Home Read Classic Album Review: Guided By Voices | Earthquake Glue

Classic Album Review: Guided By Voices | Earthquake Glue

Uncle Bob trims the set list and tightens up the band on this lean, meaty offering.


This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Robert Pollard doesn’t call his music publishing imprint Needmore Songs for nothing. Though truth be told, Gotmore Songs might be more to the point.

For more than 15 years, Pollard — the beer-swilling singer, songwriter, frontman and sole permanent member of Dayton indie-rock gods Guided By Voices — has been one of the most ridiculously prolific composers on the planet, churning out songs even faster than he goes through cases of his beloved Bud. More songs, frankly, than anyone save he and his fans could evern want or need. Long and short, fast and slow, quiet and loud, rocking and folky — it doesn’t matter; they all seem to spring from his mind and flow from his pen as effortlessly as lies from a politician.

After all those years and all those songs, you’d expect an aging dog like the 45-year-old Pollard to be running out of new tricks. And maybe you’d be right. But as the umpteenth solid GBV album Earthquake Glue indisputably proves, he still knows how to rework the old ones into some interesting new routines.

Whether you end up keeping this disc in the CD changer for weeks or shuffling it off to the back of your stacks, however, likely depends on which sonic incarnation of GBV you prefer. If you love the garage-rock halcyon days of Bee Thousand, you’ll feel right at home with the fuzzed-out ambience, basement-fi production, off-kilter moods and unvarnished playing on the sluggish Beat Your Wings, the murky Dirty Water, the strummy Best of Jill Hives and the lurching Dead Cloud. What you might miss, though, are Pollard’s trademark song snippets and surreal musical mish-mashes. The sombre, strummy and discombobulated My Son, My Secretary and My Country is as weird as Bob gets here — and at two minutes, it’s practically an epic compared to some of his earlier songlets.

Of course, there are plenty of people who just hate Pollard’s half-baked ideas and and unfinished tunes. And people who prefer the crisply produced, meticulously arranged pop-rock that Bob and the boys put during their short-lived stint on a major label a few years back. Those are the people who will get their kicks from numbers like the jangling My Kind of Soldier, the power-chord cruncher I’ll Replace You With Machines and the eagerly sprinting Useless Inventions. And the folks who will appreciate the scaled-down set list — it’s no accident that Earthquake Glue has the fewest songs of any GBV album in years — along with the tight, powerful performances from the latest, road-tested version of the band. Those people will also most likely be the ones who enjoy Pollard’s lyrics, which continue to become more revealing and spiritual and less fantastical and silly as he gets older.

In other words, everybody goes home happy, right? Well, not so fast there, pal. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for Pollard’s leaner and cleaner approach of late. One of the biggest complaints levelled at him over the years has been that he needs to spend more time editing — separating his wheat from his chaff, as it were. But at the same time, a big chunk of Bob’s fan base wants to hear that chaff. That’s why they shell out for his solo albums and singles and EPs and unreleased box sets and DVDs and whatnot. So, while one half of his audience will probably call Earthquake Glue one of GBV’s leanest, strongest and most consistent albums in years, the other half will point out that it’s also one of their least adventurous. Bottom line: Pollard might have been trying to make a disc that could simultaneously satisfy both his older and newer fans — but it could just as easily end up satisfying neither.

If that’s the case, Pollard might need more new songs than even he thought.


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