Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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cortez the killer
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Pinball Mars (2003)

Like the two previous Circus Devils LPs, Pinball Mars was released on Halloween. The first Circus Devils album highlights a band exploring the discordant sounds of good versus evil. The second one is guided by Pollard’s broad concept of a deceased Vegas biker. For the third Circus Devils project, Bob wanted something a bit looser and grittier than the first two. According to Todd Tobias, Pollard sought to craft a “garage rock opera” with Pinball Mars. The majority of the lyrics are split up as dialogue, between the different characters and a narrator. Todd goes on to explain the basic premise of the concept, “Pinball, the story’s hero, is joined by sidekicks Flush, Z and Eel on a blazing romp through the city, all of them high on pot and speed. Thanks to the drugs, the city has been transformed into a psychedelic labyrinth.” The first side of the album, or Act I, is made up of more traditional rock songs. It’s on side 2, or Act II, where shit gets really strange. That’s the side where the drugs really kick in as the Tobias brothers delve heavily into their psych, space rock tool kit. Speaking of the Tobias brothers, in a bit of a change-up, the majority of the music for the album was written by Tim Tobias. As is the case with all Circus Devils records, Bob wrote and sang all the lyrics, once again teaming up again with John Shough at Cro-Magnon studio in Dayton.

1. Are You Out with Me? - Things kick off with a menacing rocker which has Bob screaming most of the lyrics. The guitars roar loudly and the cymbals had to have been dented pretty good on this one. “Hear your radios. Rats are running wild, eating pot and speed. Trucks are buckling. Time to turn off.” (7)
2. Gargoyle City – Crazy psych-blues, stomping vamp with all sorts of Circus Devils fuckery slathered on. Most notable are those sinister demon clown giggles thrown in. Bob’s vocals go through a variety of distortions. Song just falls apart in the end. “Gargoyle city blows my head, makes me out. I'm too far fed.” (7)
3. Pinball Mars – Starts out with a cacophony of discordant sounds before settling into somewhat of a song. The nightmare meter registers high on this track. “Seated in the clubhouse, Madison rocks. Police busted his head, thought he was dead.” (6)
4. Sick Color – Fantastic acoustic opening eventually gives way to a dizzying guitar riff and hard-charging rhythm section. The “hit” of the album. The rock magic worked up in this track would get recycled on several future Pollard solo albums with Todd at the helm, particularly on Robert Pollard Is Off to Business. “Indeed the years went by…” (9)
5. Don’t Be Late – Tim Tobias unleashes his inner Ronnie Wood on this Faces-inspired rocker. Serves as the second part of a great one-two punch. One of the most straightforward rock songs to appear on a Circus Devils record. “I feel real when I slip.” (8)
6. Inkster and King – Song title taken from an actual intersection in Dayton on this 60s-styled, acoustic psych-folk track to close Act I. Several vocal stylings employed here with “Constipated Bob” making a brief appearance. “Broke off in the belly. Weak bones from no bread here on shit.” (6)
7. A Puritan for Storage – The Tobias brothers dial up the psych on the Act II opener. Feels like a scene setter more than an actual song. “The what you got; he what it is; the soul you built; blow up the hill.” (4)
8. Alien – The return of “monsters giving birth” on the intro to this super hazy, trippy psych excursion. In describing the first few tracks of Act II, Todd Tobias states, “Here is where the drugs really kick in. I’m glad of the fact that no actual illicit substances were used in the making of an album that sounds as if it’s doused in drugs.” Did I mention that this song is super trippy? (3)
9. Plasma – The Circus Devils continue their avant-garde excursion into the unknown spaces of spooky space-psych lunacy on this instrumental. (2)
10. Dragging the Medicine – A sparse, acoustic track that maintains that trippy, spacey, psych trip. Those giggling, sinister clowns can be heard again in the background. Perfect soundtrack for a horror nursery rhyme. Quintessential quiet Circus Devils track. “I'm a slave, blowing glass.” (6)
11. Bow Before Your Champion – Forty-five second acoustic track with all sorts of spacey sound effects worked in. Bob, adopting the Pinball character persona, repeating over and over, “When they let you out at the end of the day, at the end of your rope, at the end of your dope.” (5)
12. Glass Boots – Dirgey space rock stomper. Bob repeatedly chanting “Gout and replenishment. Suckerfish for women. Pregnant mermaid. Flask of cod. Liver of God. Lover of good. Life of badmen on landslides.” Needless to say, this track is fucking bizarre. (4)
13. (No) Hell for Humor – Brief, molasses-slow piano ballad with an exhausted-sounding Pollard adopting the Pinball personality again. Abruptly cuts out after “You don't have to stop sucking on my account. Beating the bankbook. You don't go to hell for humor.” (5)
14. Raw Reaction: A. Nutrition Is Vital/B. Strange Journey/C. Inside/D. Come Out Swinging – Experimental four-part track to end this album. Part A sounds like all those gremlins getting sucked into some giant tube, headed for another dimension. Part B is just studio fuckey with “strange journey, see you inside” annoyingly repeated over and over again. It also sounds like someone is doing to a piano what Pete Townshend famously did to his guitars. Part C sounds like a recording of someone standing on the moon as a piano note is played once every several seconds. Part D finds the band rising from the empty nothingness and mustering one last attempt, with Pollard growling out “raw reaction” repeatedly before it abruptly cuts out. I actually like Part D a lot. The other three sections I can do without, but I suppose they make the final part that much better. (4)
You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
- DPM

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cortez the killer
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Five (2005)

At first glance, naming your fourth album Five might seem like a head-scratching decision. The original plan was to release a sprawling double album, Sgt. Disco, as the follow-up to Pinball Mars. However, that idea was shit-canned and in its place came Five. The original working title was Bird Maggot before Bob had a change of heart and went with Five instead. The record is also the first full-length album Pollard released following the dissolution of Guided By Voices. After appearing on the first three Circus Devils projects, Tim Tobias sits this one out, making it strictly a Pollard/Todd Tobias partnership. The pair had teamed up the previous year on the Pollard solo album, Fiction Man, and would continue to do so on all future Pollard solo albums up through 2015’s Faulty Superheroes. Even though the first three Circus Devils were more experimental and avant-garde, they did adhere to more traditional rock/pop arrangements. Five largely abandons those traditional arrangements for a completely different listening experience. Going into this album, Todd Tobias came up with a charter on what not to do when making records. That personal charter is as follows, “You will not find refuge in the extremes of cute and clever on one side or darkness for the sake of darkness on the other, so help you God.” Todd further reflects back on the making of Five:
To me Five is unique among our albums. It seems more fragile and almost in danger of slipping into that unfamiliar place where it seems to come from. Sometimes I think of this album as the secret, deformed brother who’s been locked in the cellar. I remember playing the album for Tim, and he was less than enthusiastic. I think he may have wanted to ask me “What happened to the rock?” Something wasn’t right. In Tim’s estimation, we redeemed ourselves on the following album (Sgt. Disco). Personally I have a soft spot for Five.
As was the case with the first three Circus Devils albums, Five shares very little in common with its predecessors. It ranks up there with Ringworm Interiors in terms of how challenging a listen it is. And while it doesn’t have a track that reaches the heights of “Apparent the Red Angus,” if you stick it out (or utilize the skip button), the second half of does reward you with some upper-tier Circus Devils songs.

1. The Bending Sea – Dramatic Space Odyssey-sounding piece with Bob adding some barely-audible musings in the background. Brings a chilly, lonely vibe to the proceedings. (5)
2. Look Between What’s Going On – The cold, sparse mood created on the opening track is shattered on this noise stew with Bob’s distorted vocals screaming into the mic. This is more in line with the type of discordance Circus Devils brought to the table on Ringworm Interiors. “Same cartoon all along, look between what’s going on. Know your rights, more your wrongs, look between what’s going on.” (3)
3. Just Touch Them – A pleasant-sounding acoustic ballad struggles to emerge from the abrasive noises cooked up by Todd Tobias. Pollard used to cloak his songs in lo-fi murk. Now he does so in strange, discordant soundscapes. “Just touch them. Sun-fed girls and boys do, too, at the club age.” (3)
4. Artheroid Vouge – Pollard alternates between the depths of his range and what sounds like a desperate, on-the-verge-of-tears voice. It sounds like a helicopter is about to land as it cross-fades into the next snippet. “Worthless hands curiously listen, finally can you tell? The photo doesn’t know you.” (4)
5. Dog Licking Baby – Clocking in at forty-one seconds is this warbled and warped track. You have to listen closely, multiple times to make out what Bob is saying. “Hey Pamela, send them my way, in here with a dog-licking baby.” (5)
6. Thelonius Has Eaten All the Paper – Before there was Colonel Paper, there was Thelonius. Todd Tobias has cooked up that hazy, nightmarish carousel music for this track. The title for a future GBV record is created. “A kingly post of tea cups for the shining; a Zeppelin over China filled with flies.” (5)
7. Strain – Some backward-looped noise is accompanied with a somewhat funky bass line. You just might be inclined to shake it a bit. “Let’s fly, I wanna do a pig’s eye.” (4)
8. Animal Motel – Tied with "Dolphins of Color" for the longest track on the album at 2:48. One of the harshest, most difficult-sounding songs in the Circus Devils catalog. “It’s not me – it’s the bee…” (1)
9. Future for Germs – Unfortunately, the future is now! Another song with a funky groove. “Tiny jeweled eyes love you…” (5)
10. Effective News – Bobstradamus with song titles like this and the previous one. Another creepy, spacey track that would serve as a great soundtrack to some of the more over-the-top scenes and episodes of the third return season of Twin Peaks. “He was too committed to his own demise. He wrote the red book.” (4)
11. No Wonder They Don’t Stand Tall – Another song title that is perfect for the divided times we live in today. The cold, spacey vibe is conjured up again. “The ambulance goes up in flames right now, bearing no resemblance to the good times. Roll on!” (4.5)
12. We Taught Them Rock and Roll – Tim Tobias’ only appearance come via an old recording of him and a friend making Yeti-type of noises. Primitively-strummed guitar and bass played in the background. (1)
13. Eyes Reload – Todd and Bob use the alternate musical landscape they’ve created to craft a fairly catchy, up-tempo track. It only lasts just over a tick of a minute, but this is a nice, little song. “More color to cut the skin, more vibrations to let me in.” (6)
14. Her Noise – Begins as a traditional-sounding song with a great guitar line. The nightmare carnival then commences with Bob’s voice distorted and double-tracked. “Some shit don’t stick with power lines down around her knees.” (4)
15. In the Mood – A slice of industrial, post-punk that would make Throbbing Gristle proud. Not my kind of thing, but Bob and Todd certainly turn up the heat on this track. “Alright, I gotta get outta here…” (2)
16. Tell ‘Em the Old Man Is Coming Down – An abrupt transition to this sparse, dreamy piano ballad. Todd Tobias bringing the spook. “As proudly as we watch, because, yes, you would. Her birth is spirit incoming creepshow.” (4)
17. Dolphins of Color – Sounds like either a slave ship or prison gang with those rattling chains in the background. Todd creates an eerie, hazy soundscape over which Bob delivers his best vocal performance of the album. “The children say they want their break.” (8)
18. Dreaming the Temple – What sounds like tribal drums on this dreamy instrumental track. Has the feel of a soundtrack to a dramatic Game of Thrones scene and/or the closing credits of an episode. (5)
19. The Word Business – Swagger Bob in full effect with his vocal delivery on this super dramatic, proggy and fantastic song. I love how the music just comes charging in. Shades of Earthquake Glue on this one. “Aren’t you Milko Waif from the Bug-Eyed Mums? I used to give shit reviews to you bums. I see you still can’t crawl out from the spiritual slum.” (9)
20. Headhunter Who Blocks the Sky – Bob and Todd dial up the psych component here. A bright musical kaleidoscope that sounds like a psychedelic carousel ride. Mushrooms recommended before listening. “The sun is shining on his path. When he comes to make you talk, he’ll be wearing red pants, hunting and eating.” (8)
21. People Thing – More tribal drums on the opening that bring to mind The Cure’s “The Hanging Garden.” Bob sounding like he emerges from the bright light of a dream to deliver some hazy, drug-fueled lyrics. “From all that pleases, passion squeezes. It’s a people thing.” (6)
22. You Take the Lead – The Circus Devils revisit that psych-folk territory previously mined on Pinball Mars’ “Inkster and King.” “Moist noise, glaring with hunger, begging the beaten where rivers and skies return.” (6.5)
23. The Other Heart – Another symphonic instrumental utilized to serve as a bookend to the album, along with “The Bending Sea.” (4)
You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
- DPM

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cortez the killer
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Sgt. Disco (2007)

For the second straight LP, Circus Devils is a two-man operation, with Tim Tobias sitting this one out again. This is also the lone Circus Devils record to not appear on a Robert Pollard-owned label, securing a release on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. Todd Tobias returns to more traditional rock arrangements on Sgt. Disco, with a heavier dose of electric guitar and a more traditional rhythm section. “As a one-man rhythm section, I would like to have channeled Keith Moon and John Entwisle, but I was happy to settle for Bill Ward and Geezer Butler,” recounts Tobias. Despite returning to more traditional rock-oriented arrangements, Sgt. Disco is anything but a traditional album. Having just previously released his first double album with 2006’s solo project, From a Compound Eye, Pollard tackles the format again here with Circus Devils. Todd brought eighty pieces of music to the table for Sgt. Disco which he and Bob were able to whittle down to the thirty-two tracks that appear here, with some of the discarded material resurfacing down the road on other albums. Tobias summarizes the process of writing and recording Sgt. Disco:
For me, Sgt. Disco was fun and rewarding all around. Bob’s playful cover art is a great reflection of what you find inside. Like Five, it’s a song collage, with each song defining its own world, but unlike Five, which is more like a labyrinth opening out into unfamiliar territories, the worlds of Sgt. Disco are all somehow neatly contained in the funhouse – something like a building in Yellow Submarine where Ringo searches for the other three Beatles , opening doors into alternate dimensions. The hallway is never far away when it’s time to get back there and open the next door. It’s still adventure music, but somehow you feel you won’t be harmed or stranded, not even in “The Assassins Ballroom” or in the catacombs with the dead guy in “The Winner’s Circle.”
While not as challenging as previous Circus Devils records like Ringworm Interiors and Five, Sgt. Disco is still a dense listen. The album comes charging out the gate on a strong note, before descending into a bit of sticky pit after Side A. That said, there are plenty of excellent Pollard tracks to find within the thirty-two that make up the LP. While I am not typically a fan of their reviews, Pitchfork critic Adam Moerder’s summation of Sgt. Disco is pretty accurate – “With strategic skipping and a stomach for Pollard's beefiest rock posturing to date, Sgt. Disco proves much less a shitshow than its predecessors, but rather a pocket of sanity in Pollard's otherwise mind-boggling oeuvre.”

1. Zig Zag – The Circus Devils open their double album with an examination of that L.A. lifestyle. Dueling eerie synth and slightly out-of-tune piano battle it out. Bob making a run at becoming the 6th member of the Rat Pack. “To drive wildly around the stone pillows of her own private ruins.” (5)
2. In Madonna’s Gazebo – Starts out with an ominous whirling wind before morphing into a psych/post-punk hybrid of a track with those psychotic giggling clowns in the background. Fellow Ohioans Devo would be very proud of this track. “You’re going to need an ocean of contact solution.” (7)
3. George Took a Shovel – Tobias turns up the volume and rocks out while Bob adopts the famous Bill Murray character, Carl Spackler's, persona with his vocal performance. This is a wild song about an unidentified cream-filled object discovered in a random cornfield. “This stuff got no body. This stuff got no soul. George took a shovel and dug us all a hole.” (8)
4. Pattern Girl – Tobias works up a great groove on this hypnotic, bouncy track. I dig the underwater effects applied to Bob’s voice as he belts out the song title. Majority of the song finds Bob hitting the upper parts of his vocal range. Best song on the album and one of Circus Devils finest. “I’m going to bingo dressed like a gringo, punching at dots and flies.” (10)
5. Nicky Highpockets – The fidelity drops a tick into mid-range that GBV made a living on during the 90s. The title character is a sailor who is the self-proclaimed “King on the Wind.” The old, rickety piano from the opening track, “Zig Zag”, reappears. Bob delivers the lyrics in a very matter-of-fact manner. “And many twisted vines and photocopied throats are leaving with my boats.” (7)
6. Love Hate Relationship with the Human Race – Great cock rock song that features some cowbell. Tobias bringing the rock. “Movie makers, drag racers and cocksuckers on the go ride a red bus and take it real slow.” (8)
7. Brick Soul Matters (Part 1) – Things slow down considerably on one of the two songs that tops the four-minute mark. Tobias sorts of meanders for the first half of the song before building into a driving rock song. Appropriately so, Bob adopts two different vocal styling for each half. “Keep moving your automatic feet. Keep pushing your flimsy brothers.” (8.5)
8. Break My Leg – Side B opens up with a brittle, haunting mid-fi track with a brief, fiery guitar explosion to break up the sparse, chilly vibe. “Your memory will soon betray your situation baby. Your memory of summer fades away.” (4)
9. Outlasting Girafalo – This song always makes me think of Janeane Garofalo. Bob adopts a very strange vocal styling, sounding like a satiric Eddie Vedder. Music arrangement is an odd stylistic mix of cock rock and post punk. Some days I dig it. Some days I find it irritating. “You - you know baby, two kinds of sycophants can keep you around.” (5)
10. The Assassins’ Ballroom (Get Your Ass In) – The most Circus Devils-sounding track on the album thus far in that it sounds like it was recorded in an evil dungeon. Very repetitive, both musically and lyrically. “Scratching to the hum, the sum of all bad music. He gets it! Come on in.” (4)
11. The Winner’s Circle – A couple of gong strikes echo over what what sounds like a cold, barren wasteland. The Night’s Watch must be heading out north, beyond the wall. “And he wears steel rings to weigh down his hands so they won’t be tempted to grope and roam.” (5)
12. The Sonstable’s Headscape – This is an unusual track featuring some cheesy, 80s synths and a drum machine. Creepy-sounding whistle during the outro. “Light the mind fire, you’ll see me in my headscape.” (4)
13. In Your Office – Ethereal organ pitted against a very grating rhythmic effect. Song suffers from an overly repetitive chorus. “There is beautiful pandemonium, so that’s where we’ll meet.” (2)
14. New Boy – The creepy jack-in-the-box were we introduced to on Ringworm Interiors has a new theme song. After starting out more like The Harold Pig Memorial, this album makes a sharp turn back towards the nightmare circus roots of the debut LP. I go back and forth between whether or not this annoying or prototypical Circus Devils. Perhaps it is both. “New boy - Don’t let it slip away, the green fucking day.” (5.5)
15. Puke It Up – A brief instrumental a.k.a. “soundtrack to monsters giving birth.” (2)
16. Swing Shift – We’re back in the evil dungeon of “The Assassins’ Ballroom” with those clanking chains. Music sounds like would serve as a great soundtrack for one of those calm-before-the-storm scenes on Game of Thrones. “Losing it, I’m out of style in my walking shorts and binoculars in heaven’s hotel.” (5.5)
17. Happy Zones – The longest track on the album (an appropriate 4:20) starts out with spoken word Pollard and all kinds of Circus Devils studio sounds and fuckery over what sounds like demons having a conversation in a dungeon. About halfway through we get some more Game of Thrones-like soundtrack music and a cold organ whistling through the barren soundscape. There is nothing happy about this zone. “Scratching our heads and asses in perfect harmony.” (5)
18. The Pit Fighter – Starts out with what sounds like sheets of metal being whipped back and forth before transforming into another cock rock track. “Never get out, never get out. No, you know you never get out of the pit.” (6)
19. Bogus Reactions – Those demons that were having a discussion in the dungeon on “Happy Zones” sound like they are a bit prickly and looking to get out. “I’m throwin’ ‘em back.” (4)
20. Hot Lettuce – Todd Tobias unleashes a cock rock guitar solo while the demons continue to make noises. (5)
21. Safer Than Hooking – Tobias lays down a great post punk bass line on this ominous track. Bob working something between singing and talking. I really dig the vibe conjured up on this one. “Cut it clean. Eat the heads, yeah.” (7.5)
22. Dead Duck Dinosaur – Another unsettling, post-apocalyptic nursery rhyme cooked up by Todd. Sparse piano utilized to great effect. “Yeah, hit the streets for budget rock and discount funk.” (6)
23. Do This – Instrumental bridge song featuring what sounds like a cheap Casio keyboard. (3)
24. Brick Soul Mascots (Part 2) – Picks up with the same lyrics that Part 1 concludes with. No meandering this time as we get a driving rock song, with some atmospheric touches, right from the drop. “Don’t let it get you down, boys. Noses to the ground, boys.” (7)
25. Caravan – The final side begins regrettably with this brief track. (1)
26. Lance the Boiling Son – After one of the worst tracks in the Circus Devils catalog, we get a herky-jerky prog rocker. Bob adopting several different vocal stylings on this prog chanter. “I’m vicious and fine, the classless clown of 2009. I’m Lance the boiling son.” (4)
27. War Horsies – Back to the over-the-top psychedelic weirdness on this track. How David Lynch hasn’t used this in any of his films or shows is beyond me. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the studio as Bob recorded his vocals here. “To dance and puke in museums worth killing.” (6)
28. French Horn Litigation – Another hall-of-fame song title. Slow-burning rock song with some drawn-out, deliberate vocal stylings from Bob. Picks up slightly in the last part with some excellent bounce. Love Todd’s guitar tone on this one. “Count on me to dream myself awake.” (8)
29. The Baby That Never Smiled – Thirty-five second song that sounds like a distorted music box nursery rhyme. Fantastic vocal performance from Bob before the song abruptly dies out. “He is peaches and wild. Run away child!” (6.5)
30. Man of Spare Parts – Loud, haunting, ominous song featuring a swirling organ. Bob sounding inebriated and just belting out lyrics over the instrumental sludge. “Wrestling the doctor. Wrestling my father. Doctor is not father.” (4)
31. Rose in Paradise – Sounds like a 78 being played on an old gramophone. A long lost classic from an old Hollywood film. “Come back from paradise, I’ll never doubt you again.” (6)
32. Summer Is Set – The music sounds like something ripped from Madonna’s 1983 self-titled debut album. Dramatic organ injects some Circus Devils dreamlike atmospherics into the equation. A great disjointed, unsettling way to conclude this sprawling mess of a double album. “I have become the perfect pet, in the autumn of my life. And I’ll remember the sun and all the shadows on the run did not apply to me when I was young.” (7)
You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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

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Official music video for "Love Hate Relationship with the Human Race"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Bogus Reactions"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Hot Lettuce"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "War Horsies"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Ataxia (2008)

On their sixth LP Circus Devils were once again a trio, with guitarist Tim Tobias returning to the fold. Coinciding with Tim’s return was a Halloween release date, the first since 2003’s Pinball Mars. With an album cover like that, how can you not release it on Halloween? With the previous album Sgt. Disco failing to make much of a dent commercially, the band’s run on Ipecac Records didn’t last long and they were dropped. After briefly considering calling it quits, the band returned to the cozy confines of Pollard’s Happy Jack Records. Now that he was back in the band, Tim contributed music for three of Ataxia’s tracks – “Get Me Extra”, “Mayflower Brought Disease” and “He Had All Day.” Todd Tobias wrote the music for the remaining tracks, this time using drums as the starting point for most of the songs. The release info for Ataxia summarizes the project as follows:
H.P. Lovecraft meets Devo on Ataxia, Circus Devils' new collection of moonshine revelries and musical trips by torchlight into the mist-shrouded fields and forests of Ohio (aka: land of mystery). Robert Pollard and the Tobias brothers treat us to an intoxicating blend of jagged, insistent rock and uneasy lullabies.
Like Sgt. Disco, Ataxia is a bit of an uneven listen, but with about half the tracks as that double album. Side 1 is a far easier and more enjoyable listen before things become a little more abstract and challenging on Side 2 as Bob, Todd and Tim explore the more experimental side of their muse. I’d characterize the LP as sort of a Sgt. Disco and more developed Ringworm Interiors hybrid.

1. Under Review – Nighttime has descended upon Circus Devils land. Those “monsters giving birth” have returned. Sets a very ominous tone. “I’m up, I’m up. I’m fucking up!” (5)
2. I-Razors – Those drums are front and center on this throbbing rocker. Sounds like it’s about to fall apart on several instances before dialing it back up. Hypnotic, addicting guitar line. Strong Devo vibe, particularly on the outro where the song title is repeated over and over. “Screw blue you. Forty years of blowing glass eyes.” (8)
3. Freedom’s Monsters – Burning guitar riffs, hell hounds barking, chains jangling and Bob adopting a variety of odd vocal stylings. “Freedom’s monster is an unborn child.” (6)
4. That’s the Spirit – Previous track cross-fades into this blast of sonic dissonance. Has a bit of a shoegaze guitar explosion vibe to it. (4)
5. Backwash Television – A stumbling “My Sharona”-esque drum intro, big guitar riffs and Pollard’s distorted vocals featured on this track. “What you got cooking, baby? A nasty ride to make you scream. Ooh!” (6)
6. The Girls Will Make It Happen – After what sounds like several failed attempts to get going, this track accelerates at warp speed. New wave meets post punk meets breakneck speed. The best word to describe this song is propulsive. “Hooray for the inner person. Hooray for the girl inside.” (8)
7. Mayflower Brought Disease – So many ways to interpret the title. Super fuzzy, distorted guitar excellence from Tim Tobias. Todd works up some interesting percussive sounds here. Outro really picks up the tempo and features some cool Pollard vocals before coming to an abrupt halt. “Like the newest recruit, in his filthy white suit, sayin, ‘Mayflower brought disease.’” (6.5)
8. Stars, Stripes and Crack Pipes – Menacing, hard-charging track with a fantastic post punk-fashioned bass line. The highlight of the album and one of my favorite Circus Devils songs. Love the recreation of the captain's orders from “Yellow Submarine” at the 1:03 mark. Another first-ballot, hall-of-fame song title. “Could not survive the tyranny of that dimly-lit, cracked wallpaper skin.” (10)
9. Ataxia – Listener is given a break on this instrumental, piano piece. It starts out innocently enough before the ghosts, ghouls and goblins come in and start howling and moaning during the second half. (4)
10. Nets at Every Angle – This is one of the creepier songs in the Circus Devils catalog. Those early records came off more as discordant noise for the sake of discordant noise. This one certainly contains harsh noises and sounds, but it works much better as a cohesive, mood-setter. An absolute essential track for any Halloween playlist. Those whistles are sinister. Love the transition to that echo-y synth part into Bob’s chants before the song receives the Fading Captain treatment. “He wore a Christian hat. His soul was stuck in it.” (7)
11. Hi I’m Martha, How Are You? – Side 2 begins on an interesting note with a gloomy organ and some spoken-word Bob. Some doomy, sci-fi effects are worked in as Bob’s distorted vocals announce the song title before the song disappears into the cold ether. (3)
12. Lunatic Style – This track features those sheets of metal being whipped back and forth that first appeared on Sgt. Disco’s “The Pit Fighter.” Bob delivering some ominous, drawn-out lyrics over a haunting organ. “In holes you could fall in, easily cycloptic.” (3)
13. Get Me Extra! – Distorted organ during the intro gives way to some Doctor Who-like sci-fi noises with Bob speak-singing in a matter-of-fact manner. Side 2 continues to deliver on a David Lynchian strange level. “After violence, after food, I don’t mean to be so rude, but get me extra!” (4)
14. I Found the Black Mind – Another cold, sparse droning track with Pollard providing more narration. Sounds like a Five outtake or something from the 3rd season of Twin Peaks. “A prayer will bring you hope.” (3)
15. He Had All Day – Some sunlight manages to break through the thick, black clouds on this acoustic song with a well-delivered melodic vocal from Pollard. Todd Tobias adds some great atmospheric warmth to this otherwise brittle-sounding track. That juxtaposition works well here. “The smarter he makes them, the more space they take up.” (7)
16. Fuzz in the Street – Sprawling freak-psych-prog epic track that clocks in at 6:28. First part is characterized by Todd’s galloping drum part. Pollard whispers “fuzz, fuzz” over and over and the song transitions to the second part of what sounds like a transformation to a cold, empty space scape. That peace and tranquility is disrupted by some harsh organ blasts before descending back into some droning dissonance and Bob rambling, “Then I said, then I said, then I said, then I said, then I said, then I said – I’m up, I’m up!” reconnecting us back to the closing lyrics on the opening track, “Under Review.” (3)
17. Rat Face Ballerina – The best track on Side 2 is saved for last. No rhythm section here as Tim Tobias hammers away on the electric guitar and Bob gives his most impassioned vocal performance on the record. Sounds like the inspiration for the 2010 Neil Young/Daniel Lanois collaboration, Le Noise. “Full crack shown for the peeping fugitive.” (7.5)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "I-Razors"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "The Girls Will Make It Happen"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Get Me Extra!"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "He Had All Day"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Gringo (2009)

The seventh Circus Devils album was released during an incredibly fertile year, even by Pollard’s bar-setting standards. In addition to Gringo, 2009 witnessed the release of two Pollard solo albums (The Crawling Distance and Elephant Jokes), two Boston Spaceships LPs (The Planets Are Blasted and Zero to 99), a full-length record under the moniker Cosmos (Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks) and a the third installment of the Guided By Voices suitcase series, Suitcase 3: Up We Go Now. Gringo follows the band’s pledge for their next album to sound nothing like the previous one. On Ataxia Todd Tobias started with drums in crafting most of the songs on that album. For Gringo, it was the acoustic guitar that was the primary instrument in having these songs come alive. The inspiration for the songwriting process this time around came courtesy of one of Bob’s collages, Gringo, which not only became the title of the LP, but also its cover art. Gringo is another loose concept album based on the travels of a man through the desert. As he was mixing and sequencing the album, the story became clearer for Todd. His reflections on the album are as follows:
As I interpret things, the setting is the American Southwest in the early to middle 1970s. The Gringo is a dreamer and an outsider who can’t find his way in. He’s a larger-than-life sort of person stuck in a tiny world – bursting with energy, but unable to focus it and get his act together while buzzing from one fuck-up to the next. Something is missing in the Gringo’s emotional make-up – something that might have tempered his troubles and afforded him some stability. Unfortunately he is unable to discover his own blind spot, and nobody cuts him a break. Along the way he gets mixed up with some shady characters, and can’t see his way free. In between his struggles and snags, he finds moments of quiet and sad repose. In the end, the Gringo flames out into the sunset, refusing to go quietly. The instrumental ‘Yellow Cloud’ is his elegy.
The release notes for Gringo are as follows:
Robert Pollard and the Tobias brothers fail to repeat themselves yet again with Gringo, an album which marks a first on two counts for Circus Devils - it’s both accessible and acoustic! With a 1970's Morricone-esque, Southwestern flavor, Gringo is a song-cycle with moods ranging from jubilant to melancholy to mean, all wrapped in the trademark Circus Devils palette of exotic sounds. As always, this is not last year’s Circus Devils record, but with Gringo, this has never been more true.
On the previous six LPs, Circus Devils had forged a reputation for being an experimental band more interested in exploring a more ominous and nightmarish style of music than the traditional melody-based rock music that defined much of Pollard’s work in GBV and as a solo artist. That concept is flipped on its head here, with Gringo being an acoustic guitar-driven album with more traditional song structures that contain actual hooks. Again, Todd Tobias, reflects on the album’s sound, “The music, as informed by the title Gringo and Bob’s impressionistic image, conjured wide-open spaces, stark landscapes and unforgiving light and heat. While we made no outright attempt to copy Ennio Morricone, something of the flavor of his music might have seeped into the album. Musically speaking, it was an exercise in acoustic guitar, and a chance to try some old-fashioned musicianship using more conventional-style chords and melodies.” Another key factor in style and feel of Gringo was the decision to have it be an all-analog recording, providing some additional warmth to the songs. All of which makes Gringo an accessible and enjoyable listen that is not dissimilar to the type of music Bob was making as a solo artist at the time. For those that have a difficult time connecting with some of the more challenging aspects of their music, this is the Circus Devils album for you.

1. Witness Hill – That acoustic guitar is front and center right out of the gate. Great stylistic tone setter for the album. Excellent vocal performance from Bob with Circus Devils displaying a willingness to embrace hooks. “You come out of a box and you leave in one.” (8.5)
2. Every Moment Flame On – Next we have a light and joyful song that still contains some of those Southwestern-styled flourishes – acoustic guitar and clickety-clack percussion. Shades of Gabriel's “Solsbury Hill” in there, particularly with that fantastic whistling. “Lost my cigarette bet on a snake machine, but you get what you get when you're wet.” (10)
3. Ships from Prison to Prison – Who would’ve imagined Circus Devils doing a beautiful, tender ballad on what sounds like a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar? You can really feel that analog warmth on this track. “Shipped from prison to prison, tired of living today.” (6)
4. Bad Baby Blue – Some added strings to give it a more dramatic feel. Rocks hard for an acoustic song. “I wanna kiss my television when you're on. Count your angels in the suitcase of your heart, angels sitting in your cafeteria mind. You're a bad baby.” (6)
5. Easy Baby – A rare ass-shaker, this is perhaps the catchiest song in the Circus Devils catalog. Todd provides the song’s backbone with some propulsive drums and a great guitar loop that repeats throughout the track. “Devil says that while away in the morning, all the days to not be figured out now.” (10)
6. Before It Walks – Beginning reminds me a bit of “Children Come On” off the first Pollard/Tobias collaboration, 2004’s solo Fiction Man. Some cool multi-tracking of Pollard’s vocals during the outro. “Stricken by the ass bone of a square jaw, you'll see the forest through the trees. Where I'll be looming like Paul Bunyan with a chainsaw.” (6.5)
7. Monkey Head – The first song on the album that sounds like an actual Circus Devils track. This is a multi-part track with some Circus Devils studio fuckery and a slightly warbled organ kicking things off. Just over thirty seconds in, we get a neat little acoustic guitar part with Bob providing some hushed vocals. At the 2:12 part the song starts to kick into a higher gear and then descends into pure Circus Devils lunacy with the “Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!” chant at the 3:15 mark culminating with the creepy way the song title is repeated during the outro. “Over-sexed and we're all wide awake now.” (7.5)
8. The Beast Falls Down – Back to that pensive, solo-acoustic-sounding space where much of this album resides. Again, not the type of song you would expect to hear on a Circus Devils record. Bob really drawing out and belting out the lyrics here. “Don't you live on your neighbor's garden.” (5)
9. Letters from a Witch – This doesn’t sound like your typical Pollard track, nor does it delve into the nightmare zone Circus Devils tend to occupy. The Southwestern flare is certainly there, but there is a very ominous tone. Todd Tobias does a masterful job painting such a cinematic picture with the production on this track. Lots of different instruments and sounds bubbling under. “So here I am with open arms. Here I am not broken.” (7.5)
10. Arizona Blacktop Company – Back to some familiar territory for Circus Devils on this spooky, atmospheric track with Bob going all spoken word, delivering what sounds to be a proclamation. All sorts of discordant sounds layered into the track. Has a similar vibe to several of the songs on The Harold Pig Memorial. “When she snaps an order, he jokes ‘Yeah, I'm a pussy’ to everyone.” (6)
11. Hot Water Wine – One of two songs to surpass the three-minute mark. Not sure that was necessary here. Features a pleasant acoustic guitar in the beginning. About forty-five seconds in, the song transforms into acid-like, psychedelic swirling track. Not my favorite Bob vocal styling – it’s a bit too schmaltzy-sounding to me. “Rock, paper, scissors - you may always know mine.” (4)
12. In Your House of Rescue – Great, sparse track with one of Bob’s best vocal performances on the album. Simple song, but with hooks to be found throughout. Such a loose, laid-back vibe conveyed. “Are you protected by the protection man?” (8)
13. Ants – The Circus Devils cacophony is back! Todd Tobias putting layers and layers of devil muck all over this track. Bob’s vocals distorted and it’s essentially him just yelling and screaming. “All over the back door screen, screaming for the fire ant queen.” (3)
14. Stars on All Night – Fragile, acoustic song with Bob providing some weary vocals. A sleepy track as the album winds down. “Shades of brown and sagebrush blowing backwards down my throat.” (5.5)
15. The Gasoline Drinkers – Well, so much for sleepy and winding down the album as this might beast comes bursting through the speakers. Expertly built on a fierce guitar loop that doesn’t yield as the song barrels to its conclusion. Bit of an Eastern flair to the brilliant guitar work by Tim Tobias. Nothing acoustic about this classic Circus Devils rocker. “Creeps and rotor heads, the beast falls down in stitches! Oh no!” (10)
16. Yellow Cloud – As Todd states, “The instrumental ‘Yellow Cloud’ is his elegy.” And with that, Gringo comes to its conclusion. (4)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Every Moment Flame On"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Unofficial, fan-made music video for "Ships from Prison to Prison"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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

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Official music video for "Easy Baby"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "When the Beast Falls Down"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Don't hurt people, and don't take their stuff.

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Cortez really keeping this thread going.
If you don't run you rust

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Clams is a genius
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Mother Skinny (2010)

For their eighth album, Circus Devils pivot 180 degrees from the more accessible, acoustic-driven Gringo. As the Doctor Who-esque album cover indicates, Mother Skinny is a challenging record that sees the band retreating to a more impenetrable, nightmarish space, previously explored on Ringworm Interiors and Ataxia. Multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Todd Tobias offers his take on Mother Skinny:
In another sort of world, Mother Skinny would simultaneously make the list of top 50 weirdest, scariest and funniest albums ever. Getting a handle on this album is difficult. It comes off as a sort of wild beast that can’t be tamed, so maybe we shouldn’t try. I’ve described the music here as art rock made by mushroom-eating cavemen. As far as my own experience goes, the careful crafting of the delicate music on the Gringo album left me anxious to bash on the drums again. The same went for Tim on the guitar, as we can hear on ‘Wolfman Chords,’ ‘Hard Art,’ and ‘A Living Necklace of Warts.’ Listening to Mother Skinny, I picture myself hoisted aloft on an ancient-Egyptian style sedan chair sitting atop the shoulders of a gang of surly, muscle-bound gnomes who usher me below ground and through a series of subterranean chambers, where we stop to enjoy the fun on the way to our final destination: the lair of Mother Skinny.
Like all previous Circus Devils albums, Todd and Tim Tobias came up with the music upon which Bob overdubbed his vocals at Todd’s Waterloo Sound Studio. For those who crave the oddball brand of psych-prog music the band has come to be associated with, Mother Skinny is a delightful return to form. If you have never heard anything from Circus Devils, stay away from this album.

1. Sub Rat – Soft droning intro gives way to an ominous death march. The quiet dawn abruptly morphs into a fiery holocaust. Circus Devils psych music. “Now nothing is moving like a fat king's eyes. And now they can't find you, you're a sub rat.” (6)
2. Lurking – The previous fires have dissipated and the ethereal drone returns. Song does becomes a bit more menacing, but in a more slow-boil manner. “Someone didn't laugh at his graveyard jokes. We went all tippy-toed.” (5.5)
3. Wolf Man Chords – A return to the same type of cacophonous noise stew brewed up on Ringworm Interiors. Tim Tobias getting after it on guitar once the initial noise stew settles down. Another freak-psych jam from Circus Devils. “Just come right out, right out and play it with wolf man chords.” (5)
4. Hard Art (Hard All Day) – Tim Tobias laying down more filthy guitar riffs as Circus Devils delve into their own unique brand of metal. This track brings some thump and Pollard’s vocals are really strong. “Harder than statue Sgt. Dildo.” (8)
5. Get on It – Neat herky-jerky rocker that conjures visions of one the band’s primary influences, Devo. Pollard hammering the song title over and over like Tim hammering away at his guitar. Neanderthal rock! “It's like a doorbell ring, assassinating silence.” (6.5)
6. His Troops Are Loyal – Opening stale drums give way to a battle chant with Commander Bob dictating the strengths of his squad till the song abruptly cuts out. “It's a visual game now, watch them get toxic.” (4)
7. Kingdoms of Korea – Todd Tobias creates that slave dungeon vibe he does so well. Another very ominous-sounding track. “Boats of bloated bellies, not exactly fishing. To the well too often, not exactly wishing.” (3)
8. Bam Bam Bam – The “hit” of the album. Pollard spits out absurdist rhymes following the rhythm of the drums. This one is catchy and will work its way into your head with ease. “Came upon a scallywag growler in the deep blue sea. Showed me mercy, gave me directions to a cup of tea.” (8.5)
9. The Germ Circus – Following the catchiest song on the record comes one of the most challenging listens. To call this one harsh is an understatement. The anti-"Sugar Mountain," the Germ Circus is eating all the children. “The germ circus has no tents, no barkers, no cotton candy or clowns.” (2)
10. 8 Legs to Love You – I’ve mentioned many times how impressive it is that Bob can alter his vocals in a wide variety of ways. We get yet another styling here on this bass-driven, post punk track. Pollard masterfully stretches out those lyrics and explores the higher parts of his range. Circus Devils tend to live in that experimental zone where sometimes they hit and many times they miss. This is one of those uniquely Circus Devils songs that hits the mark. We need more songs about sexy insects. “Hey you! Pay attention to me! I'll give you 8 legs to love!” (8)
11. 17 Days on the Pole – Side 2 opens with a moody, doomy, droning track. You can barely hear Bob as he wearily struggles to deliver the vocals. “Yes, captain, I am frozen. No look out replacement has been chosen.” (5)
12. Freezer Burn – After the slow drone, we get smacked with another blast of rock. Lots packed into 1:19 - guitar blasts, whistles, thunderous drums, ghoulish howls. Before you know it, it cross-fades into the next tack. “In ice they burn for you a hole, for thawing out your frozen citrus soul.” (6)
13. We Don’t Need to Know Who You Are – Throbbing ethereal organ with Bob’s hushed vocals. Snippet, which sounds like an outtake from Five, lasts only fifty-five seconds. “We don't need to know who you are - the make or the model of your car; the passions that you love or despise; your past or the color of your eyes.” (5)
14. Living Necklace of Warts – Now there’s quite the visual! Crashing drums and Tim Tobias letting loose on the guitar are the signature sounds on this chaotic noise stew of a song. Another uniquely Circus Devils track. “A crown of scabs to ninety kings, all suckerfish, a bucket of stewed assholes.” (4)
15. The New Nostalgia – Previous chaos cross-fades into this dark, droning track with Bob’s matter-of-fact dictation. “A shining reflection, a recollection of bombs and rifles, of unicycles. I never doubted, I never doubted the true nostalgia.” (3)
16. The Cave of Disappearing Men – More chilly droning for forty seconds. Essentially a continuation of the previous track that transitions us to the title track. (3)
17. Mother Skinny – Oh boy. Things get really weird on the title track. I’ll leave the explanation/analysis to Todd himself. “The album’s scariest song – arguably our all-time scariest – is the title track. The music was born from a guitar refrain from Tim that I slowed down to a glacial speed and reinforced with homemade samples. I thought the music was scary enough. But then I heard Bob deliver his vocal in that demented quasi-child’s voice.” Another essential addition to your Halloween playlist. “Mother Skinny has extra skin… Why?” (6)
18. All the Good Ones Are Gone – The musical equivalent of waking up from an awful nightmare as the sun shines through your window reassuring you the darkness has ceased and into the light you can go. Beautiful, funereal piano ballad with a strong melodic vocal courtesy of Bob. Longest track on the album (3:17), its impact heighten by its placement. “Go ahead, they're waiting. Forget your shiny apple, there's no teacher.” (8)
19. Pledge – Back to the slave dungeon we go. Disorienting percussion with a beaten-and-battered-sounding Pollard making a series of pledges. “I will regain in infancy.” (5)
20. Shut Up – Brief, menacing snippet to end the strange affair with “Shut up!” screamed repeatedly over the music and lyrics. I suppose it is the fitting way to conclude the album. “Wait till you find your surprise, wait till you earn your disguise.” (3)
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Get on It"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "We Don't Need to Know Who You Are"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Official music video for "Shut Up"
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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come on over tonight for the live stream.

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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tinnitus photography wrote:
Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:38 am
come on over tonight for the live stream.
totally would if i could! i think you get a download of the show, too.

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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

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Ordered, but won’t catch it “live.”
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Re: Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard

Post by chuckrh »

Robert sighting in Rolling Stone:

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/musi ... d-1033011/

What’s been helpful to me — and it’s kind of funny — but I’m saving a great deal of money by not going to bars.

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