Sunday, November 7, 2010

This weekend was for hero worship. I saw the "classic line up" of Guided by Voices. Did they play "Kicker of Elves?"


But they did play this.

Not all Guided by Voices songs are about elf kicking. Something that has always irked me in critical treatment of the band is the focus on Pollard lyrics as some sort of fantastical theatre. When you name songs "Postal Blowfish" or "Zoo Pie," you can see this trend forming. There is even a GBV Song Title Generator. This is where poet Tony Tost found the title for his long poem, World Jelly. But this fantasy treatment has always been reductive. Look at the song Tractor Rape Chain, which at first glance looks ridiculous by title alone. But then there are the words

why is it every time i think about you
something that you have said or implied makes
me doubt you
then i look into your cynical eyes and i know it
as if it never meant anything to me

parallel lines on a slow decline - tractor rape chain
better yet, let's all get wet on the tractor rape chain
speed up, slow down, go all around in the end

in the first place it's probably just paranoia
but there's a ghost in my room
and he says i better run
it's a thing i know - it's a thing i believe in
won't you tell it to go away?

An anthemic charge against the dissolution of relationship, of once tender eye looks now gone jaded, of workman-like routine pushing two people in separate paths. It is very human, very familiar and very sad.

That same voice sings confidence to another utilitarian object (utility & work being one of the most persevering themes in Pollard's music & common for a man who worked for years as a forth grade teacher while trying to get his band noticed, only experiencing success when closely pushing forty. That and the fact Pollard has the hardest work ethic in indie rock, release 3-5 albums a year since GBV's 2004 dissolution) in My Valuable Hunting Knife, my favorite GBV song.

I want to start a new life
With my valuable hunting knife
She will shine like a new girl
And I want to shout out our love to the world
Everything I think about I think about
Everything I talk about I talk about
With you
But you don't know what I go through
You don't know

Days, they will turn into nights
But my valuable hunting knife
It will not rust through the tears
And it will not lose its appeal over years

Pollard's music has always been about world making. GBV came from, and continue to live, in their own world. But here is a voice in post traumatic desperation, making real what's not to find a reliable commitment to his cause, which is loneliness. This feeling is echoed throughout his best ars poetica, I am a Scientist.

I am a lost soul I shoot myself with rock n roll The hole I dig is bottomless But nothing else could set me free

Sometimes it is just for the music. But GBV's best songs - Teenage FBI, Game of Pricks, Smothered in Hugs, The Official Ironman Rally Song, Don't Stop Now, Blimps Go 90, Exit Flagger, Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory - wear their self conscious loneliness for anyone to see. It is what I will always remember them for.


I need a camera. I went to this great restaurant with this great person. I would have liked to have shown you the fried Brussels sprouts. I would like to have shown you the copy of Macgregor Card's THE GERM #1 I found in a used record shop.

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