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Guided by Voices - Let’s Go Eat the Factory

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Artist: Guided by Voices

Album: Let’s Go Eat the Factory

Label: Guided by Voices Industries

Review date: Mar. 7, 2012


Guided By Voices - "The Unsinkable Fats Domino" (Let's Go Eat the Factory)


Let’s Go Eat the Factory is the first Guided by Voices album in 16 years to be recorded by the band’s original line-up: Robert Pollard, of course, but also Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and, perhaps most significantly, Tobin Sprout. Indeed, you are not very far into this fuzzy, blustery, Beatles-into-Who enterprise, when you come across a coda to “Spiderfight” that reminds you why Sprout mattered. Tipped in at the end of a distorted rampage, here is a tremulous, delicate, beautifully vulnerable bit that makes you remember how Sprout was soul to Pollard’s muscular mercuriality. Nearly two decades ago, in Bee Thousand, “Awful Bliss” carved a lyrical space between “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “Mincer Ray.” Now “Spiderfight” (and later “Who Invented the Sun”) provides the same kind of contrast, one that both satisfies on its own account and makes Pollard’s big voiced, buzz-guitared pop sound even rougher and more urgent.

This iteration of Guided By Voices first convened in 2010 for Matador’s 21st birthday celebration, which led later that year to a national tour. Material was written -- unsurprisingly lots of material. Let’s Go Eat the Factory is the first of two albums of new, original-line-up GBV material. The second, Clown Class Spots a UFO, will come out in May 2012.

Pollard fans have never been short of material. Last year alone, for instance, he recorded with Doug Gillard as Lifeguards, with Big Dipper’s Gary Waleik as Mars Classroom and with Boston Spaceships (his best post-GBV band to date), and made two albums as a solo artist. All of his projects are recognizably his, written in short bursts of distortion and encrusted melody, with arena-worthy guitar riffs buried in impenetrable fuzz and with bizarrely evocative lyrics that never make sense as written, but somehow seem to suggest secret meanings, obscure epiphanies and pulp sci-fi plots. Pollard never really left GBV. He carries it with him wherever he goes.

Yet, Let’s Go Eat the Factory proves, if nothing else, that Robert Pollard never accounted for 100 percent of GBV’s greatness, that Sprout as foil, as collaborator, as underweighted balance to the force of the front-man’s personality made both GBV and Pollard better. You can sense the influence directly, in the unexpected delicacy of “Doughnut for a Snowman” and “Hang Mr. Kite,” both Pollard-written tunes, and indirectly in the way that melody dominates “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” overcoming strident power chords and explosive drum fills to elevate tune over racket. And later, when Sprout’s “Waves” harks back to the band’s earliest, smudgiest, drone-cloudiest essays at rock (it sounds like “Mincer Ray”), you have the sense of the whole band remembering what made GBV so special.

Let’s Go Eat the Factory has its share of duds and non-starters (to my ears “The Big Hat and Toy Show,” “My Europa” and “Things That Never Need”), but let’s be honest, so did Vampires on Titus. Still, all in all, this is the very best kind of post-reunion album, the one that allows you to rediscover things you’d forgotten about a band you always loved.

By Jennifer Kelly

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