Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
I must admit that mentioning Bee Thousand in another Guided By Voices album review can get frustrating. But Bee Thousand is a crucial album in the history of Guided By Voices. It was made in a period of very consistently great recordings. Bee Thousand, thanks to many early supporters of GBV (Chavez, The Breeders, et al), created a huge buzz around the indie world. Finally Guided By Voices had moved out of the Ohio area, and into major distribution.
Alien Lanes is the follow up to Bee Thousand, and although it is similar to that album, it is far better. It has essentially the same pop/experimental ratio as Bee Thousand but the pop and experimantal on Alien Lanes is simply of higher quality. Alien Lanes is more focused, better performed, and is nicely produced (compared to anything that preceeded it). The quality of songwriting is incredible. "Game of Pricks," "Motor Away," "Watch Me Jumpstart," "A Salty Salute," "Closer You Are," "My Valuble Hunting Knife," "Striped White Jets," and "My Son Cool" are just the great Bob Pollard songs. "Little Whirl," "A Good Flying Bird," and "Straw Dogs" are three of Tobin Sprout's best songs.
The experimental songs on Alien Lanes are also very good as they are used to keep the album surprising the listener. Clocking in at 16 seconds is the great pop fragment "Cigarette Tricks," but sadly it leads into the horrible "Pimple Zoo." I apologize to anybody who likes this song, but it is really horrible (perhaps they should have released it on the Nightwalker album). But the good news is that it only lasts 40 seconds, and the rest of the album (all 27 songs) is remarkable. Although Bee Thousand made me a fan, Alien Lanes is the album that made me fall in love with them (and happily buy some of the crap they would reissue and realease).
By: Sean Wright
Published on: 2003-09-01