Guided By Voices
Human Amusements at Hourly Rates
have often thought that the Old Testament created the laws and the New Testament created the loopholes. Not that I take much notice of either, but it would be nice to have a slimmed-down, Cliff notes version of the most popular written words in history. To stretch this analogy to non-sequitor point, the same can be said for Guided By Voices. Prolific (or fruitful, inexhaustible, abundant) doesn’t begin to describe the output of over 15 years worth of box sets, albums, and side projects a go-go for Robert Pollard and his merry band of lo-fi pop mistral men.
Drawing source material from 16 different albums, GBV wedge 32 songs into 73 minutes of some of the catchiest, breeziest melodica ever trapped by a 4-track recorder. Yes, only the most listenable stuff made the grade, so if you are one of the most hardcore of Pollardists, you need to look elsewhere for your let’s-see-what-happens-if-I-record-this fix. Hourly Amusements is the perfect primer for new GBV fans, or for those who dig the music, but have day jobs that prevent them from investing the sky-high level of time commitment a comprehensive investigation would require.
The tracks run riot over the decades - from the opening foghorn and fuzzy Byrds-harmonies of 1987’s ‘Captain’s Dead’ (from Devil Between My Toes) to two tracks from last year’s Earthquake Glue, the doing-it-in-their-sleep ‘My Kind of Solider’ and creepy REM-sound alike of ‘The Best of Jill Hives’, and still there is a nary a dud here. The bubblegum burst of ‘Everywhere with Helicopters’ sits like a lover next to the rock-star riffing of ‘I Am A Tree’, which glides effortlessly into the next 18 tracks. And while there is a slight dip in quality for a few tracks, the pounding of ‘Back To The Lake’ and the simple beauty of ‘I Am A Scientist’—off the beloved album Bee Thousand—brings the collection back to form.
What makes this different than any other greatest hits compilation? By moving the chronological-order all around, it displays with crystal clear accuracy what an achievement the GBV catalogue is. From their early, hissy-freak lo-fi days to the later more polished (and more spotty) going through the motions stuff, Pollard is always clever (and talented) enough to know that any song without a hook sucks ass. Most musicians would be happy with a few albums of pretty solid material; Pollard spews the stuff like a geyser that ceaselessly yields 3-minute pop gems.
The choice is yours. You can take a few weeks off of work, hire a professionally qualified cataloguer, and sort through the mire of work produced by Pollard and the myriad of side projects. Or you can catalyse your journey with this incredible value for money, value for ear sampler. Actually, let’s make it easy. Put this little beauty on, bust open a 12-pack of beer and follow the road to wherever GBV takes you. You’ll laugh, you’ll dance, you’ll get tipsy. Huzzah!
Reviewed by: Lisa Oliver
Reviewed on: 2004-01-20