Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guided By Voices: "The Bears For Lunch" (album review)

It has been a busy year for the reunited Guided By Voices.  With two new full length albums under their belts already in 2012, the solid Let's Go Eat the Factory and the excellent Class Clown Spots a UFO, the band released a third this week: The Bears For Lunch.

The most striking thing about many of these songs is their completeness. We're accustomed to getting half-thought out, half-arranged song fragments from Robert Pollard and company.  That's not this case on tracks like the brisk rockers "King Arthur the Red" and "Finger Gang".

There's a level of complexity to a song like "The Corners Are Glowing", which we haven't often heard from the band.  The overall feel is controlled, with a cello and even vocal harmonies lending an air of sophistication.  The vocals on "Waving At Airplanes" and "Skin To Skin Combat" are astoundingly lovely.

Guided By Voices verge on pop with "Walking Up the Stars".  The song is almost Beatles-esque in it's structure and performance.

Even the tracks that have a demo-level production quality are more put together.  In the past, a ditty like "Dome Rust" would've been a hacked-up minute-long blast.  Now it's a fully realized, though still fuzzy and echoy song.

Of course there are still the minimalist tracks.  "Have a Jug" is nothing more than Pollard and an acoustic guitar.  A piano takes the place of the guitar on "The Military School Dance Dismissal".  The guitar drone on "Tree Fly Jet" is more in line with the band's past.

It all adds up to a very good 2012 for Guided By Voices.  Of course, with a month and a half to go in the year, there's still plenty of time for the band to release another record or two.

Best tracks: "Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere", "Skin To Skin Combat"

Track listing for The Bears For Lunch:
  • King Arthur the Red
  • The Corners Are Glowing
  • Have a Jug
  • Hangover Child
  • Dome Rust
  • Finger Gang
  • The Challenge Is Much More
  • Waving At Airplanes
  • The Military School Dance Dismissal
  • White Flag
  • Skin To Skin Combat
  • She Lives In An Airport
  • Tree Fly Jet
  • Walking Up the Stars
  • Up Instead of Running
  • Smoggy Boy
  • Amorphous Surprise
  • You Can Fly Anything Right
  • Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere

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