Review Summary: At this point, it unfortunately sounds like a case of quantity over quality.
I’m pretty confident in my assumption that the universal reaction among even the most loyal of fans to the release of Guided by Voices’ fourth album in under a year was a passive “Ah.” Since their reunion in 2010, saying that Guided by Voices are eager and excited to keep releasing new material again would be an understatement, as they pumped out a whopping three full-length studio albums throughout the single year of 2012, and having already raced into 2013 with the Down by the Racetrack
EP – as if an EP of material to hold us over was really necessary – the release of English Little League
early into 2013 will no doubt signify a repeat in the abundance of reinvigorated Guided by Voices material that last year saw.
However, it’s a bit inevitable that English Little League
really doesn’t feel like a special album at all. It seems that Guided by Voices have finally run into one of the main tribulations that results from releasing so much new material in such a short amount of time, and that’s a lack of the excitement to come out of hype and anticipation surrounding an artist’s new album releases, which before was mostly absent from the group’s third post-hiatus album The Bears for Lunch
, but is now most evident in English Little League
, as it’s not uncommon for the decline in care to reach its peak by a fourth installment.
Even for diehards of the group who can’t get enough of the band and would be in absolute euphoria if Guided by Voices could release a new album every week
, it has to be a bit difficult to overlook the inescapable feeling of creative strain throughout the songs on English Little League
. Musically, it’s really only what’s been heard before on The Bears for Lunch
, Class Clown Spots a UFO
, and Let's Go Eat the Factory
. The only way to be remotely surprised and intrigued by this album is if you missed out on any of the three albums from last year; this can be defined as the exuberantly sunny indie rock you’d expect, with organic production and tender quirks to match. If you never get tired of that sort of thing, you’re in luck with English Little League
, but for a band that is known and praised for being very imaginative with their body of work, the level of predictability here really spoils the experience. It’s kind of like going to the park and doing conventional park activities for the afternoon every day for a month; the initially fun experience really starts to wear off.
Now, this all doesn’t necessarily mean that English Little League
is a bad album. Its main flaw is that creatively, it feels like Guided by Voices has mined from the same territory too much, and the well is running dry early as a result. Despite that though, it’s mostly a decently solid collection of summery indie music. A redeeming quality is that Guided by Voices don't sound tired or drained as a band in the slightest, and the performances on this are as pleasently youthful as they always are, as age thankfully hasn't gotten to their music yet. It’s not the best music the band has released by any means, but the quality is intact mostly thanks to the regular spunkiness of Tobin Sprout’s contributions to the music, who really ends up stealing the show from Robert Pollard this time around. For the sake of variety and diversity, Guided by Voices would be best advised to consider allowing Tobin to take the reins with the upcoming slew of releases from the band, which will surely come out hastily, seeing as how as of now it's uncertain when they plan on taking a breather at this point.
But that lack of diversity is really the consequences of the band, despite consisting of a reunited classic lineup, not allowing themselves nearly enough time to further grow with each other as a reunited band in between their new album releases. It’s great that the group is so excited to deliver so much material, but there are repercussions to rushing as much as they are, and English Little League
thematically feeling like a band just going with the first vague ideas that randomly pop into their heads is one of them.