Quick Band Bio: Guided By Voices is a band that originated in Ohio and released their first album Devil Between My Toes back in 1987. The band is mainly known for their signature album style, which includes packing around 20 songs into 40 minutes, and also for the rapid release of new material (there were 3 GBV albums in 2012!). These features are true because of their vocalist Robert Pollard who writes music at a frantic pace, so much so that he can claim responsibility for 19 Guided By Voices albums, 18 solo albums, and numerous other side projects. The band did a farewell tour in 2004, during which it became a common occurrence for the city of the show to dub that date Guided By Voices day from that point forward(December 5th in NYC), but returned in 2010 with the exciting announcement of returning to the “classic lineup”.
What made the band notable enough to get a day dedicated to them and what symbolized the classic GBV lineup? For the sake of simplification in an extensive discography, it was two albums: Alien Lanes which got released in 1995, and the subject of this post in Bee Thousand which got released in 1994.
Bee Thousand caught Pollard at his songwriting peak, it was an album that could place the vulgarity of “Hot Freaks” (“I met a non-dairy creamer explicitly laid out like a fruit cake, with a wet spot bigger than a great lake”) next to the brutal honesty of “Awful Bliss” (You chose a giant step, caught your eye, guaranteed sweetness, that you though broken, and you were not fine. And bearing in mind, other ones that you could’ve wed, and hopefully dread.”) It’s still an album full of two minute songs, but the rush and variety of emotions and mindset in this album is astonishing and places it as one of the most notable indie rock albums of the 1990’s. It takes some time to appreciate it, on the first listen you’re probably just going to find yourself laughing at the fact that a track like “Kicker of Elves” exists, but when you start to learn the short songs and all of the stories and brilliance in lyrics that they display the whole work becomes something special. You learn the placement of the stories on the album and the transition between tracks becomes a learned transition of mindset for the listener.
The point of this article is that if you don’t know Bee Thousand you should listen to it fully to try to appreciate it, but if your looking for individual song suggestions I can do that too. There’s the best track by the band and one that barely made it onto the album in “I Am A Scientist“, and then classic GBV tracks in “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” and “Tractor Rape Chain”
Essential Albums will be a continuing blog topic for the rest of the semester for me and Noah Bondy, where we revisit an album which is at least a decade old to try to restore modern day appreciation for it.