Thursday, November 20, 2003
The Best of Guided By Voices: Human Amusements At Hourly Rates
On Human Amusements At Hourly Rates, Guided By Voices' massive catalogue gets butchered, and it's not a bad thing. Since the band's early albums were a mixture of guitar pop gems and filler, someone needed to come along and trim the fat.
This retrospective CD captures the Ohio-based group led by former schoolteacher Robert Pollard from the 1987 Schwa Records release, Devil Between My Toes, to last year's Earthquake Glue. At first, the CD seems to focus on recent, more commercial work like "Twilight Campfighter," a song that does little to distinguish itself from other alternative rock.
When the CD digs into Guided By Voices' past, it reveals that the group is one of the best and most overlooked independent rock outfits of the past decade. "My Valuable Hunting Knife" sounds like a new wave song recorded on a Fisher-Price tape recorder. "Captain's Dead" is a marriage between hardcore punk and British Invasion rock. "To Remake the Young Flyer" is a gorgeous piece of psychedelic pop by Pollard's former bandmate Tobin Sprout.
With 32 songs in 77 minutes, Human Amusements At Hourly Rates proves that Guided By Voices are the best group that you may have never heard.
Always Will Be EP
With the release of the short, eight-song EP, Always Will Be, J-Live takes the state of hip-hop a step forward in the right direction by taking a step back toward the basics of the craft with simple tight beats, carefully constructed rhymes and positive roots. J-Live keeps the bassline thumping from the beginning to the end, with just enough production to keep it polished, but not overdone. His main assets, of course, are his lyrics. As a grade school teacher in his previous life, J-Live has always placed self-knowledge and education in the center of his music, and the result is music that makes you think. He's still relatively underground, but Always Will Be, the follow-up to Always Has Been, has the benefit of a little more experience. The songs move from a basic freestyle with old school scratches in "Add-a-Cypher" to a sweet piano loop that accompanies him on "Walkman Music."
Throughout it all, his flow is as smooth as ever, always literate, positive, and self-confident. As he says in "Deal Widit": "with me, the righteous, civilized, original man / with the knowledge of self and the wisdom you understand / nothing less, nothing more..."
We Got the Neutron Bomb: Weird World Volume Two
Volume two, my ass--this is any and everything this Los Angeles group has recorded of merit. Renowned as unheralded geniuses in their day because of their two fantastic singles "Destroy All Music" and "We Got the Neutron Bomb" (both included here), the Weirdos were a mish-mosh of styles, chanted choruses and tight harmonies, harrowing songs whose lyrics are funny and/or demented, but without the same ironic deadpan of the Ramones and a sense of skillfullness that eluded much of '70s punk rock.
There is new stuff here: a pair of tracks featuring bass maestro Flea--great on one of them, wanking and thumb-slapping on the other. The louder and cleaner mastering on the ancient numbers makes them more powerful as opposed to weaker--always a problem on older punk cuts. Much of the vault-plundering of today is useless, this ain't.