Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gold Soundz: Guided By Voices

Contributor Mike Bailey enjoys talking about records from yesteryear -- the 70's, 80's and 90's -- that influenced what's happening today. Thus, Gold Soundz was born. (Props to Pavement for the perfect name.) In this piece, Bailey takes a different seminal indie record every week and examines its significance and impact on the present.

Guided By Voices: Bee Thousand
(Matador/Scat 1994)

"Are you amplified to rock?" asks singer Robert Pollard on album opener, "Hardcore UFO's." It's a question that nearly defines Guided By Voices' entire career. GBV were a group of thirty-something Midwesterners making lo-fi, British Invasion-influenced rock (in their garage). Not exactly a recipe for success, but when Matador records decided to release Bee Thousand, the band's seventh recording, the entire indie world paid attention. Bee Thousand is made up of catchy, melodic songs knocked on their side by Pollard's eccentric lyrics. Recorded not in a professional studio, but on simple 8-track tape machines. A technique that produced a good deal of tape hiss and little bottom end. It was as ambitious, but it was messy --the equivalent to listening to The Who through a terrible car stereo.

For more on Bee Thousand and the video for "I Am A Scientist," continue after the jump...

What GBV lacked in recording aptitude, they made up for with a heart-on-your-sleeve love for rock and roll. One simple lyric pretty much summed it up, "I am a lost soul, I shoot myself with rock & roll" (from "I Am A Scientist"). That lyric could easily exist in a song by The Hold Steady, and much like Craig Finn, Robert Pollard has a certain charm about him. Both are kind of like your cool Uncle with a good CD collection and it's reassuring to know someone in the room knows their rock history.

Bee Thousand is rough around the edges and sometimes maddening in its lo-fi aesthetic. But the sound is what helped define the band and kept their fan base loyal. The albums 20 tracks are fairly consistent --maybe a few should have hit the floor in the editing garage-- but stand outs like "Gold Star For Robot Boy", "Echo's Myron", "Hot Freaks" and "I Am A Scientist" make it easy to excuse a few miss-steps.

Within a year of Bee Thousand's release, Matador would re-issue the bands entire back catalog as a box set and the band would release the equally fantastic new album, Alien Lanes. Within the last year the bands influence has started to rear its head in the form of artists like Times New Viking, Wavves and Jay Reatard. In fact, Times New Viking is also on Matador, also from Ohio, and well, also has three words in their name that can be used as a sweet little acronym.

"I Am A Scientist"

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