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Guided by Voices - Suitcase 2

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Artist: Guided by Voices

Album: Suitcase 2

Label: Fading Captain

Review date: Feb. 18, 2006


Itís anyoneís guess what compels Robert Pollard to continue making music. Heís already outperformed his own rock Ďní roll heroes Ė if not in fidelity and cash-flow, than in sheer prolificacy. Yet thereís more behind Pollardís musical drive than morbid self-actualization. It's no good to merely catalog his recordings like an indie-rock file clerk. Creative energy such as his deserves greater consideration.

Suitcase 2, the latest release in what is sure to be a steady supply of Guided By Voices detritus, represents just a fraction of his work with the band. With 200 songs spread over four discs, analysis seems daunting. But letís forget the mock-band names and tape hiss for a minute and go wide.

Pollard is a rock shaman of the highest order. Iím well aware that using that word will make some folks retch, but thereís no more appropriate descriptor. Iím not talking about the Jim Morrison variety, mind you Ė thereís no psycho-sexual-kundalini-coil shit in Pollardís world. At least I hope not. Thatís kind of like imagining your grandpa fucking. Nor is Pollard a grotesque Jack Scratch figure goading us with material desire a la Mick Jagger. Weird Bobís magic is different.

Hereís why I used the term: Pollardís imagistic lyrics and ragged musicality create a bridge between the mundane and the exceptional. His fractured arrangements and inchoate poetics marry the outlandish with the familiar, resulting in a surrealist cocktail not dissimilar to the work of Lewis Carroll. Pollard himself claims that his method involves a certain kind of free-form derangement, often brought about by copious alcohol consumption. The result elevates rock to sublime levels, without compromising its primitive nature.

Pollardís DIY approach wasnít just born of convenience. It represents both allegiance to populism, as well as the reclamation of music as art. To Pollard & Co., the spirit of the thing is far more important than getting the right drum sound. Sounds simple, but in all actuality, it requires a great degree of fearlessness. Guided By Voices and their leader had this kind of balls.

In this way, itís not difficult to see Pollard as a rock yogi, dispensing crazy wisdom through his scrappy rock band. Thatís how it was for a time, anyway.

And thatís how it is on this set. To give a rundown of highlights is to miss the point of the work. Pollard will likely continue to compose well into his golden years; we might as well carve out extra headspace in advance.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Other Reviews of Guided by Voices

Universal Truths and Cycles

Earthquake Glue

Get Out Of My Stations

Human Amusements At Hourly Rates

Half Smiles of the Decomposed

Letís Go Eat the Factory

The Bears for Lunch

English Little League

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View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Fading Captain

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