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Guided By Voices
Warp and Woof Sean Kitching , May 8th, 2019 09:05

Pollard and co. rein it in with a mere twenty-four tracks on this, the twenty-eighth Guided By Voices studio album. It's up there with some of their best, finds Sean Kitching

Depending on your point of view, Robert Pollard’s extreme prolificacy is either his greatest intrinsic quality (after his ear for melody), or the most serious stumbling block to appreciation of his vast back catalogue. The twenty-eighth studio album under the Guided By Voices name, Warp And Woof, follows hot on the heels of February’s double release Zeppelin Over China. Add twenty-two solo albums and yet another twenty under a variety of different band names and it’s easy to understand how the phenomena of ‘GBV fatigue’ may begin to colour a critic’s appreciation of Pollard’s seemingly inexhaustible tune smithery.

At thirty-two tracks, with some even exceeding the three minute mark, Zeppelin Over China inevitably diluted its overall effect, despite containing some classic cuts. Originally intended as a series of EPs, before Pollard got carried away and bashed out six new tracks in less time than it takes to listen to six tracks by most other bands, Warp And Woof reins it in with twenty-four tracks, mostly under a minute-and-a-half each, and is by far the best thing the current incarnation of the band has released to date.

Such profuse and spontaneous creativity would seem simultaneously dubious and enviable, were it not for the high percentage of quality results. Pollard’s mind is like an intuitively inventive jukebox that has digested all manner of power pop, British invasion, garage rock, psychedelia, and progressive rock tunes and then developed the capacity to spit them out again, recombined and fully-formed around memorable melodies and snappy guitar hooks. With this incarnation of the band already being touted by the band’s own PR department as “the Golden Age of GBV”, it’s reassuring to long-term fans to see the hyperbole backed up by a tangible set of recordings that sound as good as this.

‘Bury The Mouse’ kicks the album off in fuzzed-up, rocky form, with Pollard referencing an earlier GBV release by including the title of their fourth album Same Place The Fly Got Smashed in the song’s lyrics. ‘Angelic Weirdness’ effortlessly ascends into the clouds with just a hint of a progressive ending before evaporating immediately after. None of these songs overstay their welcome, capturing instead the best parts of the genres from which they borrow. ‘Dead Liquor Store’ is a succinct cross-pollination of krautrock and power pop. ‘Cohesive Scoops’ is GBV at their most radio-friendly and wouldn’t sound out of place on 1999’s Do The Collapse. ‘Down The Island’ slows the pace with a reflective ballad born out of the sound of rain and tape hiss. ‘Skull Arrow’, ‘Coming Back From Now On’ and ‘End It With Light’ are all, likewise, high points, and only ‘It Will Never Be Simple’ (at 2:32) feels a little like padding. Overall though, this is the pinnacle so far of the current GBV reformation, reaching in parts the high calibre of classic era albums like Alien Lanes and Under The Bushes Under The Stars.