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Play Ball! Guided By Voices’ English Little League

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You know those bands that you’ve heard about for years and years, that come highly recommended by people whose taste you trust, but that you’ve just never gotten around to listening to?  Guided By Voices was one such band for me till about four years ago.  If it’s one of yours, too, get their new album right now.

Chuck Klosterman recounts how he was humbled by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy when he (Klosterman) made a disparaging remark about the band Jet.  “Well, don’t you like rock and roll?” responded Tweedy. That would be my rejoinder to anyone who listened (with attention) to a few dozen GBV songs and didn’t like them.  If you like rock and roll, you will like Guided By Voices.  You might not love them, but I guarantee you’ll like them (and then – trust me! – you’ll come to love them on longer acquaintance).

The Latest Final Album

I won’t try my readers’ patience here with a history of GBV – you can look it up online, and I say a bit about it in my other GBV piece on this site.  But the band, which has at this point put out nineteen albums, has decomposed and recomposed several times.  At this point, there’s at least one more GBV album in the works, according to frontman Robert Pollard.  But the latest so far, 2013’s English Little League, is the one that concerns me here.  It’s wonderful.  To my ears, it’s a bit more sixties-ish than is usual for GBV (check out “Islands [She Talks In Rainbows],” for example – The Byrds, anyone?), but as a whole it’s a typical weird, melodic, lo-fi GBV album.

Do We Really Need More GBV Music?

That’s a fair question from a band that’s put out not only so many albums but also so many songs – most of their albums have between fourteen and twenty-eight songs on them.  Most of the songs are written by Pollard, but a bunch of them (and some really good ones) come from guitarist Tobin Sprout.  But, yeah, even with such an extensive back catalogue, this band needs to keep putting out albums.  I honestly don’t know how Pollard and Sprout (mostly Pollard) can keep writing song after bizarre song after tuneful song after downright wonderful song.  Not all are successful – but, damn, lots and lots of them are.  Listen to, let’s see, “Islands,”  “Sir Garlic Breath,” “Taciturn Caves,” and “The Sudden Death of Epstein’s Ways” from English Little League: I defy you not to discover in yourself a hunger for more, and more, and more.


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