Saturday, April 29, 2017

Guided By Voices August By Cake, Doug Gillard Interview & Show # 655


Guided By Voices latest release, August By Cake starts off in a momentous way. It starts with an announcement by singer, songwriter and mainstay of the group since their early beginnings, Robert Pollard. The song itself features horns, handclaps, intertwining guitars and rolling basslines, which at times come off with a John Entwhistle R&B slant. Lyrically, the song seems like it could be partially autobiographical. August By Cake also marks the 100th release by Robert Pollard (when you count all of his affiliated releases with other bands and as a solo artist) since 1986. In addition to this, August By Cake is also the first double album to be released by Guided By Voices. The album appropriately is different from other releases in the Guided By Voices/Robert Pollard cannon, but also has many similarities to past music that has been created.

The previous release by Guided By Voices, 2014’s Please Be Honest, featured instrumentation recorded solely by Robert Pollard. Prior to this GBV released five albums and an EP with the classic 1992-1996 era GBV line-up featuring Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell, Greg Demos and Robert Pollard. This release is a reunion of previous GBV band line-ups as well as a new one. The band lineup features guitarist Doug Gillard (who played with the band initially from 1997-2004), Kevin March (who played drums with the band in the early 2000’s and 2014) and Robert Pollard. The new lineup also features bassist Mark Shue and guitarist Bobby Bare Jr. This album is a strong effort that marks a second reunion of sorts. With 32 tracks clocking in at 71 minutes, there is plenty of material here to sift through.

“When We All Hold Hands At The End of the World” is a short song that seems to poke fun at getting older and adult life, “We Liken The Sun” is a song with plenty of arpeggios and guitar distortion, reflecting a sound from 1996’s Under The Bushes Under The Stars and abstract lyrics, “Packing the Dead Zone” seems to be a social commentary about our current social media trends, “What Begins On New Year’s Day” is an acoustic pop song with heavy segments of drum hits and guitar stabs and chords. This song is reminiscent of 90s era GBV songs and lyrically seems to be addressing proposed promises/failures in a reflective fashion. The song is very short, like many GBV songs they seem like they could be not completed or perhaps a demo in some cases. But, this is part of what makes GBV so interesting, there are hidden gems throughout this release, and all GBV for that matter. They are brief, but memorable.

For this album, Robert Pollard wrote songs initially intending to release a single album, but he had too many songs for a single album. Instead, he decided to proceed with a double album and asked each member of the band to contribute two tracks each. As a result, there is a new freshness to the songs found on this release. “Goodbye Note” is one of two songs written/recorded by guitarist Doug Gillard. With it’s descending guitar patterns the song seems to call for understanding in a relationship that involves life with a band on the road. “Deflect/Project” with lyrics such as “Deflect/project oh your actions are never circumspect” and “Planned obsolescence is the goal” this song emphasizes a dichotomy between being relevant and taking risks in a post-punk musical aesthetic. “Absent the Man” is a song by bassist Mark Shue with lyrics that seems to reflect a disconnect in band life/home life. “Chew The Sand” another Shue track, is an instrumental of sorts with mumbling lyrics, heavy drums and dusty guitar effects that at times drift into prog rock territory (Shue also contributes the song “Sudden Fiction” to this album as well). Bobby Bare Jr.’s contributions include the angsty garage song “High Five Hall of Famers” and “Upon The Circus Bus” an acoustic song with loud talking/banter in the background with allusive lyrics. “Overloaded” a song by drummer Kevin March, is a jangly pop song reflecting a situation showcasing someone that may have put a bit too much on their plate and is sorting through it. “Sentimental Wars” musically is an acoustic, drum filled and organ-dominated affair. Lyrically, March is searching for sentimentality or connection with lyrics such as “We are all fighting/Can we ever find the time to be alone?” and “Just take my hand/I will be with you always”.

All of these songs, whether they are Robert Pollard originals or by other band members, feature a certain cohesion to them. There is a flow to this album, that makes all of the songs seem seamless, but not in a stereotypical way. “Dr. Feelgood Falls Off The Ocean” as do several of the songs on this release, resembles a 90s era GBV sound. Lyrically, the song is a tale about suburban life. “The Laughing Closet” is a melodic track with abstract lyrics, “Whole Tomatoes” is an acoustic song that sounds like it could be a demo, while “Amusement Park is Over” reflects on a past, but once joyous memory.

August By Cake ends with the song “Escape To Phoenix”. An upbeat rock song with lyrics such as “Grand destinies/New hot topics/The escape scene” and “Watching eternity/The people demand an answer”, the song seems to be about a character always wanting to do more. The song ties in with the album’s opening and boisterous track “5 Degrees on the Inside”, but ends with a chant that is taken from lyrics in “Circus Day Hold Out”, another track found on August By Cake. The words “Crank up your monkey and organ without me” end the album. They fade out in what sounds like an abstract phrase and sense of camaraderie. With Guided By Voices, a lot of their songs are like abstract art. There are certain phrases and titles in the songs found on their albums that are open to interpretation and more open ended, despite their usual short length and lo-fi quality at times. This has been something present in all music released by Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices and is part of what sets them apart from other bands.

A lot of areas are covered on this album. A song like “Packing The Dead Zone” for example touches on social commentary on current social trends. There may be a vast amount of data and information out there today, but there is also a limitation. With GBV who have always had lots of material on their releases and many releases for that matter, more GBV is a good thing. For the 100th release featuring Robert Pollard, it certainly doesn’t sound stale. August By Cake has many layers to fill the listeners plate. And while this album features 32 songs, there is not too much on their metaphorical plate here. There is just enough to satisfy newcomers to the band’s music and diehard Guided By Voices fans alike.

Check out my interview with Doug Gillard here:



The Playlist:

1. Juliana Hatfield - Good Enough For Me
2. Tacocat - I Love Seattle
3. Slowdive - Don't Know Why
4. Chad Vangaalen - Clinically Dead
5. No Fun - Planet
6. Gem - Suburban Girl
7. Doug Gillard - No Perspective
8. Guided By Voices - Goodbye Note

DOUG GILLARD INTERVIEW

9. Robert Pollard & Doug GIllard - Pop Zeus
10. ESP Ohio - Royal Cyclopean
11. Guided By Voices - An Unmarketed Product
12. Zoom - Sweet Desperation
13. Cousins - Lullaby
14. Tuns - Throw It All Away
15. Slow Down Molasses - Secret
16. Construction & Deconstruction - Onomatopoeia
17. Shotgun & Jaybird - Borrowed Minivans
18. Woods - Bleeding Blue
19. Warm Soda - Don't Stop Now
20. The Finks - Now
21. The Scenics - Western Hills (Live - Toronto 2016)
22. Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs - Judy
23. Pavement - Unfair
24. Tim Darcy - You Felt Comfort
25. Guided by Voices - Dr. Feelgood Falls Off the Ocean
26. Guided By Voices - Universal Truths and Cycles
27. Guided By Voices - Hold On Hope


To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for April 29.

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