Guided By Voices’, as well as the lo-fi genre in general, had their heyday in the early-to-mid-90s. As the years wore on, things began to sound ragged and tired, and the band broke up. Even more tired since their reformation, GBV is just as prolific as ever, this being their 4th album since their 2011 reunion. Of the four, this is one of the weaker ones, featuring a bit more variety than the first reunion album, Let’s Go Eat the Factory, but showing some signs that the group is having a bit less fun churning out album after album. It slogs on a bit in places, leaving me simply waiting for each song to end in a number of places, especially in the last third of the album.
There are some stand-outs on the record. “Islands (She Talks In Rainbows),” a mellow, atmospheric 60s-throwback (as if the use of the word “rainbow” in the title didn’t give away the psychedelic aping) is probably the best track on the album, serving up a pleasantly sleepy-eyed delivery by secondary songwriter Tobin Sprout, who, for the most part, steals the show from frontman Robert Pollard on the album. “The Quiet Game,” another Sprout number, is also of note, being a bite more rocking than other tracks. Of the Pollard songs, the lead single “Know Me As Heavy” is probably as good as any of the deeper tracks from 1994’sBee Thousand. Still, it drags in the verses with the chorus only offering the most meager of payoffs. “Noble Insect” is a bit more rousing. As for the rest of the tracks, the slower numbers mostly meander without leading much to anywhere. “Biographer Seahorse” is a good example of a track to stay away from if you’re looking for GBV gems.
For the dedicated Robert Pollard fan – because there really isn’t any other kind – this certainly isn’t the worst album you could find in the GBV catalog, but it’s not exactly memorable of its own merit.
Recommended Tracks: Islands, Know Me As Heavy, Noble Insects