Review Summary: A beer cooler from a garage in Dayton..
Whatever verve Bob Pollard found his way back to a few years ago is evidently still kicking strong, and so here we are again, another few months past and a brand new Guided by Voices LP on our hands. Indie’s quintessential loveable imp and hardest-working old-timer is back at it, history coming full circle, as his revived team-up with original co-creator Tobin Sprout has been ushered out without due formalities yet again to make way for Doug Gillard, like it’s 1997 all over again. The resulting Space Gun
is another unpolished pebble of feel-good middle-aged vibes from the heart of Middle America, Pollard’s now-103rd release altogether.
Much like on last year’s How Do You Spell Heaven
, a sense of warped triumph becomes Pollard and company. His knack for penning songs of learned luminosity, something bright and declarative that persists in the face of age and life’s chronic knocks, that bruised innocence, is plastered all over Space Gun
’s every ruck and crease.
The Cobra Verde line-up return as his backing band for the third consecutive time since the double stack of August by Cake
, and Pollard seems happy as can be to be back in their hi-fi midst, analog synths, mellotrons, string sections flourishes and all. It’s strange to imagine, even now, how much luster and vigour the 60-year old manages to bring both to the studio and the live venue to this day.
Guided by Voices being who they are, Space Gun
is a far cry for a straight hit-maker. Undercooked tropes, stiff-veering melodies, countless rehashes of old ideas, and sheer nonsense crop up just about everywhere. So does the good stuff though; that eager earnestness, the boyish cynicism, the charming thoughtlessness - it’s all there in the thick of the splendid, heartfelt self-awareness of the electrified rush of the title-track opener, the patented Midwestern wink of “King Flute” and the hard “Liar’s Box” that mashes vaguely proggy theatrics into a three-minute frame.
hits its stride properly on side B. Somewhere in the middle of the disarming croon of “I Love Kangaroos,” GBV lock into a winsome groove and ride it all the way out to closing. Pollard’s childish weariness cuts right through the moodiness of “That’s Good,” and “Grey Spat Matters” may just be the finest candid rocker they’ve laid to tape since “Goodbye Note.”
The final verdict on Space Gun
is predictable enough. This likely won’t win them any new fans, and modern indie music tropes being what they are, the trade GBV ply now borders on some post-post-modern version of ‘dad rock’ more than anything. What it is is simple enough. Just an old scene vet, grizzled but unexhausted, warring but not worn out yet, serving up another take of simple summer fun a few months early.