Guided by Voices
Alien Lanes


5.0
classic

Review

by Scott Reid USER (19 Reviews)
December 29th, 2009 | 58 replies | 12,661 views


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 28 supersonic lo-fi high-fives.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

Meet Robert Pollard, songwriter. Well, song writing machine, more accurately; he’s been credited with more than one-thousand of them in his time. A quick look at his sizeable discography, and that of Guided by Voices, the band of which he was the creative force, reveals that there has barely been a moment when he hasn’t been working on something or other. You can imagine the man hot-footing frantically from one project to the next with ADHD tendencies, nothing ever quite mastered and ultimately leaving a trail of half baked hodgepodge in his wake, too enthralled by creation itself to bring accomplishment to the final product. Even by laws of average there are bound to be some mis-fires. But ‘Alien Lanes’, in itself a similar creative blitzkrieg with 28 (!) quick fire tracks, is flawless. Not one false move is made.

Think on that; how often does any artist produce 28 different tracks, in such a short space of time and not one – not one – is a duffer? Rarely, I would wager. Even so, if that were achieved, would there really be any more than a few standout moments, if the collection ever rose above average at all? I doubt it. It would be logical to assume so, even. But ‘Alien Lanes’ scoffs at logic, and ends up not an assortment of mediocrity, but a smorgasbord of excellence. Persistently fantastic, tiny production time, great wealth of ideas presented, all in the same album. It’s a mindboggling achievement. What could have ended up as a misadventure of multiple B-sides has stood its ground as an album of epic – yes, I’ll use that adjective – proportions. This can be put down to the individual care and attention that, despite the tightness of time, has gone into the production of each track. All of them are album-worthy, like an expertly crafted wooden carving, a chunk of creativity whittled down till only the finest nuggets of brilliance and fun are left. Whilst other musicians could easily spin out the key ideas and workings of much of ‘Alien Lanes’ into creations twice, three times as long, ‘Guided by Voices’ like to keep it snappy. The genius of this is that the album is a bombardment of staggeringly good songs, with nothing less than the staggeringly good anywhere to be found. That they managed to preserve so much brilliance, without giving it a vacuum-packed feel and managing to do the thinking justice with their delivery in such a small space of time, is astounding. And what’s more – oh, so much more – is that everyone involved has an absolute ball doing it.

That’s the key to why the untainted brilliance of the creative idea behind every song shines through so brightly; nothing is taking itself seriously. Even in the tracks trying to sound vaguely depressing, like “The Ugly Vision”, with nigh-monotone acoustic riff accompanying the singers wailing lament of… something, and the howling horns. Half-heartedly veiled is the irrepressible, characteristic buoyancy that you can sense bubbling under. It’s enjoyable, and is a necessary break from the tumultuous sugar rush that we’re launched straight back into with the desperately happy sing-along “A Good Flying Bird”, then into something else equally joyful sounding, then another… it all meshes together into a high-flyin’ feel-good expression of nothing at all – nothing serious, anyway – that conveys only the joyous, the catchy, the anthemic, each one packaged in one streamlined, lean and ultimately masterful musical vehicle or another, all polished with that lo-fi sheen that gives it a magical good-time feel, as if it wasn’t showing off and poking fun at itself enough. Catchy hooks, high strung guitars, vocals you can soar with, always upbeat and often uptempo; the works. It’s a relentlessly, flawlessly, air-punchingly jubilant experience, set to a backing track that, while often not complex, is it’s own beautifully delivered creation of Mr Pollard’s on one of his very, very good days. The successful separation of his ‘serious’ passion for polishing and his initial imagination from the mastering of the album from the childlike enthusiasm and wonder he brings to it’s conception, that allows the brilliance of the latter to go unpolluted is a masterstroke.

There are twenty-eight opportunities for the elation that begins with the plunking bassline and naturally complementing fuzz of ‘A Salty Salute’ and ends with the simply majestic soaring, swirling guitars of the euphoric ‘Alright’, and twenty-eight times it stays relentlessly superb, not letting the good times roll but physically rolling them along. None of them are highlights, because all of them are; all of them sound like they could be Robert Pollard’s pet favourite, the one he took care to make it especially good from his catalogue of thousands. But to pick the best from these 28 gems would be cruel – like picking your favourite child. After listening to this, I believe that the listener is left feeling the same way.



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user ratings (153)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
Shadowed Reflection (4.5)
Read on......


Comments:Add a Comment 
scotish
December 29th 2009



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I've asked the mods to clear up that bleh track listing, btw

handoman
December 29th 2009



2386 Comments


i still need to hear these guys


Giles92
December 29th 2009



19 Comments


one of my favorite albums ever, i adore GBV

Shrapnel94
December 29th 2009



2213 Comments


I've only heard bee thousand. This is next on my list

scotish
December 30th 2009



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

can't wait till I get bee thousand

any feedback on this here review?

Shrapnel94
December 30th 2009



2213 Comments


I think it's great. I pos'd

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 30th 2009



6085 Comments


I agree [almost!] wholeheartedly with this review. If 5s were like kittens I'd be giving them away, but poor "Ex-Supermodel"

timbo8
December 30th 2009



618 Comments


Tryin to get into this more, considering Bee Thousand took a long while to grow on me, which it eventually did in a big way. As much as I respect Pollard for being such a prolific artist for so many years and enjoy GBV's catchy tunes, it's not like he's writing groundbreaking stuff here. 28 songs, yes, but none of them come to more than 3 minutes, and overall its 41 minutes.

scotish
December 31st 2009



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

now that I think about it, this did take a while to grow one me too. I thought that they'd made an utter mess of what could've been brilliant tracks, like I say, two or three times as long, and I hated them for it. then I realised that they hadn't made a mess of it at all but that they were, in fact, geniuses.

robin
Emeritus
December 31st 2009



4241 Comments


hell yeah, this review is awesome.

timbo, while pollard may not have been trying to innovate a genre or anything (which he kind of did help do anyway) he certainly tried to "break ground" with his albums - same place the fly got smashed is essentially a concept album about drinking + their debut is littered with instrumental (and even a 5 minute track!) to make an album into... an album. i think when he got to bee thousand, alien lanes and under the bushes, the songs are to come together cohesively and apart. both ways you must try. :p

TheEnforcer
January 2nd 2010



270 Comments


I'm not sure how I feel about he review itself but your abundance of comma and dash's really do hinder the readers progress. The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs might even warrant a single division.

Other than that the details are very good and makes me slightly interested in the album itself.

tom79
January 25th 2010



3364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This has grown on me so much over the past week. There's a few duds here but when there's 28 tracks it's not a big deal at all. I think I like this better than Bee Thousand.

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

slan
February 4th 2010



50 Comments


Why did they break up?

scotish
February 12th 2010



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

they'd been at it for years and years and the band members had been reshuffled loads of times so I think they had a pretty good run tbh. robert pollard is still churning out solo stuff though.

robin
Emeritus
February 12th 2010



4241 Comments


they broke up because robert pollard 'tired of being a ringleader'

Romulus
February 12th 2010



8413 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think Bee Thousand barely edges this out for my favorite by these guys

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2010



14991 Comments


'game of pricks' is awesome. as is 'ex-supermodel'. those are all i've really heard. oh yeah, and the opener rules too. hmmmm

scotish
March 20th 2010



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

that means that you must get the rest of this ;o

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2010



14991 Comments


just got this! good stuff--but not as flawless as bee thousand (in terms of songwriting); i.e. songs like 'evil speakers' (ugh this one) just wander in search of a good melody and...end. whereas basically all from bee thousand snapped up, got them, and went out the door. lots of good stuff here, though. and damn that sprout! i think he mightve gotten the two best songs on the album--he also had a lot of the top-tier stuff on bee thousand.

robin
Emeritus
May 8th 2010



4241 Comments


its pretty much a two listen deal as far as im concerned. then it will click.



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