Prolific indie outfit Guided by Voices is set to release their 33rd album Earth Man Blues on April 30, 2021 via Rockathon Records. Frontman Robert Pollard described the album as “a collage of rejected songs” to Rolling Stone, who in turn described it as “one of GBV’s most eclectic, adventurous records to date, careening between heavy-rockers reminiscent of Black Sabbath, guitar lines cribbed from early 2000s pop-punk, near-rock operas worthy of the Who, and sweet little swingers that sound like the Monkees melting in the sun.”
Guided by Voices shared a lead single from the record titled “Free Agents.” It’s an upbeat two-minute track with warm guitars and some memorable lyrics from Pollard, “Free agents are the oldest people in the world – but not jaded,” he begins. The song is about free agents as well as the ups and downs of life in general. It ends with the words, “We all shine on like diamond rings/Never been to Heaven but I heard good things.”
The songs on Earth Man Blues were sifted from Pollard’s collection of incomplete songs and demos. He commented to Rolling Stone, “I was blown away that I had discarded them. Anyway, I combined some of them and created new arrangements. Others I just left the way they were.”
Pollard decided to connect the tracks with details from his adolescence. “I tied the songs together loosely with characters and stage production notes to make it seem almost autobiographical,” he stated. “After listening to the final sequence, I thought it felt almost like a musical stage production so I added names and places. Actual scenarios and events that were real in my childhood. On the cover, it reads ‘A John H. Morrison Presentation.’ John H. Morrison Elementary was the school I attended.”
Since adopting the name in 1983, Pollard has been the one constant member of Guided by Voices as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. The current lineup also includes Doug Gillard on lead guitar, Bobby Bare Jr. on rhythm guitar, Mark Shue on bass and Kevin March on drums.
Three of the previous 32 studio albums released under the Guided by Voices name came out in 2020, Surrender Your Poppy Field, Mirrored Aztec and Styles We Paid For. Earth Man Blues is their first record of 2021, although Pollard and others released an EP in January as Cub Scout Bowling Pins.