Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Let It Rest for a Little While"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (2010)

Sandwiched in between the solo albums Moses on a Snail and Space City Kicks, comes Boston Spaceships fourth LP, Our Cubehouse Still Rocks. Much like the previous three Spaceships records, this one is packed with outstanding, straightforward, band-oriented rock songs. Pollard, Slusarenko and Moen continue their postal arrangement, with the instrumental parts recorded in Jonathan Drews’ Portland, OR Last of the Explorers studio and the vocal additions taking place in Todd Tobias’ Ohio-based Waterloo Sound home studio. A couple of Moen’s Decemberists bandmates, Jenny Conlee and Nate Query, make appearances, adding some accordion, organ and cello to the project. Sam Coomes returns to lay down another wicked guitar solo and we get the return of Doug Gillard who lends his guitar wizardry to the incredible “Come on Baby Grace.”
From the album’s release notes:
Following three full-length records in only two years, Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is a breakthrough fourth from supergroup Boston Spaceships. Featuring Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices), Chris Slusarenko (Guided By Voices) and John Moen (Decemberists), the band began as a long-distance recording collaboration, but brilliantly hits their stride on this album as an unshakable, actualized band. For a group that took their name from the over-the-top UFO illustrations on record covers from 70's arena rockers Boston, there's no denying a classic-rock flag flying high overhead. Just below, however, there's a bustling churn of art-damaged new wave, echoes of Devo, mid-period Wire and the sour songcraft of the Rough Trade stable.
Chris Slusarenko reflects fondly on the making of Cubehouse:
There’s something very solid about this record. Maybe it doesn’t throw as many left fields at you but a lot of that was due to the fact that this was our fourth record together and I knew the language by then. It also sounds like a we are a real band here instead of a studio creation…. I kind of harkened back to the sound of Brown Submarine here at times—very punchy acoustics and less dense in terms of layered guitars and instrumentation. There we lots of chances to guess what should happen the why and where within these songs and I think in terms of me trying to crack the demo code this one has the most confident feel about it. There was no second guessing and the songs (even at their most abstract) were very tuneful. It also has some of my favorite bass playing I’ve ever done on it and hands down my favorite singing Bob did on any Boston Spaceships record.
There isn’t too much more to add to that. So crack open a beer, sit back and enjoy another excellent Boston Spaceships album.

1. Track Star – Demonic Bob, preserved by Slusarenko from the original demo tapes, opens this record. Moen contributes some frantic drumming as the band works themselves into a Who-ish frenzy. As Slusarenko says, “When in doubt—Who it up!!!” Another Boston Spaceships tune that conjures the spirit of “I Can See for Miles.” I love how the bridge allows you to gather your breath before building back to the fist-pumping closing. “He runs real straight, in golden fear through every year, he runs.” (9)
2. John the Dwarf Wants to Become an Angel – Another unanimous, first-ballot, hall-of-fame song title. The song itself is better than the title, too. Easily a Top 5 Pollard song of all-time, I can’t get enough of this one. Bob’s pace and phrasing on this track is glorious. Slushy’s best guitar work on a Spaceships record. That hypnotic riff and those piercing solos are sublime. He reflects back on the recording on this song – “I reached for the Verlaines for a guitar tone and recording element. I was really proud of the way this song sounds—really brittle but pretty too.” The first time the song lifts off at the fifty-three second mark never fails to give me goosebumps. Simultaneously melancholic and bouncy, I have no fucking idea what Bob is signing about here but it never fails to move or inspire me. “Forever I’m too proud, whatever, bound and gagged. But together we shall go and throw the copies away.” (11)
3. I See You Coming – Has a very hypnotic, psychedelic vibe to it. Very repetitive both lyrically and musically. Bob delivers some minimalistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics over a hazy arrangement with some cool additional guitar dynamics sprinkled throughout. “And now I’m runnin’ to you.” (8)
4. Fly Away (Terry Sez) – Opening segment, which sounds like it was pulled from an old movie soundtrack, gives way to a classic era GBV-sounding riff. The song sounds like an outtake from Under the Bushes Under the Stars. “Best not waste your time like a dogfish in sunshine, drinking all the young men’s wine.” (8)
5. Trick of the Telekinetic Newlyweds – Yet another clever song title with several different music styles converging on this hodgepodge of a track, with psych and post punk being the two most prominent ones. Moen’s Decemberists bandmate, Nate Query, lends his support with some cello. “Liquid nails and benders supplied. All would-be intruders denied.” (6)
6. Saints Don’t Lie – Another Decemberist lends support here. This time it’s Jenny Conlee on keys with a neat organ solo. Bob really playing up the British accent. Guitars sound a bit grungier on this track. “And they bust you. And they bust me. And they trust your grass-green eyes.” (6)
7. The British and the French – This is one of the more quirky songs in the Spaceships repertoire. Conlee returns to provide some accordion. Song also features a flugelhorn, courtesy of Dan Adlaf. Bob goes way over the top with the faux British accent. Has a bit of a sea shanty feel to it. Misses the mark for me. (4)
8. Unshaven Bird – Side one recovers from a bit of a bumpy patch with this effortless-sounding GBV track, which happens to be the lone Suitcase song on this project. Slushy claims he was aiming for that Side 2 Abbey Road vibe on this one, calling it one of his favorite Boston Spaceships songs. “I am united with crow, highbrow wherever we go.” (8)
9. Come on Baby Grace – The return of Doug Gillard! This Cheap Trick-inspired power pop, filtered through a classic rock lens, kicks off side two on a high note. Those Gillard guitar parts are brilliant. Pollard’s most inspired vocal performance on the album. “And I just don't understand, why would you ask if I'm a family man?” (10)
10. Freedom Rings – From Gillard-driven power pop, we transition to what sounds like Tommy Iommi-punctuated heavy metal. Bob’s vocals are distorted to match the doom-inspired mood. He also paces his delivery in a manner similar to Ozzy on those early Sabbath albums. Moen turns in his best drumming effort on the record. Boston Spaceships going all Black Sabbath on us. More of this, please! “My God, my love, what is this thing that echoes out like freedom rings?” (10)
11. Stunted – Another one that sort of misses the mark for me. I’m not sure what they were going for here. According to Slushy, “I wanted to make it a missing link of a Westerberg and Big Star song which means the guitars had to just ring and get under the skin.” I don’t really hear or feel that. By no means is this a bad song. However, it’s not very memorable, either. (5)
12. Bombadine – Previous song abruptly transitions into this one, which brings us back to the Sabbath zone previously achieved on “Freedom Rings.” In addition to the Sabbath, I hear some of that early Who garage rock spirit – particularly in that “Pictures of Lily”-esque opening riff and the percussion. Slushy works in some cool fake horns, which he claims was inspired by those early Urge Overkill records. Moen working hard behind the kit to add some fantastic thump, sounding possessed by the ghost of Keith Moon. Lyrically, one of the simplest songs in the Pollard discography. “Bombadine’s a real mean dream now.” (8.5)
13. Airwaves – This track exudes that Bowie/Visconti glammy sleaze. To achieve that sound, Slushy offers the following nuggets, “To get this kind of sound of that era we put towels all over John’s drum set—inside the kick, in the toms, on the snare. We wanted that dead sound that Visconti would get those records. Then we put some foam cushion under the electric bass so that there was no sustain on any of the notes. It just created a really weird dead punch to it.” Sam Coomes returns to lay down another filthy guitar solo. “Rocking the clock all day around. Elvis needs more than 24.” (9)
14. Dunkirk Is Frozen Again – Comes out sounding like a Talking Heads or Feelies song before transitioning into a growling, GBV-esque rocker with Pollard laying down a very matter-of-fact vocal performance. Song whips into a frenzy during the outro, with Slushy piping in all sorts of studio fuckery, including Conlee rehearsing her organ part for “The British and the French.” “I’ll be sad, I know. So sad I know. She’s right down below.” (7)
15. King Green Stamp – Raise your beer, put your arm around the person next to you, sway back and forth and sing along. One of the two tracks on the album that doesn’t make it to the two-minute mark. “Release your all-important and make your time for all.” (7)
16. In the Bathroom (Up ½ the Night) – Preview for the upcoming double album, Let It Beard. Love that driving riff that weaves throughout up till the bombastic coda. This is one of the better constructed songs in the Spaceship catalog. The stop-and-start dynamics here really accentuate the propulsive nature of this song. In addition to some furious drumming, Moen contributes some excellent saxophone during the gloriously cacophonous coda. Originally slated to open the record, Bob makes a great audible tapping this as the closer. “Turn in your radio and then star splits to sing, oh. And the town that they gave us, in a bathroom displayed.” (10)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "John the Dwarf Wants to Become an Angel"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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"Come on Baby Grace" live @ The Independent in San Francisco 8/23/16
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Freedom Rings"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Let It Beard (2011)

It just couldn’t go on forever. Coming on the heels of the announcement that the classic lineup of Guided By Voices was reforming and hitting the road, Bob ended his three-year run with Boston Spaceships by releasing a twenty-six track double album. It was Pollard’s third crack at a double record, having released one in 2006 as a solo artist (From a Compound Eye), and again in 2007 with Circus Devils (Sgt. Disco). The boom box demos that Bob sent to Chris Slusarenko this time around contained over forty songs. Between the two of them, they whittled it down to a more manageable twenty-six and set out to make Let It Beard. Unlike the previous four albums, this one took a little more time and planning. Slusarenko spent six months interpreting Bob’s demos and bringing them to life. (If you are interested/curious, Pollard actually officially released Let It Beard Boombox Demos on Rockathon Records.) He also enlisted the help of several high profile guests in crafting Boston Spaceships’ swan song album. The release notes shed some additional light on the recording process:
Pollard, notorious for changing the song order, replacing one song with another, changing his mind about the album title fifty or sixty times over the course of recording, and even on occasion shit-canning the whole deal, did none of these things. The album was always going to be called Let It Beard. It was always going to be a double album. And though he wrote and re-wrote lyrics and changed the titles of some of the demos, he stuck to the original sequence. This has never happened before, either during or post Guided By Voices. The result: what Pollard has called "a subconscious concept album about the sorry state of rock and roll." A 75 minute thrill ride through the many forms of rock Pollard has mastered in his three plus decades of writing and recording songs. "The White Album meets Quadrophenia meets Jesus Christ Superstar," he says. "Meets Same Place The Fly Got Smashed," adds Slusarenko. An album with strings, horns, keyboards, a female soul singer, and guest guitar turns from such luminaries as Colin Newman from Wire (!!), J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr, Steve Wynn from the Dream Syndicate, Mick Collins from Dirtbombs and the Gories, Dave Rick from Phantom Tollbooth (among others), and some guy named Mitch Mitchell.
Like most double albums, it is a bit bloated and has a tendency to meander at times. They can’t all be “hits,” but there is certainly much to like here. Bob, adhering to that “rust never sleeps” as well as “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” philosophies was onto the next thing – the GBV classic lineup reunion. Unfortunately, that meant disbanding the current band – Boston Spaceships. And although it might be received as heresy in most Pollard circles, I think Boston Spaceships measures up to and surpasses much of what Guided By Voices has produced. It’s hard to believe it only lasted just over three years, but what a stretch it was.

1. Blind 20/20 – Bob, Chris and John challenging the listener right out of the gate with this multi-part pop/punk/psych/prog mini-epic of a track. Song fades in with what sounds like a swarm of bees. Moen breaks it with some drum fills and a mid-tempo rocker erupts. It soon falls apart and transitions to a sparse piano song before morphing into an acoustic track, complete with handclaps. A brief mid-tempo electric section pushes the song into the forest of strings before it just falls off the cliff and cross fades into the next track. This all takes place in just a tick over three minutes. “I just made a baby, now nothing can save me.” (9)
2. Juggernaut vs. Monolith – Like several previous Boston Spaceships projects have, we get our first track recycled from Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now. Some excellent drumming from Moen and sinister-sounding vocals from Bob on this pulsating snippet. “Not one thing fares you well. Not one thing psychs you/likes you. Not one thing shoves you/loves you, like me.” (7)
3. Tourist UFO – Heavy-as-molasses, plodding rocker appears next. Slushy was able to bring in one of Bob’s guitar heroes to come by and lay down a wicked solo during the outro – J. Mascis. The way Moen just goes ham on the kit right before J comes in to deliver that ear-bleeding solo is one of my favorite Boston Spaceships moments. So fuckin’ cool. “And then even the best fools know, the summit and the sum, loud and numb.” (10)
4. Minefield Searcher – Back to Bob’s favorite and most mined band for inspiration, The Who. Sounds like a Tommy outtake. Slushy freely admits what they were going for here – “This one was modeled off The Who. All the guitars, wild high bass melody lines and John playing two different drum tracks that play alongside each other were our attempt to give it that bounce that they had.” Love the violin that comes in to compliment those last few chords of the song. “Because I am the searcher and I need to know. I gotta know. I gotta look around. I gotta be right.” (10)
5. Make a Record for Lo-life – Power pop in that Memphis-formed, Big Star cocksure way, this track drips with all kinds of swagger. Love Bob’s cool, detached vocal delivery. Slushy adding some slide guitar and Moen hammering away at some cowbell. “This makes twenty-six takes. Make a worthless night alright.” (10)
6. Let More Light in the House – Things slow down with this ethereal acoustic track which has a Circus Devils vibe to it. Gradually builds with some snare drum, feedback and banjo being added to the mix. Really stretches out, eating up five minutes and ten seconds. According to Slushy, “Bob wanted each side of the double record to end with a longer track. For this one the demo was over 5 minutes long which is one of the longest songs I had ever worked on.” I like the fact that they took things in a very different direction here. It’s just is a bit too repetitive and didn’t really have to go as long as it does. “I saw the dreams of sober monsters fall behind the door without a knob.” (6)
7. You Just Can’t Tell – Side B brings things back to more of a buzzing post punk zone. Another one of Bob’s musical heroes makes a guest appearance, as Wire’s Colin Newman comes in at the 1:05 to lay down some signature riffs. According to Slushy, when Bob first heard the instrumental tapes, unaware that Newman had contributed, he excitedly exclaimed, “It sounds like Wire!” “Never stop a Christian on a missionary radio sneak up on a petty thief in Congress.” (7.5)
8. Chevy Marigold – This soul-inspired song brings to mind “Gimme Shelter.” Portland-area soul singer, Tahoe Jackson, was brought it to add some Merry Clayton-esque vocals on this sexy, swagger song. In fact, it was a little too sexy at first. Slushy recalls, “I was trying to find things that we hadn’t heard on a Bob album yet like accordion or a female vocals. It was so funny when she was singing all the rave up/soul stuff it was way too sexualized at first. We were laughing because she was just getting into it but I told her to make it less orgasmic. She dialed it back and it was so beautiful.” Slushy and Moen work up a great groove to support Bob and Tahoe’s vocals. “I took the wrong track, I’ll never go back.” (10)
9. Earmarked for Collision – From soulful, Rolling Stones inspired rock and roll, Bob moves back to the prog rock realm he so enjoys. That repetitive, droning riff cycles throughout this track. Well aware of Bob’s prog leanings, Slushy said, “I wanted it emulate the band Yes in its style and intensity.” This is a gloriously stylistic mishmash of song. It’s simultaneously loose and tight. It grooves and then it rocks in a proggy manner. Slusarenko once again proves that he is incredibly adept at bringing to life Bob’s demos. “Send nothing sweet. Take no lumps. Can't rely on smelling salts.” (9)
10. Toppings Take the Cake – Another snippet-type song that brings to mind those pre-Propeller GBV albums in its lo-fi, primitive spirit. The return of Punk Pollard. Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs guests on guitar, adding some blasts of noise in the middle. (5)
11. Tabby and Lucy – The most traditional-sounding song on the record. Brings to mind when GBV was firing on all cylinders right around the time of Under the Bushes Under the Stars. This is a massive track that would’ve been a huge hit had it showed up several decades earlier in the heyday of arena rock or what eventually became to be known as classic rock. “Chuckie was balls and he’s always up. Lucy just got out the way.” (10)
12. (I’ll Make It) Strong for You – Dark, cold and brooding acoustic track. Serves as a jarring transition from what precedes it. Has that four-track feel that many of those classic GBV tracks possess. “Every effort to gross out with the grounds of maximum wonder.” (5)
13. A Hair in Every Square Inch of the House – Bob did say he wanted every side to conclude each side with a longer track. We have another multi-part song with some significant drop in both fidelity and proficiency that clocks in at 4:46. Slushy reflects on the track – “It’s a difficult piece of music for sure, but it really feels like maybe our “Revolution 9” where you can’t imagine it not being not the record. Its ugliness lets the rest of the beautiful things that surround it levitate.” (4)
14. The Ballad of Bad Whiskey – An acoustic and piano ballad moves the album back to a more traditional space. Slushy recounts, “This is such a beautiful song and I just went full on White Album here.” “Plaster of Paris in your eyes, you try to scare us with those eyes.” (6)
15. I Took on the London Guys – Starts out as an acoustic rocker, very much in the mold of Brown Submarine. From there, it transitions into a 60s-styled, psych garage rocker. The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn lays down a tremendous guitar part during the outro which Slushy claims is “the most Eastern styled/Velvets guitar player we could have.” Boston Spaceships achieves that Paisley Underground sweet spot. “You cannot take the Pledge of Allegiance. You cannot house the flame.” (8)
16. Red Bodies – Some whistling flutes or something at the beginning on this stylistic hodgepodge of a song. Slushy claims he was aiming for early Cheap Trick, but that he and Moen might have missed the mark a bit. I will say the song does rock hard, particularly during the second half, after the brief cello section, with some of those Slushy guitar solos. “Slow man, I'll have you hittin' it all night.” (7)
17. A Dozen Blue Overcoats – Another song with a dip in fidelity. Brittle-sounding guitar and a rickety piano featured on this brief ballad. The song unexpectedly makes a Who-like attempt to blast off before cross-fading into the next track. “A ten percent fire sale, dust in the windows and everywhere.” (6)
18. Pincushion – Short, but sweet blast of new wave/post punk energy. Hat tip to fellow Ohio natives, Devo. “You pray with gloves on…” (7)
19. Christmas Girl – The lead single off the album. Love those fantastic trumpets. Super catchy song that features another great blend of acoustic and electric guitars from Slushy. Moen with some breakneck drumming. Bob goes all spoken word during the outro. “The sun's a prophecy in your eyes, stitched enough to paint upon your brow.” (9)
20. Let It Beard – Side C concludes with the title track. The song sort of meanders along for a little over two and a half minutes before receiving a bombastic shot in the arm. The chords for the outro are pure “Baba O’Reilly.” “I want to hang out on your island.” (8)
21. The Vicelords – The opener on the final side is an uptempo pop punk track. Moen provides some of his most intense work behind the kit and Slushy lays down some great guitar lines. “The Vicelords own the slums, in their band only drums.” (7)
22. German Field of Shadows – The rhythm section steals the show on this track. Moen with some impressive high hat work and Slusarenko dropping a phat bass line. Apparently, Slushy was having a difficult time deciding how to translate this from Bob’s boom box demo tape and decided on the following – “One day I thought about the Butthole Surfers and wondered if I could make the song kind of tribal like their stuff was.” Those fake, droning horns that loop throughout are awesome. I also dig that guitar looped outro. “And I'm left stoned by lonely life. But it's all great - it's all great.” (9)
23. Speed Bumps – One of the sillier songs in the Spaceships catalog. Bob driving around and pointing out how distracted and terrible everyone’s driving has become. “Who invented the cell phone? Who invented the speed bump? Who invented the moon walk? Who invented the time zones?” (6)
24. No Steamboats – Really pretty acoustic ballad that Slushy recorded on a four-track in his living room and Moen chipping in with some countermelody guitar. Bob’s vocals perfectly match the vibe fostered in Chris’ living room. Slushy claims he was going for a Led Zeppelin III feel and absolutely nailed it. “We know where it's at, where onlys and zeros remain.” (8)
25. You in My Prayer – Starts out as a four-track acoustic song before former GBV classic lineup guitarist, Mitch Mitchell, comes in and lays down some old school GBV riffs. He also adds some new stank, with a little wah wah action. “The sound of the old times, some sweet cyanide.” (6)
26. Inspiration Points – Closing out the double album is its longest track, clocking in at 5:24. This is a four-part, epic closing suite. Part 1, subtitled Shove Thy Neighbor, is an up-tempo punk, garage rocker. Part 2 (Human Amusements at Hourly Rates) is another Who-inspired acoustic track that wouldn’t sound out of place on the famous rock opera, Tommy. Part 3 (Man Of a 1000 Worlds) features Bob doing his constipated-sounding voice as he delves into some guitar-driven cock rock. Part 4 (Inspiration Point) moves back into that cherished Who territory, but this time it is the massive, buzzing power chords reminiscent of what Townshend unleashed on the classic Who’s Next. We are rewarded with a sprawling way to end the excellent Boston Spaceships run. “Well I saw my death, as she guessed my age, and we danced all night.” (9)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Let More Light Into the House"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Tabby and Lucy"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "I Took on the London Guys"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Pincushion"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "German Field of Shadows"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Winner of the fan-voted music video contest for "Christmas Girl"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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new issue of The Big Takeover (40th anniversary!) featuring Pollard is out now. shameless post in that the mag has a couple photos of mine.

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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tinnitus photography wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:32 pm
new issue of The Big Takeover (40th anniversary!) featuring Pollard is out now. shameless post in that the mag has a couple photos of mine.
Nice!

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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With Guided By Voices, Pollard's solo career and Boston Spaceships complete, I suppose the next side project to cover is Circus Devils. Before I get started with their debut album Ringworm Interiors, it's best to set the tone with some basic information. The following is from www.circusdevils.net.

MEET CIRCUS DEVILS

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ROBERT POLLARD (vocals, lyrics, album art, founder)
Known as "The Godfather of indie rock," Robert founded the band GUIDED BY VOICES in 1983 in his hometown Dayton, Ohio. In 1994 Robert decided to leave his job as a 4th grade teacher to devote his time to the band. Over the years Guided by Voices has seen many line-up changes with Robert remaining at the helm. In addition to his work with GBV, Robert has released many SOLO ALBUMS, and is an accomplished collage artist. There is a series of collage/poetry magazines titled EAT, along with a hardback collection of his work titled TOWN OF MIRRORS, published in 2008. In his spare time Robert waits at the window in anticipation of his daily visit from Meals On Wheels.

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TODD TOBIAS (music, album production)
In addition to his music constructions with Circus Devils, Todd releases works of his own on the Hidden Shoal label and Tiny Room Records. Todd's collaboration with Robert as a musician/producer began with Guided by Voices' 2002 album Universal Truths and Cycles. In earlier years Todd played in bands with his brother Tim (see below), while tinkering on the side with a cassette 4-track recorder. Todd resides in the wooded suburbs between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Little is known about his personal habits, but he has been spotted by law officers, grocery shoppers and hikers standing alone and speaking to invisible companions.

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TIM TOBIAS (music)
Tim has been a member of several Cleveland-based bands since the 1980s, including 4 Coyotes, Gem, and most recently Clouds Forming Crowns. Though customarily a guitar player, Tim joined Guided by Voices on bass from 1999 to 2003. In 2000, while recording the GBV album Isolation Drills, Tim passed one of brother Todd's experimental cassette tapes to Robert. Soon after, Robert proposed the formation of Circus Devils. Tim currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys watching the television and playing the guitar (at the same time).


CIRCUS DEVILS FAQ

* CIRCUS DEVILS hails from Ohio, USA
* CIRCUS DEVILS released 14 full-length albums between 2001 and 2017
* The musical genre which CIRCUS DEVILS represents is GARAGE-PROG. This genre has yet to be acknowledged by the World Music Council, whose members' average age is 14
* Elsewhere the music of CIRCUS DEVILS has been described as PRIMITIVE ART-ROCK
* Among CIRCUS DEVILS' musical inspirations are: Devo, Wire, Bernard Herrmann, Scott Walker, Ammon Duul II, Alice Cooper, King Crimson, Genesis (1967-1975), David Bowie, Black Sabbath and Ennio Morricone
* CIRCUS DEVILS is singular (as in, one band). "The Circus Devils" is not the band's name
* CIRCUS DEVILS would enjoy a female fan (just one would be nice)
* Each CIRCUS DEVILS album is unique, containing its own characters and story-world
* CIRCUS DEVILS is not satanic or associated with demons or malignant spirits of any sort
* CIRCUS DEVILS has endeavored to provide an oblique commentary on modern civilization
* All CIRCUS DEVILS albums were originally made available on VINYL LP and CD. At the present time certain titles may be difficult to track down

"Although it would be easy to dismiss Circus Devils as just another indie side project by Guided by Voices founder Robert Pollard, the band encompasses a different form of musical exploration altogether, and dismisses the styles of his solo endeavors for a more ominous and nightmarish tone exploring the themes of good and evil."
-Jason Lymangrover (Allmusic.com)

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The development of the average Circus Devils fan is clearly shown.
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

Post by artdent »

Hi! I had to check out for a bit due to personal issues but your work here is amazing! I have a personal affinity for Circus Devils. The lows are so low, but the highs are so high. Let's do this.

Tinnitus: which photos? I just subscribed to the big takeover solely for the GBV issue.

Airs should have been an 11. :)

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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artdent wrote:
Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:18 pm
Airs should have been an 11. :)
Might've been. One of those Miller Light tears could've fallen on the page and turned the 1 into a 0.
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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That's the only reasonable explanation. Man, I hate when that happens! :)

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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artdent wrote:
Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:18 pm

Tinnitus: which photos? I just subscribed to the big takeover solely for the GBV issue.


two live shots of Pollard, credited to Tim Bugbee. :D i also have the photo of Hot Snakes, and on the pages w/ all the covers of past Big Takeover issues I shot the following:

Teenage Fanclub, Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls, Nada Surf, Dum Dum Girls, Belle and Sebastian and Savages. I was supposed to shoot both the Joy Formidable and Beach House covers but the boston marathon bomber/shelter in place nixed the first one, and Beach House had some issues with their stage props and had to cancel. also, Alvvays didn't want me to shoot them. it's time to shoot another cover, been a while!

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Ringworm Interiors (2001)

The first Circus Devils album comes in the wake of Pollard’s push for a wider audience for Guided By Voices. As was previously detailed, Bob signed with TVT Records and released two professionally-polished albums for the label – Do the Collapse and Isolation Drills. Ringworm Interiors is far from either mainstream or professionally-polished, but can be seen as a by-product of those TVT records, especially Isolation Drills. Bob is an artist who follows a wide range of artistic muses. And while he was interested in exploring the possibility of being a rock star like his childhood idols Pete Townshend, John Lennon and Peter Gabriel, he also wanted the freedom to explore a broader spectrum of the music landscape. The new GBV bassist on Isolation Drills was fellow Ohio musician Tim Tobias. Tim’s brother, Todd, is a multi-instrumentalist and engineer/producer. As Tim and Bob worked together on the final GBV TVT album, Tim shared with Bob a tape of some of Todd’s homemade musical experimentations. Excited by what he heard, Pollard wanted to form a side project with the Tobias brother and cut a record. This resulted in the formation of Circus Devils and their debut album, Ringworm Interiors. The process for the album was as follows, Todd and Tim independently recorded instrumental soundscapes. Todd then mixed together over forty separate tracks from those soundscapes and sent them to Pollard. Bob wrote lyrics inspired by the submitted instrumentals, recorded his vocals over them and sent them back to Todd to be mixed and mastered into what is Ringworm Interiors. As Pollard states, “It’s the Ohio music factory with two branches; one in the North (Cleveland) and one in the South (Dayton). And no tours permitted.” Todd reflected back on the debut Circus Devils LP:
When I heard the finished tracks for Ringworm Interiors containing Bob’s vocals, and heard the way he’d turned most of that snarling music into actual songs, it came as a huge relief. At that moment I know Circus Devils had come to life and would remain a going concern. Some of the messy musical secretions I’d sent were left untouched, so they ended up as instrumentals. This would serve as instruction down the line about what sort of music not to send – for example the kind that might serve as a soundtrack to monsters giving birth.

Ringworm Interiors is so far removed from anything Pollard had done to this point. The Tobias brothers laid down some incredibly discordant, nightmarish carnival soundscapes for Bob, who sometimes sings and sometimes just speaks, to add lyrics to. I will keep with the same format of doing a write-up and rating for each track, but these albums really play like one long song suite, with a strict adherence to a theme, mood or concept. Circus Devils aim to challenge, frighten and make you feel uncomfortable. Their music certainly isn’t for everyone, but they do what they do very well and there are some nuggets to be mined. But don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

1. Devilspeak – The first of what Todd Tobias referred to as “a soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” And by that he means an instrumental track that Bob did not apply any vocals to. If the goal was to jar the listener right out of the gate, then mission accomplished. The nightmare circus is in town. (3)
2. Feel Try Fury – Drums rolls usher in this bluesy stomper with a layer of lo-fi muck smeared on it to keep it real. “Feel try fury, try it, man. Blow up head, try it, man. Do it, man.” (6)
3. Buffalo Spiders – Sounds like “monsters giving birth” combined with an actual song and switches back in forth between the two extremes throughout. Todd adds all kinds of special effects to Bob’s voice to give the song an even more sinister feel. Tim Tobias providing some great riffs. (6.5)
4. World 3 – All kinds of shit going on here - screeching horns, loud guitars, chaotic drumming. A true sonic assault. (4)
5. Blanks – Abruptly transitions to what sounds like a broken, spooky jack-in-the-box kind of demonic toy. A barely audible Bob in the very background speak-singing some lyrics. “Bloated - nothing worth saving. I have noted 100 blank pages on a hot plate.” (3.5)
6. North Morning Silver Trip – Ominous, eighteen-second instrumental bridge to the title track.
7. Ringworm Interiors – Relentless fifty-five second sonic attack, punctuated by a driving, sinister riff from Tim Tobias. Bob back to his speak-sing narration. “Instrumental in saving an outpost government testing…” (7)
8. Spectacle – Another “soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” All sorts of harsh, distorted sounds attacking your eardrums. (3)
9. You First – Rising from the bowels of the lava-spewing crater comes this delicate ballad featuring a slightly distorted trumpet. Placed against some of the harsh soundscapes, this receives an extra boost in beauty. Opening lines would be recycled later down the line on the excellent Boston Spaceships track, “Freedom Rings.” “My god, my love what is this thing that echoes out like freedom ring?” (7)
10. Knifesong – All sorts of ghoulish-sounding shrieks pitted against a pulsating rhythm and Pollard’s echo-y vocals. “Knife fuck the fallen moon. Out fall storms of sleeping pills.” (4)
11. Kingdom of Teeth – An even spookier “soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” The nightmare is in full effect. (3)
12. Oil Birds – The spook factor continued on this minor-chord, horror-film-worthy piano ballad. This one is super creepy. “Icelandic oil birds frozen in human shit, faintest hearts know this.” (5.5)
13. Lizard Food – Shit’s really getting real now. This one packs some serious menace. Bob sounds absolutely deranged and the music is as warped and distorted as it gets. “Lizard food, grandfather smoked it!” (4)
14. Not So Fast – Sounds like some sort of demon lizard howling and doing everything it can to escape from its cage. Either that, or monsters giving birth. Both are plausible. (3)
15. Apparent the Red Angus – A very classic-sounding Pollard song and not only my favorite Circus Devils song of all time, but one of my favorite Bob songs, period. Starts out with a beautifully-strummed acoustic guitar and Bob providing some emotionally-engaged vocals. A lazy electric guitar helps propel it towards lift-off at about the 1:10 mark. At that point we head straight towards some glorious psych-prog territory. The chord switch at the 1:45 mark is one of my favorite moments in the Pollard discography. Another one of those moments occurs during the outro as he stretches out the lyric “Tttttthhhhhhhhhhhiiiiss is war. I’m the king.” (11)
16. Playhouse Hostage – A brief, acoustic ballad that bears a striking resemblance to the intro to “Apparent the Red Angus.” (6)
17. Straps Hold Up the Jar – Comes out of the gate resembling the intro to Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.” From there is descends into an ominous psych-garage song. One of the lyrics later shows up as the title to one of Pollard’s side projects, Lifeguard’s Waving at the Astronauts. “It's earwhigs in the carpets waving at the astronauts.” (6.5)
18. Correcto – All kinds of swirling atmospheric noises, backward loops and droning on this track. In fact, it sounds almost identical to some of the “Space Junk” that appeared on Jay Farrar’s 2003 solo album, Terroir Blues. Jay, you thief, you. “The spy and the phantom deny public interview.” (5)
19. Star Peppered Wheat Germ – Starts out as a dirge that is so slow it sounds like it could fall apart at any minute. Picks up steam at the 1:20 mark and starts to find its groove. “Compile your filthiness in a balled up corner.” (6)
20. Silver Eyeballs – Fantastic, swirling post-punk bassline kicks this one off. Builds into some nightmarish, whistling, psych-garage song before abruptly disappearing into that “space junk” type of backward-looping noise of the following track. “Win some & lose some, stick with the stun gun.” (7.5)
21. Decathalon – All backward-looped space junk for forty-five seconds. (2)
22. Peace Needle – A slightly out-of-tune slide whistle is front and center. Hypnotic, swirling demonic circus music box being slowly cranked. Let me off this possessed merry-go-round! “The throngs and throes, the cannot-changes, the no-no-nevers, the cum engines, all laid out before her eyes.” (5)
23. Drill Sgt. Soul – The demonic circus music box and possessed merry-go-round from the previous track are cranked up a few notches on this “soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” (2)
24. Protect Thy Interests – Cross-fade from the previous track on yet another “soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” This one features a grating, squeaking whistle. (2)
25. Let’s Go Back to Bed – Late night, drunken sing-a-long song meets horror film soundtrack that gets stretched out to 3:10, making it the longest song on the album. “Let's go back to bed and crash for a bucket of tears of the heart and self-righteous throne.” (5)
26. Sterility Megaplant – Sounds like all the evil gremlins are having their testicles cut off. (1)
27. New You (You Can See and Believe) – Starts out sounding like a circus band covering “Welcome to the Machine” before morphing into an arena rocker, with Ringmaster Bob growling out some lyrics. This is a mess of a song that miraculously works. “Take your head out of your ass, so you can see. Put your heart on your sleeve, so you can believe.” (8)
28. Circus Devils Theme – The demented, demonic circus music box, accompanied by strings plays the perfect theme for this nightmare carnival band. (5)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Rare, live footage from Circus Devils' 1981 Sterility Megaplant Tour performing "'New You (You Can See and Believe)"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Silver Eyeballs"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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"Let's Go Back to Bed" From the I RAZOR film soundtrack directed by Todd Tobias
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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The Harold Pig Memorial (2002)

A year to the day after unleashing their jarring and unsettling debut album, Ringworm Interiors, on Halloween, Circus Devils were back with their follow-up LP. The Harold Pig Memorial is a concept album about a Las Vegas biker named Harold who is dead. The record serves as a retrospective view of Harold’s life told through stories by those at his funeral. Pollard gave very little details to the Tobias brothers with regards to the actual story of Harold, leaving them to let their imaginations run wild. According to Todd Tobias, “The challenge we were given both excited and frightened me. I’d never before made music for a purpose. I wanted to treat the album as a story-world while keeping things grounded in rock and roll. But I had no idea what the story was – not how it began and not how it played out towards its end. I assumed there would be some action, some danger and finally some death. My method was to feel my way through these basic themes while resisting the temptation to think about it.” Whereas the first album featured more of a discordant, nightmarish, acid-psych musical vibe, The Harold Pig Memorial’s most prominently featured musical style is prog rock, which also happened to be Todd Tobias’ first attempt at the genre. The songs on the album range from giddy to creepy to a combination of both, with the instrumental interludes serving as bridges between scenes, as opposed to the ones on Ringworm Interiors which were described as “soundtracks to monsters giving birth.” By opening and closing the album with two piano-based instrumental tracks, Todd explained, “It helped to place the story-world inside a musical frame. Even those there was no conscious copying going on, at the back of our minds sat the blueprints of Tommy and in my case Jesus Christ Superstar which was full of musical echoes and reprises.” The Harold Pig Memorial, while slightly unnerving in its own right, has more of an overall traditional-sounding song structure than its predecessor. AllMusic music critic, Karen E. Graves, aptly describes the differences between the two albums as follows, “The tone of the album remains dark and is again done on a grand soundtrack scale, but whereas Ringworm Interiors had a menacing, unsettling, perhaps David Lynchian feel, The Harold Pig Memorial has a more unifying, often suitably funereal (but still unsettling), musical theme woven throughout.” The album is a big leap forward for the band and firmly cemented its status as viable side project for Pollard to explore some of the more left-of-center music excursions in his dedicated pursuit of mining the 4 Ps of music – pop, punk, psych and prog. The Harold Pig Memorial is an excellent concept album that gets an additional bump for its outstanding cover, featuring another original Pollard collage.

1. Alaska to Burning Men – Solemn, funereal piano ballad sets the tone well. Harpsichord intro is taken from “Last Punk Standing” as a way of “creating a musical echo throughout the record” according to Todd Tobias. “Like the Hoover Dam, bring Alaska to hot cities and burning men.” (6)
2. Saved Herself, Shaved Herself – The track begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar and a dreamy vocal performance from Bob, before seamlessly making the transition to a more menacing kind of song as it approaches its conclusion. “And the impulse is shocking. Any kind will do any time I'm comin' through.” (7)
3. Soldiers of June – One of the more bouncy and giddy songs on the album. Brings that Peter Gabriel-styled prog folk style to the mix. Some of Bob’s best songwriting on display. One of Circus Devils finest moments, I fucking love this song! “How proud was he of his favorite fighting son? Taught him to eat, drink, fuck and hold his gun. Took him off on southernly excursions to swim naked and baked.” (11)
4. I Guess I Needed That – The mood turns a little more ominous on this riff-driven track. Some cool noodling from Tim Tobias during the outro. “A print board stimulator got me up - outta my night. Flat in the middle of a well-deserved spank.” (7)
5. Festival of Death – Moody, atmospheric track with Bob narrating in an echoey room. Slight glimmer of hope in the music, but the overall vibe is rather gloomy. Death hovers in the air. “All the formulas, the fast riches, tucked away, never exposed in the learning world. But they are there when death shows you.” (9)
6. Dirty World News – Bob’s vocals are distorted and carry a ton of reverb. Tobias brothers work up a swampy, blues stomp as Bob provides his animated narration. “I had not figured on a wasted jail puzzle…” (5)
7. May We See the Hostage? – Starts off as a sparse acoustic ballad before those Circus Devils sound effects bring the track into a more destructive zone. During the outro, we get an excellent, rare Tim Tobias guitar solo, one of the few to make an appearance on a Circus Devils record. “May we see the hostage? Has he been tortured or maimed?” (6.5)
8. Do You Feel Legal? – Another track that starts out with some spoken-word Pollard lyrics accompanied by a piano. As the music picks up with the drum and guitar coming into the mix, Bob transitions to actual singing. “If it's a cheap, easy, safe, secure, risk-free, money back guarantee - is it real? Do you feel?” (5.5)
9. A Birdcage Until Further Notice – We get a hybrid giddy/creepy tack with some primitive drumming that resembles a tick-tock clock. A cold, brittle electric guitar is on top of a delicately-strummed acoustic guitar. Slows builds until the Tobias brothers slather it with some Circus Devils studio fuckery and hints of Eastern music. "And a stained chair collected what you are in feathers and wares where you sit and stare. And no one's there but you, in all of exotica.” (6)
10. Injured? – Starts out as a sparse acoustic ballad with Pollard singing over some creepy whispers. The innocence gives way to a more haunting vibe. “The Vietnamese waltz, the Chicago clock rewound to arrival at her spineless testimony.” (5)
11. Foxhead Delivery – That early Genesis prog influence pops up again on the final track of side one. This is another of the more traditionally-structured songs on the record. The creepy jack-in-the-box from Ringworm Interiors returns to make a few appearances. “It's easy unless it rains. The night eats us alive and spits us out in the morning. I feel chewed up.” (7)
12. Last Punk Standing – Side 2 kicks off with a swirling, dreamy intro gives way to a dramatic, Tommy-esque song. One of the two songs that Tim Tobias came up with the music for, it serves as a centerpiece type of track for the album. “In unfinished homes where nothing moves in. His withering strength becomes a problem again.” (9)
13. Bull Spears – The previous track references “punk” in its title. This one unleashes it upon the listener. This is a snarling, thrashing uptempo pop punk assault that lunges out and dominates you for the full 1:50. Tim plays the guitar at neck-break speed during the combustible outro. The top track on the album and one of Circus Devils best. “Peer into his handsome corpse and see into his eyes. Ride into the night. Prepare this child to fight!” (11)
14. Discussions in the Cave – Those “monsters giving birth” from Ringworm Interiors return during the intro of this track. Todd Tobias lays down a rich bass line that propels this song along well. Some dramatic prog effects added to the mix as well as some cowbell. “Secrets in my living room…” (8)
15. Recirculating Hearse – Previous track cross-fades into this one. This dirgey song brings back some of the ominous, nightmarish mood that Ringworm Interiors traumatized us with. Sounds like a swarm of killer hornets has been unleashed during the outro. Bob goes from spoken word to belting out a verse as the songs concludes. “And I suppose it did come down for the rest of the slave owners, hellbent on not paying up.” (6)
16. Pigs Can’t Hide (On Their Night Off) – Spooky church organ plays as Bob narrates some abstract poetry against the backdrop of what sounds like gunshots and a police radio in the background. Tobias brothers work in some demonic shit during the outro, including those “monsters giving birth.” “Where gasoline lips blow aerosol lungs and sinister tongues look staggering with metal.” (5.5)
17. Exoskeleton Motorcade – Those guitars bleed into the red on this thrashing blast of punk. Todd Tobias adding those squeaking devils into the mix. Barely clears the minute mark but leaves a lasting impression. “Oh, look out! They're coming!” (8.5)
18. Real Trip No. 3 – Instrumental that doesn’t come close to any of the discordant stuff from the debut album, but definitely conjures up that nightmare vibe the Circus Devils thrive upon. Essential song for any Halloween playlist. (5)
19. Vegas – A heavy track, like “Exoskeleton Motorcade,” that also bleeds into the red. Tim Tobias hammering away on the six-string. “Damn you, father, and that ratio of primates! Your so-called soulmates broke down the house of cards.” (6)
20. The Pilot’s Crucifixion/Indian Oil – The first 2+ minutes is “The Pilot’s Crucifixion” - a dirgey song featuring tom rolls and Bob narrating in what sounds like a dank cave. The second part, “Indian Oil,” comes in with a droning noise and some single-note guitars. It starts to fall apart in a cloud of Circus Devils static before emerging as a bouncy, damaged Circus Devils death march of a song. “Stiff drink memories make solid the previous conclusion as to who's driving this ship.” (5)
21. Tulip Review – Spoken word Bob with some spooky organ in the background. Sounds like he pulled himself away to some corner of the bar where the post-funeral festivities are taking place to deliver it. You hear a lighter flicking, bottles clanking and people conversing in the background. On it’s own, kind of a throwaway track. In the context of the album, a powerful 1:27 snippet. “His phantom cellphone played Highway To Heaven…” (8)
22. The Harold Pig Memorial – A haunting piano instrumental to conclude the album perfectly. Similar feel to the opening “Alaska to Burning Men” proving a great bookend to the concept record. (6)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Soldiers of June"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Festival of Death"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Last Punk Standing"/"Bull Spears"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Discussions in the Cave"
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