Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guided By Voices: "Let's Go Eat the Factory" (album review)

It's not like Robert Pollard to do things by the book.  So why should anyone be surprised that the first new Guided By Voices album in 8 years, Let's Go Eat the Factory, hits the streets on New Year's Eve?

This is an exciting release for fans.  Not only does it end a lengthy hiatus, but it sees the reunification of the "classic" GBV line-up of Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, and Kevin Fennel.

With that comes hope that these more powerful personalities would serve as a filter for Pollard's 'throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks' approach to releasing music.

Sadly, that hope is a little misplaced.  At 20-tracks the new album still feels bloated, despite a quite reasonable 42-minute running time.  The typical Pollard song fragments litter the album, adding precious little while serving to disrupt any flow the record might otherwise have.

When more conventional song structures are adhered to, it does result in some memorable moments.  The tooting jaunty "Doughnut for a Snowman", hook-filled "The Unsinkable Fats Domino", "Who Invented the Sun", and "Chocolate Boy" are all solid ditties in the GBV power pop canon.

Sprout's presence adds a lot to the concoction as well.  He brings more diversity to the arrangements, which adds depth to the lo-fi sound that late-era GBV releases had been sorely lacking.

"Spiderfighter" is a multi-layered wall of sound, which the listener can spend hours peeling back.  Blues rock guitar noodling takes you on a welcome trip on "The Big Hat and Toy Show", while "Hang Mr. Kite" is rife with tension created by a deft application of strings.

In the end though, Let's Go Eat the Factory can not be counted among the very best Guided By Voices efforts.

Best tracks: "Doughnut for a Snowman", "The Big Hat and Toy Show"

Track listing for Let's Go Eat the Factory:
  • Laundry & Lasers
  • The Head
  • Doughnut for a Snowman
  • Spiderfighter
  • Hang Mr. Kite
  • God Loves Us
  • The Unsinkable Fats Domino
  • Who Invented the Sun
  • The Big Hat and Toy Show
  • Imperial Rehearsing
  • How I Met My Mother
  • Wave
  • My Europa
  • Chocolate Boy
  • The Things That Never Need
  • Either Nelson
  • Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Borthday)
  • Old Bones
  • Go Rolling Home
  • The Room Taking Shape
  • We Won't Apologize for the Human Race


Yohan said...

Hate to say I agree. There are some solid songs but Pollard destroys any chance of this being great with fragments that jsut destroy the whole dynamic.

D-Bot said...

I disagree. Why knock the fragmented approach, if I'm not mistaken Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are fragmented on the whole as well. I feel like Let's Go Eat the Factory is a lot less choppy than the great Alien Lanes and is easily better than Under the Bushes. However I will say that this albums could have been more cohesive, songs like Doughnut for a Snowman and Unsinkable Fats Domino with their cleaner production feel out of place amongst the more experimental lo-fi stuff. Overall not too shabby a come back. 8/10