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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

It’s anyone’s guess what compels Robert Pollard to continue making music. He’s already outperformed his own rock ‘n’ roll heroes – if not in fidelity and cash-flow, than in sheer prolificacy. Yet there’s more behind Pollard’s 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 let’s forget the mock-band names and tape hiss for a minute and go wide.

Pollard is a rock shaman of the highest order. I’m well aware that using that word will make some folks retch, but there’s no more appropriate descriptor. I’m not talking about the Jim Morrison variety, mind you – there’s no psycho-sexual-kundalini-coil shit in Pollard’s world. At least I hope not. That’s 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 Bob’s magic is different.

Here’s why I used the term: Pollard’s 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.

Pollard’s DIY approach wasn’t 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, it’s not difficult to see Pollard as a rock yogi, dispensing crazy wisdom through his scrappy rock band. That’s how it was for a time, anyway.

And that’s 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

Let’s Go Eat the Factory

The Bears for Lunch

English Little League

Read More

View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Fading Captain

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