354. Guided By Voices – “Alien Lanes”

I went through a ‘lo-fi’ phase in the mid-late-1990s.  I was seduced by the awkwardness and deliberate difficulty of it all.

Thus I have an excess of albums from Superchunk, Sebadoh and these guys.

Not wanting to prejudice those “S” reviews in a couple of years time, those blokes were a little less difficult than this collection from GBV.

I’ve seen GBV referred to as ‘anti-rock’. I presume that refers to their unwillingness to conform with the expectations of record labels, listeners etc.

For example, here we get 28 tracks, most under 2 mins along, most without a chorus-verse structure, many without intros or outros.  Most sound like they were recorded underwater (one deliberately so) or from a long, long distance away.  Tracks are overdubbed, underdubbed, haphazard and throwaway.

I get the concept – let the music free, don’t conform, don’t overmassage the message.  But in the end it just aint very listenable or enjoyable. It’s the musical equivalent of mumblecore – over-rated and self-indulgent.

It’s a real shame.  There is a huge amount to like on this album underneath all the grime.  These guys lay down some great riffs, grooves and what could/should be choruses. Game of Pricks and Motor Away are very solid (although the latter was improved by the Salteens), and songs about hunting knifes are always fun:

File under: Roadworks are called for…

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