Guided by Voices

Earthquake Glue

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For those who love the idea of Guided By Voices a bit more than the reality, it's sometimes hard not to be frustrated with Robert Pollard, a scattershot genius who is equally well-defined by both halves of that description. GBV leader Pollard is a startlingly gifted and prolific songwriter and musician, but he also displays either an inability or a disinterest in separating his wheat from his chaff, as anyone who has tried to plow through his relentless barrage of side projects has doubtless noticed. Which is why Earthquake Glue is such a pleasant surprise -- it may well be the most consistent and satisfying Guided By Voices album to date, and if its potent rock crunch is bettered by 2001's superb Isolation Drills, this comes close enough to make any fan pummel his air guitar with glee. While the sharper focus and tight set list of Earthquake Glue is impressive, just as important is how good Guided By Voices sounds as a band these days; while usually regarded as little more than Pollard's backing group, this edition of GBV has become tight, emphatic, and joyously powerful after several years on the road and in the studio, with the guitars of Doug Gillard and Nate Farley and the rhythm section of Tim Tobias and Kevin March giving the tunes all the smarts and twice the muscle their creator could have hoped for. And while Earthquake Glue lacks the clunky lo-fi ambience of Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes, these songs suggest Pollard and his collaborators have been able to take the spontaneity and adventure of those tracks and graft them into a better structured and more satisfying framework. If Earthquake Glue isn't a masterpiece, it's as close as this band can be expected to get, and is the rare Guided By Voices effort that's imaginative enough for longtime loyalists and tight enough for dabblers at the same time.

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