Guided by Voices
Let's Go Eat The Factory


1.5
very poor

Review

by robin EMERITUS
January 2nd, 2012 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


In a decade or two of very awesome ideas in indie rock, one of the best also has the least to do with music. It’s chronicled in the to-do list of Stephen Malkmus, and if it turns out that he doesn’t have one, I’m fairly sure these are the bullet-points: firstly, write some music. There’s no outlet better for a guy who still speaks in riddles after all these years. Secondly, don’t release another Pavement album. The live reunion, yes, that’s inevitable for such a legendary band, but Malkmus recognises his riddles are no longer Crooked Rain riddles, not by a long way: you have to write as if you don’t really care about writing to make “Range Life,” backhanded even if it was immaculately crafted. His lack of temptation to do it again- to be the casual genius only unlocked by Pavement- is kinda commendable in my eyes. He’s not arguing against how much he bloody well was Pavement. He’s just aware there’s no need to assert that anymore, because, well, being one thing doesn’t necessarily mean being it forever.

Robert Pollard is not Stephen Malkmus, sadly.

I’m not bringing this up to start a band vs. band argument, especially as Guided by Voices occupy that favourite band hall of fame in my sweet little head. But as far as reunions go, here’s one that shouldn’t have happened, and here's the exact reason Stephen Malkmus got it right. Robert Pollard has billed Let’s Go Eat The Factory as a reunion album, a new era straight from the old era, one that brings the ‘classic line-up’ back together like a doting indie commune. What it is in reality, however, is far from that beautiful hippy image: this is just another moment of self-indulgence from a man with too much of his own stuff going on in his life anyway, all of it music. This is an album that marginalizes its most exciting aspect, the return of Pollard’s long-time companion Tobin Sprout, and ignores the return of old friends Mitch Mitchell and Greg Demos entirely. This isn’t a reunion album anymore than tacking the name on with four different guys would be. Rather, it’s Pollard’s declaration that this band is, through it all, his own. And god, what a mistake that is.

Because you have to wonder what happened to tear apart Pollard and Sprout here, why exactly their connection has gone so wrong. It’s not a partnership anymore, and I guess that’s another thing on this long list of inevitabilities I don’t want to face. That’s all Guided By Voices really are on this record- a band of crappy lists, a competing arena for a Pollard counting wins off of songs. It’s a game only Uncle Bob is playing, of course, and whatever little flag of jangle-pop pride Sprout is proudly waving on Let’s Go Eat The Factory is burnt to a crisp by the misguided leadership of his friend the jock. It’s a record in which Pollard trades personalities with himself obsessively, back and forth between the days when he was obnoxious as hell- the award goes to any number of his solo records- and those where he was just plain tedious. Sprout will remember fewer of those days than the line-up that informed Pollard’s late GBV records, of course, and so with him having a firm grasp on one of the band’s records for the first time in years, he shows up his dull and blocky counterpart a hundred times over.

In fact, for ten tiny minutes, Sprout finds a way to kick the ass out of Let’s Go Eat The Factory. He still has a Peter Gabriel quality (which, fittingly, would make Pollard Phil Collins in this particular Greek tragedy) that gets him to making a track as creepy and nostalgia-manipulative as “Old Bones.” He can also still write the odd R.E.M. throwback track- the advantage here being that these are consequentially worthy GBV throwbacks- and so “Waves” propels ever forward like a sweet, twee moment amidst the joylessness of Robert Pollard’s falling over and getting up again. Those ten minutes are a welcome distraction, but they’re hampered regardless by the time Pollard spends on Let’s Go Eat The Factory stumbling over himself. He starts doing it literally enough by the time “Cyclone Utilities” has bumped by, but the dents in the road Pollard prides himself in are no longer the warped fantasies they were. I guess, really, it’s as simple as it not being 1993 anymore. “Go Rolling Home” and “The Room Taking Shape,” are typical GBV snippet songs, dedicated to using the hook once lest it be overused. It’s only that the hook doesn’t emerge for those thirty seconds, and as I get all clingy over indie rock for the umpteenth time, I just wish I could be moved by this.

As he stumbles from place to place thirty seconds at a time, I can’t help but feel Pollard is to blame for the devastating, non tear-jerker, non-anything of an album Let’s Go Eat The Factory ends up being. It looks into endless possibilities and takes twenty-one left turns in all, moving unexplained from eerie spoken word to dissonant piano play, and yet it plays out so predictable that Mitchell and Demos- surely innocent parties in all of this- are probably wondering when “Chicken Blows” is going to crack up the room. To be this predictable while moving with such stylistic abandon seems impossible. Hell, it was Guided By Voices who made it seem impossible in the first place; who could be boring with so much going on? On Let’s Go Eat The Factory, each stylistic move feels like a cheap gimmick, something Pollard would give over to an unexciting, unsurprising solo album. “The Big Hat and Toy Show” might sound like nothing else on Let’s Go Eat The Factory, but that does not make its inclusion worthy or daring. It makes the album feel like it was made in the dark with no understanding of how Bee Thousand got moody or how Alien Lanes embraced its flaws. Instead, the mood is uninterested and the flaw is shitty basslines.

I’m aware, of course, that Let’s Go Eat The Factory will be awesome and explainable to other GBV nerds, or if it isn’t- which is more likely- it won’t matter anyway. You can’t tarnish a legacy set in stone on its own merits (or in this band’s world, on quirks), a fact that Pollard has well enough proved without this record. I hated Space City Kicks, but it didn’t detract from my belief that Pollard is some brand of mad-scientist genius. And so all this might not speak with as much praise to Malkmus’ decision, because he might have fun with another Pavement record. That’s all Pollard is doing at the end of all this, even if it just seems like one ridiculous tease to the rest of us: to get the gang back together, to release your cult indie band’s first record in eight years, all of it for belly laughs aplenty. The LP comeback of Guided By Voices makes no difference, it won’t make any difference in the summer, and so it’s not on the scale of music’s biggest mistakes. It’s not a Metal Machine Music, but only because it’s too unremarkable. It’s not Chelsea Girl ruined by flutes, because Pollard wanted all those awful guitar noises. Here, instead, is a bad album not doomed to be one in history. It’s just a sludgy, grumpy record from a band who once knew pop music needed whimsy. Is it the classic line-up's fault they aren’t all that classic anymore? Mainly, it’s just Pollard’s, Pollard with his grump on, stomping angrily on the status quo as Sprout outshines him in his ten minute segment. How dull, Bob. What a boring record, and what an indie mistake.



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...and a very Pollard New Year....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Awesome review Robin. I think that the most disappointing thing about this album is that there are plenty of good ideas, but the only track which seems fully realised is Waves. This grew on me a little but it's still average at best.

porch
January 2nd 2012


8459 Comments


love the review

ohfoxxxycole
January 2nd 2012


4353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this album gets pretty bad

Romulus
January 2nd 2012


8441 Comments


we agree on waves and that's all that matters

TheFonz123
January 2nd 2012


2795 Comments


haha, you sound really british while i read this, nonetheless its really well written. If this really is that contrived and sloppy i wont get it; i dont want my vision of 'bee thousand' to be tarnished.

davegibbon
January 2nd 2012


1 Comments


This review, while hard to read for me (GBV are my favourite band), is so on the money. It's the first GBV album that I didn't like on first listen. The Sprout/Pollard tension was an interesting point, something that I didn't pick up on. It made me think of the way that Pollard would leave the stage during Sprout songs during the reunion shows last year. It didn't feel to me like he wanted to give Sprout the spotlight, it felt more like he didn't want to be part of it. I'm going to give a few more spins but I really wished they hadn't put the GBV name on this album.

Spare
January 2nd 2012


5313 Comments


really great review

huh
January 2nd 2012


1 Comments


Dear Robin,

Before you get on your high horse and completely trash an album for the sole purpose of making yourself look smart, you might try doing your homework. Doug Gillard appears nowhere on this record--nowhere--which kinda makes you look like an idiot.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2012


15050 Comments


uhh that's what he fucking said int he review you moron

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2012


7358 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

haha

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2012


15743 Comments


no one is on a higher horse than he who writes internet comments in letter format

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

ohfoxxxycole
January 2nd 2012


4353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

huh

kitsch
January 2nd 2012


5107 Comments


not surprised that this isn't good

the whole parallel you did with malkmamus and pavement wouldve been cooler if it was half the length

kitsch
January 2nd 2012


5107 Comments


"Dear Robin,

Before you get on your high horse and completely trash an album for the sole purpose of making yourself look smart, you might try doing your homework. Doug Gillard appears nowhere on this record--nowhere--which kinda makes you look like an idiot. "

because gillard being in the band is such a central point of this review

bad music taste fanboy u mad

Kiran
Emeritus
January 2nd 2012


6001 Comments


team malkmus

AggravatedYeti
January 3rd 2012


7685 Comments


Robert Pollard is not Stephen Malkmus, sadly.

god damn it I wish pictures weren't still deactivated.

I'm sure you already know how I feel about this review.

and you in general.

robin
Emeritus
January 3rd 2012


4249 Comments


no huh is actually right, i twice mixed up gillard and mitchell. edited! thx. i really dispute being on my high horse though, gbv have been my favourite band for a whole number of my teenage yrs. maybe next i will 5.0 a tobin sprout album. who knows!

i appreciate how british i supposedly sound.

also kitsch thanks for the tip

robin
Emeritus
January 3rd 2012


4249 Comments


me think of the way that Pollard would leave the stage during Sprout songs during the reunion shows last year. It didn't feel to me like he wanted to give Sprout the spotlight, it felt more like he didn't want to be part of it.


for sure. while i'm sure any rivalry they have is friendly (surely, since they've known eachother for so long) it's obvious to me pollard isn't the quiet beatle.

omnipanzer
January 3rd 2012


21621 Comments


Great review, I believe I'll not waste my time with this just yet.

Digging: We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling

miamiscot
January 3rd 2012


3 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I think you need to go back to this record a few more times. It actually gets better with repeat listens. WAY better. I too was extremely disappointed at first. Then I remembered that I really didn't care for Alien Lanes when it first came out either. I can honestly say this new GbV album is right up there with their best.



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