Concise, unrefined rock tunes
Over the course of their thirty-year career, Guided By Voices have created a strange but surprisingly effective approach to making music. Seemingly, their strategy is to release as much material as possible without investing much effort into refining and perfecting the final product. Their songs, most of which clock in at around a minute and thirty seconds, tend to sound like first drafts or rough sketches. A band with more patience would have polished and expanded them significantly. However, their lo-fi, haphazard energy is an indispensable part of the ramshackle charm that makes Guided By Voices so unique and appealing to their fans.
100 Dougs and Wine Cork Stonehenge, a pair of EPs following up 2018’s Space Gun LP, were released via Rockathon Records in preparation for Warp and Woof, their upcoming studio album which will be out on April 1, 2019. Warp and Woof is one of the two records that Guided By Voices plans to release next year. Frontman Robert Pollard has also announced that a 32-track LP called Zeppelin Over China will be unveiled in 2019 (it is not unusual for this band to release multiple albums in a single year). In addition to this, two companion EPs for 100 Dougs and Wine Cork Stonehenge called Umlaut Over the Ozone and 1901 Acid Rock are also slated for 2019 release. This chaotic release schedule is an extension of the non-methodical approach that Guided By Voices have adopted in their albums and live performances.
At this point, fans should know better than to expect any stylistic development. Guided By Voices are not the type of band who is interested in innovation; however, on 100 Dougs and Wine Cork Stonehenge, they maintain the remarkable consistency that has defined their past releases. These two EPs contain some songs that easily match the quality of material from their ’90s output such as Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. The opener for 100 Dougs, “Bury the Mouse,” showcases Pollard’s characteristically abstruse lyricism. This is complemented by some muffled classic-rock guitar riffs from Doug Gillard.
Other standout tracks include “It Will Never be Simple,” one of Guided By Voices’ rare but always excellent instrumentals, and Wine Cork Stonehenge’s “The Stars Behind Us,” whose anthemic vocal melody, clamorous guitar squawks and abnormally precise drumming combine to create a sound that falls somewhere between noise rock and nineties brit-pop. Though the two EPs have a very similar sound, Wine Cork Stonehenge is overall more noisy and forceful, while 100 Dougs tends toward a more subdued jangling.
As Guided By Voices continue to churn out catchy but unfinished pop-rock songs in enormous batches, it is becoming a serious question whether Pollard is a human or a glitched songwriting machine with no “off” switch. He does not break his pace on 100 Dougs and Wine Cork Stonehenge. The band’s latest two EPs are basically comparable to all of their other work. Pollard has once again delivered a collection of willfully imperfect songs that will nonetheless appeal to some listeners with their raucous, drunken charisma.