April 26, 2004
RIP GBV, Long Live Bob Pollard

Late Saturday night, Bob Pollard (the musician, not real estate salesman) announced that come 2005, Guided By Voices will no longer exist as a recording or touring entity. Pollard will continue to record and tour as a solo artist.

This sounds like bigger news than it is. Since Tobin Sprout left the band in 1996, Guided By Voices has been Robert Pollard. He's written the music and lyrics almost exclusively (with the exception of Doug Gillard's "I Am A Tree"). Members of the band have been hired and fired on his whim, and every GBV album has essentially been a Pollard solo album.

All things considered, though, I expected this ending to affect me more. Guided By Voices was the first band for whom I held a fanatical fervor. Between 1994 and 1996 I rearranged business trips, vacations and long weekends to see the band at least ten times a year. The shows were inspired mayhem, the very essence of what I felt rock and roll should be at the time. Clever lyrics built around poppy melodies, every song begged to be sung with a beer in one hand and your other arm around a fellow fan..

When Pollard hired Cobra Verde as his band for Mag Earwhig! I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, for me at least, the sweet songwriting counterpoint that Tobin Sprout added to the band was sadly missed, and Pollard started his move toward more rock and prog, and less of the pop masterpieces that I adored appeared in the following albums.

I started seeing less shows by the band, even missing a hometown show literally down the street (I was living in Salt Lake City at the time) because someone else I'd rather see was playing across town. The recent albums, though stellar in parts, ceased to earn their way into my playlists. Pollard's side projects suffered the same fate. Slowly I came to the realization that once again, I didn't have a favorite band.

The magic that is Propeller, Vampire on Titus, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Under The Bushes, Under The Stars still moves me. I play these albums and am transported to a time and place where I hung on every note. This Bud's for you, Bob, you are a stellar songwriter, and gave me some of the best musical moments of my life.

Posted by david on April 26, 2004

For me, GBV broke up when Sprout, Mitchell and Fennell left after Under the Bushes, and not just because of Sprout's songwriting influence. They were a band, not just Bob and some guys. I saw a profoundly dull GBV show with Cobra Verde, and my friend and I in the crowd realized that we knew the songs better than CV did. Fortunately, Sleater-Kinney were the opener, so it was still a good show.

That being said, GBV have had some inspired moments in the years since, and went back to putting on a great live show in the past few years. I guess I have mixed feelings about retiring the name. If he had done it after the Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes lineup had split, it would have been appropriate. But if he's kept it this long, why stop now? It seems kind of arbitrary, and therefore unsatisfying.

Posted by: schroeder on April 26, 2004 06:02 PM

blame the move away from home/8-track recording.

Posted by: RSL on April 26, 2004 08:21 PM

i think the last album- earthquake glue- was an excellent record.... and their live shows i think are much better today or in recent tours than they were in 94-96 when they were incredibly sloppy (i saw a few of those here in dc)... GBV developed into a much better live band and that above all is what i will miss... i will miss the ritual of going to a GBV show...personally, and its just a theory, i believe that GBV's less popppy direction has something to do with demos not being around to write those awesome utterly melodic bass lines (all of alien lanes for example seems to be about bass led songs)....

Posted by: serge on April 27, 2004 10:43 AM

i love the old band too, but c'mon, you gotta love doug and nate, at least?!?! other than "do the collapse", i love all the newer records. also, 'volunteer fire dept' by bob and doug is a masterpiece.

Posted by: Brent on April 30, 2004 09:41 PM

Measure a man's worth by the what he gives. Bob gives as much as he can. He sometimes hits. He sometimes misses, but if you have faith, you will be lucky enough to receive a momement of conceptual bliss if you so chose. Guided By Voices is neither here nor there. They are a dream that I barely understand. I listen and learn. They fucking rock, too.

Posted by: Ben on June 14, 2004 11:24 AM
Post a comment