Guided By Voices
ithin the new Guided By Voices box set (their third), there are exactly 142 Guided By Voices songs and one DVD. Among these are a disc of greatest hits (in chronological order no less), a disc of singles and compilation tracks from the Matador era, a disc of rarities, a live disc consisting of various unreleased live material from throughout the past decade and the documentary Watch Me Jumpstart.
The set itself is a veritable feast of material, though, once you sort through the glut of it, it should fill you up to the point where you may not want to eat from the table of Bob Pollard for some time afterwards.
Out of all the discs within the box, the greatest hits collection is arguably the most essential, with 32 superb tracks that trace GBV from their inception up to Earthquake Glue. There are no glaring omissions (though I’m sure this is arguable) from the disc and should serve nicely for both fan and novice alike.
The second disc, consisting of Matador-era singles, b-sides, and rarities is surprisingly just as good as the first, adding weight to the myth that some of Pollard’s best songs were relegated to b-sides and compilations. This disc’s relative ease of flow, more consistent than anything since Do The Collapse, speaks towards both Pollard’s glut of quality material in the mid-90’s and his decline in recent years.
With the disc of rarities, the first bump is hit. Pollard has been emptying his vaults (or more specifically, his suitcases) for some time now and the well of quality leftovers seems to be dwindling. This fact is made all the more obvious with this disc, consisting primarily of songs recorded on 8-track and demos for Do the Collapse and Mag Earwhig! A few of the demos manage to offer some interesting insight into their completed counterparts, but none warrant repeated listens. In fact, the most interesting song on the disc, “Back to Saturn X” is the full version of what was originally only a fragment of a song on their Propeller album.
The fourth disc, the aforementioned collection of live material, fares far better than the rarities disc and puts in a strong point of purchase for the album. The disc is filled to the brim with top notch performances of excellent songs, many of which are rarely performed during live sets. Despite the variance in sound quality between the recordings, they hold a surprising consistency (much like that of their studio material) and hold a tie with the singles disc, in terms of quality.
“Forever Since Breakfast” is the next disc, which is actually their long out of print first EP originally released in 1996. On this disc, the band seems to adopt an REM-like jangle and keep things relatively straightforward. Inklings of Pollards future masterpieces are evident, but nothing has yet come to fruition. It serves as an interesting listen, but adds nothing to GBV’s monstrous canon of songs.
A DVD rounds off the set, the documentary Watch Me Jumpstart, which has been bolstered with all of GBV’s videos as well as clips from live shows. The documentary in itself is worth watching once, but doesn’t hold that much information about the band that you couldn’t learn from a press release. The videos are a nice addition, as is the live material, but they are by no means essential (and definitely not on par with the live disc).
The box itself is worthy of purchase by both the seasoned GBV fan and the novice. You get an entire GBV experience in one box: a disc of genius, some scattered genius among the other discs, some filler and an overall feeling that you’re only standing, exhausted of GBV, on the tip of the iceberg of their material.
Reviewed by: Landis Wine
Reviewed on: 2003-12-02