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Monday, January 23, 2012

REVIEW: GUIDED BY VOICES – Let's Go Eat the Factory (2012)

GUIDED BY VOICES – Let's Go Eat the Factory (Guided By Voices - January 17, 2012)

The classic Guided By Voices line-up returns with an adequate facsimile of their glory days.  

As far as reunited bands go, the much heralded Guided By Voices return appears be a success in meeting fan's expectations and touching on past glories. Let's Go Eat the Factory, their 16th, is the band's first album since disbanding in 2004. More importantly, it's the first album with the revered mid-90's line-up since 1996's Under the Bushes Under the Stars.

Like the best GBV albums, the new one is a hook heavy hodge podge of lo-fi indie pop full of quirky musical twists and Robert Pollard's wonderfully weird and occasionally ridiculous lyrics. But also like even the best GBV albums, the quality is erratic and filler mingles with the gems, throwing off the momentum. I'm a long time GBV fan, but I don't think they've ever made an entirely great album (although 1994's Bee Thousand and 2001's Isolation Drills come close). For me part of being a GBV fan means having the willingness to sort through the throw-aways and focus on the winners. MP3 player technology has made listening to the band much easier - I no longer have to keep the skip button at the ready - I can just program my faves and hit play.

One of the charms of GBV is how excessively prolific they are. It's as if they're accepting a challenge to put out X number of songs in a year. But ultimately they could use an editor - someone to say no. They're not a band that makes choices - it seems like once the song is finished it's guaranteed a spot on the album. They already have another new album in the chamber and there's a third 2012 release being discussed. Three albums in one year is funny, but I'd love to see the band finally put out one focused, great album. They can save the lesser songs for b-sides or rarities collections.

Let's Go Eat the Factory is an enjoyable album with the usual mix of punchy power pop, lo-fi garagey indie-pop, and hippy-ish experimentation (aka "dicking around").  The four or five best songs here stand up to the 4 or 5 best songs on just about any other GBV album. But this one seems to be a bit thinner on the next tier of songs. The result is an adequate album that might have sounded more substantial fifteen years ago, but today sounds more like a decent recreation of the GBV glory days rather than actually reclaiming any of their previous glory.

STANDOUT TRACKS: There's a great 3 song run of "Hang Mr. Kite", "God Loves Us", and "The Unsinkable Fats Domino" that probably plays a big part in me coming back to this album more than I though I would.

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