The auditory becomes visual
Robert Pollard’s ability to live up to–and exceed–his creative reputation has kept Guided By Voices (GBV) together over the years, despite multiple temporary band break-ups. A prolific lyricist and musician, Pollard never runs out of material to reinvent rock each and every year. Songs seem to materialize in his head and the band accompanies his vision with meticulous mastery of their respective talents.
The newest album release Zeppelin Over China is heavily sedated with dirty rock giving it an almost dainty spirit. “Good Morning Sir” begins with gentle tremolo picking between strings as the guitar rings out like an alarm to awaken Guided By Voices fans. With drums that hold a grudge, this track sets the pace for the rock operatic album–a taste of what’s to come without spoiling the best parts.
“Send in the Suicide Squad” sounds like a ’70s rock classic, almost Journey-esque with a soprano voice that echoes as clear-pitched as Steve Perry’s career peak. A frilly guitar melody freely sings like an accompaniment adorning Pollard’s rock vocals. “Blurring the Contacts” is unmatchable with a catchy backdrop of guitar and bass holding the track intact, as Pollard’s reckless voice oscillates with creative chaos.
Here’s a quick complimentary nod to the band because if “Holy Rhythm” became a sacred hymn, more of us might start attending church. And if you’ve made it this far, don’t give up on the album now because “Jam Warsong” sounds like a deep-cut garage track meant for petty listeners ready to comment on the irony of war. “Nice About You” swivels between a rusty guitar melody and jarring chord progressions, but Pollard’s lyrics hint at his conniving smirk saying “You can rest assured / I’m nice.” Just leave it up to Guided By Voices to interweave genres at their discretion with absolutely no warning.
On Zeppelin Over China, each track transforms itself as if self-aware. There is a lot happening behind the scenes on this album; the production potential is maximized and it’s neither simple nor one dimensional, i.e “The Hearing Department” sounds like a reinvention of their 1992-1996 lo-fi music before GBV joined a major label–an artistic choice. Collectively the album is cohesive but remains humble in light of their total discography, even though GBV deserves more than just a pat on the back.
Like The Breeder’s engine-revving tracks with fizzy amp-feedback, GBV’s dangerously psychedelic track “Lurk of the Worm” oozes lyrical riddles and spills with harmonic disarray. The most radio-playable track of the album “Where Have You Been All My Life” might linger in your mind, as angular guitar cut into the air with musical shapes and sounds to leave you humming the track.
Building guitar chords make the twinkling melody in “We Can Make Music” sound like a proud heroic moment of realization for the band. The track is inspiring, but obvious in its inspiration because of course, GBV believes they can make music. Zeppelin Over China is their 28th studio album, and they don’t seem to be slowing their pace anytime soon. Guided By Voices has a funny way of making the auditory become visual, and their secret to reliable originality will remain unbeknownst to us.