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“The Guided by Voices Man and His Aversion to Homework”

It’s fun to think of Bob Pollard sitting there in a shirt and tie, knees gyrating feverishly up and down, knuckles tapping out a drumroll on the desk, and voice leading the class in a chant, “Come on, 2:55! Come on, 2:55!” Then him being the first one to the door.
As many know, the lead singer of Guided by Voices is a sixth grade teacher. And I guess he’s still a kid, whatever… I don’t get too deep into all that inner child business. Especially since rock and roll is a way of getting back in touch with your inner child, apparently, though I’d plot it at more like your inner coke-snorting 17-year-old.
Near be it for Pollard to exemplify such things. The picture of him “performing” on the GBV wiki blurb is actually just him with his hand wrapped snugly around a longneck, its ridged underside pointed to the ceiling, its mouth on his.
Jokes aside, please let me make no bones about the fact that the reason I’m writing about Bob Pollard is that he’s awesome. From the start, Guided by Voices’ songs have come on subtly, but almost invariably emerged as genuine and inspired. It’s like the difference between getting handed real gold as opposed to something from Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Not that Pollard haven’t had their moments of laughable hoopla along the way, but count penultimate album before recent hiatus Earthquake Glue, and final one Half Smiles of the Decomposed, not among the wretched. To me, the band has yet to regain the momentum and torque they had before their mid-’00’s break, but apparently there is another album due out this year.
Anyway, the one I’m bitching about in specific is the tender, and the more tender, Half Smiles of the Decomposed (2004). It’s one thing to let a sixth grader splatter fingerpaint all over the new canvas you’d reserved for your oils, it’s another thing entirely to let him serve dinner. HSOTD is like letting a sixth grader serve dinner. There you go, blah. Why are you wearing that lame shirt, why do you have to be my sister. This is what listening to the album is like — with a complete lack of warmth and sophistication, or “production” — as would be a good vocabulary word for Mr. Pollard’s class, and him as well. Look at a band like Pavement, they carve those beautiful track interludes into albums like Slanted and Enchanted and Brighten the Corners. Oh, how Half Smiles of the Decomposed needs interludes. It’s like being asked how everything is, how is the sauce, how are the songs, especially expectable what with the albeit narrow instrumentation expansion that GBV sees on this album (I think I heard some banjo and auxiliary percussion). And of course, Decomposed is definitely pretty solid, which is why it’s worth writing about in the first place. It’s not my doubt that it’s Pollard’s guts having been spilled onto the wax; it’s his gumption to clean up the mess he has left that leaves me wondering.

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