After reuniting in 2012, Ohio's gods of lo-fi songcraft Guided by Voices flooded the world with a rush of new songs, releasing three full-length albums that year and following up with another long-player and the slapdash Down by the Racetrack EP in 2013. Motivational Jumpsuit marks the first GBV album of what seems like it could be a few in 2014 and a monumental 21st proper record for the band. Never short on songs, the issue with the maelstrom of post-reunion material was more an issue of inconsistency. The four albums and one EP's worth of serviceable and sometimes spotty new music could have easily been cherry-picked for one stellar album, free of a lot of what some fans perceived as filler tracks. Motivational Jumpsuit comes a lot closer to the almost unattainably high bar GBV set for themselves with their classic mid-'90s albums, its 20 songs blazing by in a lo-fi collage of hooky pop, tape-hiss rock, and middle-aged anthems to the ineffable teenage spirit. Melodic indie rock anthems like "Save the Company" and the jangly "Planet Score" come on with the same soft contemplation Robert Pollard perfected on Bee Thousand, while he leads his band into heavier rock territory on "Zero Elasticity" and the chunky riffs of "Writer's Bloc (Psycho All the Time)." Other principal songwriter Tobin Sprout turns in some of the highlights of the album with his tunes. Both "Calling Up Washington" and the lilting "Record Level Love" wrap up their hooks in jangly little packages, decorated with twee harmonies and over just after a minute or so. On "Jupiter Spin," Sprout borrows generously from the melody of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" for a pastiche of that song's flowery psych pop and his own signature sense of melody. The homemade production of the band's best work is revisited here as well, tapping into deft spontaneity through raw recording methods. The guitar tones on the bounding "Vote for Me, Dummy" sound broadcast through a walkie-talkie left on in the same room where the exceptionally present drums are being recorded. Rushing by with a distinct sense of economy in less than 40 minutes and heavy on counterpoint between Pollard's robust fantasy rock and Sprout's careful sentimentality, Motivational Jumpsuit is easily the most satisfying full-length of GBV's reunited, overproductive 2010s phase.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas