Thoughts on early January

Guided by Voices — Let’s Go Eat The Factory

A rather busy end to 2011 and start to 2012 saw me miss what I thought would be a lot, but it turned out that I was just late to my first listen to the new Guided by Voices record.

Wait, what?

I shouldn’t be surprised.* When I saw GBV at Matador at 21 — you know, that concert that was supposedly their only reunion show that turned into a full-fledged tour — they looked, well, happy. And really happy at that. None of the infighting (oh, Pavement…) and just some good old-fashioned rock music. Well, if old-fashioned means 1990s indie rock, then that. Otherwise, I retract my statement. At any rate, I also shouldn’t be surprised that they’re planning to release three albums in 2012. End of the world my ass.

But this — well, this is good, I think. A few tracks in and there’s nothing hugely surprising yet. Let’s Go Eat the Factory isn’t the polished pop-rock heard on soundtracks to mid-2000s television series (hey, I like that stuff sometimes, no hard feelings!) and it’s not exactly the fuzzy nonsense of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. No, it’s somewhere in-between, and I can’t place my finger on where that really is. That’s kind of nice, actually — we already have those albums to listen to whenever we want, and another just like it — well, that’s a bit much. Or, you know, something like that. Honestly, I wouldn’t actually have complained at first.

Wait, what’s this piano doing in here? “Spider Fighter” … nice vocals. It’s different. It’s… nice. Respectable. Why? Maybe it’s Robert Pollard’s Surprise Symphony. No, wait — it’s Tobin Sprout. Maybe that explains it. I really should listen to those two Tobin Sprout solo albums again.

Yeah, it’s all here. The oddball songs, the slowdowns at the end of tracks that just sing GBV, the overtly cut-short writing, and, of course, those attempts that really don’t come off but somehow made the album anyway. All those things that made the band a cult classic. I’d wonder if it was a forced thing, but I won’t complain either way.

Shit, wait. There’s a song called “How I Met My Mother”? It’s probably just a nice little shout after the repeated use of Guided by Voices tracks in How I Met Your Mother. Oh, and it’s a minute long. Plus two seconds. Maybe five seconds of that is guitar noise at the end though. Well, that’s weird and a bit cool.

So, yeah. This is classic Guided by Voices — to a point. It’s not obnoxiously classic, and it’s not just a weird throwback album. Or maybe it is, I don’t know.

Whatever it is, I think I like it.

* I’m not actually surprised. I already knew it was coming out long before today. But at some point, I was surprised and that’s what matters. I hope.


Nada Surf — The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

Onward and upward — and onward to The Binding of Isaac, which is my favorite game of 2011. Now, of course, I didn’t play it until January 2012, but you’ll hopefully forgive me for some delay there. But relevant to this piece is the album I’ve opted for: Nada Surf’s latest. Sure, everyone’s going to say something about “Popular” while completely ignoring the four very good albums that came after High/Low — and then declare that they’re mounting some sort of brave comeback with their last two albums. Yeah, If I Had a Hi-Fi is good — but so too was Let Go and The Weight is a Gift.

But I guess that’s water under the bridge, isn’t it? OK, so The Stars… is good. I’ll have to listen to it a few more times. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll watch the end of the U.S. Women’s National Team demolition of the Dominican Republic. 14-0, seriously?

Still, this Nada Surf album is a nice one, and I’m sure it’ll hold up to repeated listens without much controversy. They’re a band I keep coming back to because of their consistency, so to see that continue is quite nice indeed.


Diagrams — Black Light

Right, on to the point where I listen to new things and play video games or, well, something. I’d read some Quine but I suspect I’d fall asleep.

I’d not heard Diagrams before this (as, I suspect, is the case for most people — it’s Sam Genders, formerly of Tunng) but a first listen reveals some poppy shambles. Good lord, it’s fun, and I suspect I’ve already got a song or two stuck in my head. There’s nothing quite like British experimental pop, is there? Juan over at No Ripcord (where I also write, though perhaps not as often as I should) called it “an album of brainy arrangements and palatable textural work.” He’s right, of course.

Hell, I’ll say it: It’s sometimes downright proggy. And I like that.

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