I love reading monthly British music magazines. They’re incredibly insightful depositories for outstanding writing on rock music. Pick up any given issue of Mojo, for instance, and you’re bound to get an enlightening 10-page story on Procol Harum, or one of the many zillion Beatles anecdotes they love to throw out there. Despite their penchant for revisiting bands whose members are dead or haven’t mattered in a really long time, they seem to have a genuine interest in music and good writing.
The weeklies, on the other hand, tend to be a little trashier. Pictures of Jack White’s hand surgery get top billing, Ed Harcourt is consistently dissed and the writing, although smartassed and occasionally funny, isn’t up to the quality of the monthlies. (Doesn’t sound all that different from the American weeklies, come to think of it.)
But the worst offense I’ve seen came in the form of a review of Guided by Voices’ Earthquake Glue, which featured a subhead that read “Strokes’ Mates Make Zillionth Album.”
Strokes’ mates???!!! Oh, come now. You aren’t that naïve, are you? The Strokes were knee-high to a cockroach, playing with Tonka trucks when GBV home-recorded their debut back in ’86.
To be fair, I shouldn’t be that upset. After all, I am only a casual Guided By Voices listener. The only albums of theirs I owned up to this point are Do the Collapse and Mag Earwhig, two albums that GBV enthusiasts will say are not their best. But, dammit, I enjoy them. And what I’ve heard of Alien Lanes, Bee Thousand and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars I’ve enjoyed just as much. And at the moment, I’m loving Earthquake Glue quite a bit.
When Bob Pollard decides he’s going to make an album (which is about every weekend) he crams every bit of recorded material onto it, perhaps out of a desire not to have to cut any songs. But somehow, I get the feeling that the 15 songs on Earthquake Glue were chosen pretty carefully. There aren’t any 30-second 4-track half-songs. There aren’t any atonal, hissy experiments. Just good, old-fashioned rock `n’ roll.
The first single, “My Kind of Soldier,” sounds polished enough to fit in alongside the Dayton, Ohio, group’s Ocasek-produced TVT material, yet quirky enough to still be Guided by Voices. But the song that will truly propel them to mainstream is “The Best of Jill Hives,” which, again, isn’t drastically different than their previous output, but packs enough of a punch to appeal to those who have never imbibed a Miller Lite.
Earthquake Glue rarely takes time to slow down. Songs like “She Goes Off at Night” and “Useless Inventions” show the band’s knack for no-nonsense balls-to-the-wall guitar rock and keep the pace for the majority of the album. There are a few notable exceptions, like “My Son, My Secretary and My Country,” a short, drumless track of sustained notes and Pollard’s surrealist ramblings. But they’re just pit stops on the way to greater rock ahead.
Let the UK weeklies say what they will about Guided by Voices, but here in the good old US of A, we know better than that. Maybe Pollard can teach The Strokes a thing or two about making a career out of it. After all, he never fucked up a show, and he’s drunk at all of them.
Lilys – Precollection
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.