Music: Guided By Voices

I write a whole page of great titles, I have to give them personalities and write songs for them.
Robert Pollard

Guided By Voices are an insanely prolific Alternative Rock band from Dayton, Ohio, active from 1983-2004 and recently reunited in 2010.

The band was formed by guitarist/vocalist Robert Pollard, and mostly featured a large cast of other band members, chiefly because of Pollard's habit of recording with whoever was on hand or announcing the band's breakup and assembling a new lineup shortly afterwards.

GBV's first release was the EP Forever Since Breakfast in 1986, which was recorded in a professional studio and had a harmony-laden folk-rock sound not far removed from REM. However, the EP sank without a trace, and Pollard grew to regret it, deriding it as "sterile". From next year's Devil Between My Toes on, GBV became a purely studio band (to accomodate Pollard's day job as a teacher), and gained its Signature Style: short songs written at a blindingly fast pace recorded in a lo-fi manner (usually to a Portasound 4-track), and drawing influences from what Pollard called "the four P's": Punk Rock, Pop, Psychedelic Rock and Progressive Rock (Post-Punk, Pthe Pbritish Pinvasion and Pgarage Rock also provided an influence). The material released during this period tended to only circulate among friends and family members.

The band finally attracted some attention beyond that with 1992's limited release Propeller, which had only 500 copies pressed but gained a fandom in the alt-rock scene (which included bands like Sonic Youth and The Breeders). Now becoming increasingly known and having a steady lineup that included guitarists Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell (no, not that one), bassist Greg Demos and drummer Kevin Fennell, GBV released its landmark album Bee Thousand in 1994. Consisting of both new songs and archival recordings, Bee Thousand was critically acclaimed, allowing the band to sign a deal with Matador and make the band their full-time job. The follow-ups Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars were similarly well-received.

The Pollard-Sprout-Mitchell-Demos-Fennell lineup soon disintegrated due to the pressures of touring. A new lineup was assembled from the members of Cleveland glam rock band Cobra Verde, with the result being the Rock Opera Mag Earwhig!. However, Pollard dismissed this lineup as well, and brought together a new one, which included a returning Demos and The Breeders alumni Jim MacPherson and Nate Farley. The band then moved to TVT Records and recorded Do the Collapse with Ric Ocasek. The album's slicker, more radio-friendly sound caused a big They Changed It, Now It Sucks reaction among the fanbase, one which was also present but to a lesser extent on its followup Isolation Drills. Failing to attract major success, GBV left TVT in 2002 and returned to their usual sound with Universal Truths and Cycles.

After Half-Smiles of the Decomposed's release, Pollard announced the disbanding of GBV, saying "This feels like the last album for Guided by Voices. I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it." A final live tour followed.

The band's "classic" Pollard-Sprout-Mitchell-Demos-Fennell lineup announced a reunion in 2010, and true to their prolific reputation they released six albums between 2012 and 2014 before breaking up once more.

Guided By Voices provide examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Most bandmembers, Pollard especially. They started out as a bar band, and had a reputation for boozing it up while playing concerts.
    • The only album they ever recorded sober was Do the Collapse, and that was only because Ric Ocasek didn't let them drink while recording.
  • Archive Panic: To say they have a LARGE discography is quite the understatement.
    • This isn't even taking the numerous side projects into account.
  • Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: Pollard is not only in GBV and has a solo career, but is in several other side projects like Boston Spaceships and Circus Devils. And that's not getting into Sprout's solo career.
  • Badass Boast: Bob Pollard: "My brother's a better guitar player than Joan Jett!"
  • Everything Is an Instrument
    • The beat in "My Valuable Hunting Knife" is Bob banging a metal trash can lid.
    • The flute sound in "Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" is Jimmy blowing into a mic stand.
  • Foil: Tobin Sprout served as this for Pollard.
  • I Am the Band: Robert Pollard.
    • On the reunion albums, most of Toby's tracks take this trope literally.
  • Intentionally Awkward Titles: Some of them. Just try explaining to a non-GBV fan that one of their best songs is called "Tractor Rape Chain".
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Try to keep track of everybody who was in the band.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Many of their songs are in the 1-2 minute range.
  • Name's the Same: This isn't the Mitch Mitchell from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  • New Sound Album: Devil Between My Toes, Do the Collapse, Universal Truths and Cycles.
  • Recycled Lyrics: Bob does this a lot, and not just with Guided By Voices.
    • Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand are both songs from the Grand Hour EP, and Under The Bushes Under The Stars is a lyric from "Planet's Own Brand".
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Bob and Tobin both do this quite a bit.
  • Spelling Song: "Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox" from Propeller starts with the famous "G-B-V! G-B-V!" chant that would become a concert mainstay.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Their main philosophy, but they weren't shy about taking influences from more complicated genres.
    • Bob's songs on the last two albums aren't that straightforward, attributing to a new songwriting style.
  • Unperson: Pollard seems to consider drummer Kevin Fennell one. Simply for trying, and failing to sell a drum kit on eBay.
    • Not quite. Kevin had used Guided By Voices as a selling point for his kit. Bob wasn't too pleased with that.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Easier to count what isn't word salady!
  • Word Salad Titles: Most of them.
  • Write What You Know: Some of Pollard's songs are inspired by his experiences as a fourth-grade teacher, like "Gold Star for Robot Boy", "Teenage FBI" and "Non-Absorbing". "Your Name Is Wild" and "My Son Cool" are about his daughter and son, respectively.