Album review: Guided By Voices, Let's Go Eat The Factory

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For me, one of the best live experiences of 2011 was a show that I only saw streamed on the internet; it was Guided By Voices so-called 'classic' mid-90s line-up at the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago last July.
Disappointingly they have cancelled their planned European dates for 2012, allegedly due to a fear of flying, this line-up are planning on releasing two albums in the first half of the year.

The first of these, 'Let's Go Eat The Factory', is a sprawling 21 track affair. I was a huge fan of this incarnation of GBV and the more I listen to this album the more I think it fits in well with the likes of 'Alien Lanes' and 'Under the Bushes...'.

The trademarks of mid 90s GBV are here. Lots of short songs that tease you with a great melody then end suddenly ('God Loves Us'), sweeping psychedelic tunes that sound like they have fallen off a lost 1960s recording ('Laundry and Lasers'), and some curious little oddities that are more sonic experiments than songs ('The Things That Never Need').

The two tracks that were all over the internet prior to release made me think that this album would deliver. 'Doughnut for a Snowman' is pretty and REM-like and 'The Unsinkable Fats Domino' has classic GBV written all over it. This isn't just a case of a band finding a winning formula and sticking to it though. 'Hang Mr Kite' sees Robert Pollard singing in a deeper voice accompanied only by a string arrangement, while 'Big Hat and Toy Show' is a strange bluesy tune not unlike Captain Beefheart. Although it's hard to choose highlights from the 21 songs, the two standouts for me at the moment are 'Spiderfighter', a song built around a cyclical grinding riff which changes tack into a wistful piano coda, and 'Waves', a droning throbbing tune which sounds like a collision between the best of Guided By Voices and someone like Wooden Shjips.

Although the prolific output of Robert Pollard and his many varied offshoot bands has kept a lot of Guided By Voices fans satisfied in the last few years, there is something pretty great about having the real band back together. I did approach this album with trepidation, but it is rewarding me with each new listen. I'm unsure if it will win many new fans, but those of us who love those mid-90s albums should find plenty to enjoy here.

Here's a clip of them performing 'The Unsinkable Fats Domino' on the late show with David Letterman recently.

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