Sometimes you’ve listened to a band for so long that you forget others may have never heard it. Sometimes when you dive into a band’s catalog, the plunge is so gradual that you wake up one morning and wonder where this stack of 30+ CDs came from. Both are true with the work of Robert Pollard, primary songwriter for Guided By Voices.
I don’t remember when I first heard Pollard’s work, but I do remember it was the Guided By Voices album, Bee Thousand. I was ecstatic to find a band making the kinds of records that my step-brother and I had attempted. We recorded our tapes in his mom’s basement, so the rough, lo-fi sound of Bee Thousand immediately appealed to me. There was also something familiar to Pollard’s songs, as well. Immediately, I felt like this guy had listened to a lot of my favorite records by The Who, (Gabriel-era) Genesis and a band I had just discovered, R.E.M.
Pollard’s work, albeit wildly inconsistent, still seems relevant to me. These days, I feel like the most punk thing you can do is release music how and when you want. With labels demanding returns on their increasingly astronomical investments, it’s not unusual to expect a three-year gap between albums for many bands. As a fan, the wait can be maddening. Maybe the returns are there, who knows. That’s why I still like Pollard, who put it best, “If we’re paying for it and no one’s listening to these records anyway, if we’re only making them for ourselves, then I’m going to put exactly what I want on them.”
- “Substitute” by The Who (Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Decca/1971)
- “The Great Deceiver” by King Crimson (Starless and Bible Black/Island/1974)
- “London Girl” by The Jam (This is the Modern World/Polydor/1977)
- “London Girls” by The Vibrators (Pure Mania/Epic/1977)
- “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones (True Confessions (Singles = A+B’s)/Rhino/2000)
- “Fall on Me” by R.E.M. (Lifes Rich Pageant/I.R.S./1986)
- “Echos Myron” by Guided by Voices (Bee Thousand/Scat/1994)