Agony Shorthand

Thursday, June 02, 2005

In doing a trued-up accounting of my favorite LP/CDs of the 1990s -- the ones I actually listen to several times or more each year, not the DEAD Cs and HIGH RISEs nor SLAVE APARTMENTS and THINKING FELLERS (all of whom I still at least partially agree with and/or worship to this day), I'm left with four distinct long players. They are COME's "Eleven: Eleven" ; SUPERCHARGER's "Goes Way Out!"; the CHEATER SLICKS' "Whiskey", and this one, the far-and-away tip-top record from Dayton, Ohio's pop wonders GUIDED BY VOICES. Man, I remember how these guys penetrated the public consciousness in record time after 4 LPs spent in complete obscurity....all it took was one hot 5th record, "Propeller", falling into the hands of the right folks & the party lines were off & yakking. Tom Lax of Siltbreeze told me about it, said I'd better hurry up & hunt it down like wild game or it would be gone. I got it on CD a few months later when Scat threw it on as a bonus with a mostly-crap 6th LP, "Vampire on Titus"; last I'd heard the LP itself changed hands on eBay for four figures. After "Propeller" were two terrific EPs, "The Grand Hour" on Scat (1992) and "Get Out Of My Stations" on Siltbreeze (1994), among many, many other releases. The cruel joke this band played on its fans was an awful sense of quality control & a "if we farted, it must be captured" ethos. How many songs did they end up releasing? 400-500? More? When it comes down to it I guess I can tolerate almost everything they did as an "indie" band -- even really dig "Mag Earwhig!" -- but the only ones I ever listen to with regularity are those two EPs and their 1995 masterwork, "Alien Lanes".

Somehow on this one, in 28 quick snaps of genius, their stitched-tight reworking of the British Invasion came together perfectly. Lopping off more than half of your typical 1965-era 2:30 single on most tracks, they managed to create a temple of micro-short, slurred garage-based pop classics as much forged from teenage basement rock, raw indie moves and 1979-81 post-punk as from the Beatles/Stones/Kinks/etc. "Alien Lanes" is just so much more melodic and joyous than their other ones, and while it's got heaps of lowbrow experimentation and a 4-track mentality (a few numbers were taped on an 8-track), it's really tracks like "Motor Away", "A Good Flying Bird" and "Game of Pricks" that set the tone. Like a 60s girl group in the manner of THE RONETTES or THE CRYSTALS, these are songs that worm in and won't leave. The AM radio I was brought up on would have been such a cool place to hang out if bent brethren like GBV had been peddling their wares to the rack jobbers and A&R dorks in 1975. With the band's popularity came many dejected detractors, and once GBV went pro on a major label it seemed they took a lot of hot-tempered slings and arrows, barbs that overlooked what it felt like to hear a record like "Alien Lanes" the week it came out. It was a cassette mainstay in my car for years, and one that you gotta revisit once (for me) if you were one of the pundits taking a critical dump on them the past 10 years.