Dusted Reviews

Guided by Voices - English Little League

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Guided by Voices

Album: English Little League

Label: Guided by Voices Industries

Review date: May. 24, 2013

When Guided By Voices pulled the plug in 2005, it’s unclear how many of the Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand fans were avidly listening to Pollard & Co.’s new material at that point. Earthquake Glue had some winners and their goodbye tour broke some hearts, but expectations were no longer astronomical for the quality of their output. That said, every fairweather fan and diehard came out of the woodwork when the initial lineup got back together in 2010. The crowds at their reunion shows were excited enough that they got the right degree of shitcanned, pogoed along to “Game of Pricks” in unison and conveniently ignored the sad, aging stadium band aspects of the performance (guitar god poses, uncomfortable drunkenness) because — at long last — the club was open.

As such, when the “classic lineup” started releasing new material, there was a renewed, albeit cautious optimism that Guided By Voices, one of the most storied and celebrated indie rock bands of all time would put out material on par with the great material of their heyday. Dinosaur Jr. and Mission of Burma did just that, and after much longer breaks. One thing to remember about the great material of GBV’s heyday was that there were several forgettable (and even awful) afterthoughts littered throughout 30-song discs. For every “Echos Myron,” there was a “Gold Hick." The three albums that Guided By Voices has released since reconvening have boasted similarly long tracklists with a smattering of great tunes and some skip-worthy duds that serve as a reminder that they always had those, too.

English Little League starts with a memorable and high-quality opener in “Xeno Pariah,” a compact showcase of everything the band does right. The staccato stops and sudden key changes maintain listener awareness before the breezy choruses and background harmonies dare you to not to sing along. Single “Flunky Minnows” is another joyful nugget of feedback, whimsical lyricism and memorable melodies. They don’t maintain that high quality — the off-key “Sir Garlic Breath” is just painful — and more often than not, the songs fall into good-not-great territory. (Granted, that’s at least more memorable than anything from Let’s Go Eat the Factory.)

The genuine shock of this album is that some of the biggest highlights come from tracks that eschew the jangly pop formula for something more somber or psychedelic. “Noble Insect” is a haunting foray into a minor key with understated synths, and ends up being one of Pollard’s best contributions to the album. Also, the more psychedelic that Tobin Sprout veers, the better. The charming off-kilter folk of "Island (She Talks In Rainbows)" would sound like a Byrds track were the telltale fuzzy guitar not sitting underneath.

Wishing for a return to form can be a little dangerous in the case of Guided By Voices because the full package has always included the good, the bad and "The Ugly Vision." However, as the classic lineup spends more time writing together, they start to shake off more rust and put together an increasingly better crop of songs. In fact, some of the songs that stray the farthest from the classic GBV sound end up working the best. As such, hoping for another Alien Lanes is perhaps unfair, but wishing for another good album before year’s end might not be unreasonable.

By Valerie Paschall

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

Suitcase 2

Let’s Go Eat the Factory

The Bears for Lunch

Read More

View all articles by Valerie Paschall

Find out more about Guided by Voices Industries

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.