one. But they had a point. This one is a corker. And a keeper.
Reportedly cobbled together from a bunch of rejected and unused songs the insanely prolific Robert Pollard had sitting around, GBV‘s 33rd studio album is apparently a very loose concept album about Pollard’s youth. I don’t know about that; you’d have to peruse the lyrics way more closely than I’ve had the chance to so far. But I do know this: It’s wild and woolly and weird and just damned wonderful, full of short sharp songs that twist and turn and shape-shift. But it’s also got a little more gas in the tank than some recent offerings, thanks to a plethora of chugging, edgy garage-rock and power-pop nuggets that lean a little more toward the ’70s than the ’60s, and crisper, sharper production than some of Uncle Bob’s homemade outings. And like all good albums, it’s over way too damn soon. Don’t miss this one. It’ll definitely hold your attention for however many weeks it takes for the boys to make the next one.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Is it really a musical?! The 33rd Guided By Voices album, Earth Man Blues, is a magical cinematic rock album, full of dramatic and surreal twists and turns. Lyrics and liner notes trace the growth of young Harold Admore Harold through a coming of age and a reckoning with darkness. Vivid scenes appear: snapshots of youth, fantastical nightmares, unknown worlds. The music hasn’t softened a bit. One will hear the impossibly perfect melodies and wordplay that you expect from Robert Pollard, with the band playing at peak-heavy.
Opener Made Man tears and slashes at the ears and heart. Sweeping, colossal tracks like Lights Out (In Memphis, Egypt) and Dirty Kid School stretch far beyond the ordinary vocabulary of rock. Trust Them Now rocks like an instant classic. The Batman Sees The Ball is lean, mean rock muscle. Doug Gillard’s brilliant guitar playing explodes out of the speakers. The rhythm section of Kevin March and Mark Shue, always strong and reliable, has grown into a breathing composite organism. Along with Bobby Bare Jr. on rhythm guitar, they drive the songs and make one’s head shake. Producer Travis Harrison ties the talents of the band together, once again recorded remotely and individually, pandemic-style. This group brings to life the sounds in Pollard’s technicolour imagination.”