First things first: The Cum Engines is merely an alias of Dayton, OH, lo-fi giants Guided By Voices, thus Live From the Athens Time-Change Riots: Featuring the Cannot Changes is a live Guided By Voices record. The title, of course, refers to the infamous riots that break out on the Athens campus of Ohio University each year as the time change interferes with bar curfews, and beer is of course a topic near and dear to Guided By Voices' hearts (and livers). With songs pulled from Guided By Voices releases like Propeller, Hold on Hope, Under the Bushes Under the Stars, and Bee Thousand as well as Robert Pollard solo efforts Kid Marine and Waved Out and the Pollard/Doug Gillard collaboration Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, it seems likely that this album was recorded in 1999 or 2000, though no date is given in the liner notes. Recorded on a night that seems to find the bandmembers in good spirits and full of energy, Live From the Athens Time-Change Riots clocks in with 20 songs (barely enough for an encore by the usual standards of Guided By Voices, whose shows typically run two and a half to three hours), but the songs included are generally among their best, including "Cut-Out Witch," "Smothered in Hugs," "Peep Hole," "Shocker in Gloomtown," "Get Under It," "Echos Myron," and the rarely trotted-out "Big School."
Usually a standout, unfortunately the version of "Postal Blowfish" included here is a throwaway that should have been edited out of the record -- not because the band isn't solid, but because Pollard loses possession of the mike very soon into the song and the rest of the track is sans vocals except for the screaming of the female fan who has control of the mike. It may be one of the most annoying things ever committed to tape (it is well worth the trouble to walk across the room, lift the needle, and skip the track entirely, which is a shame, as it is normally an excellent song). An excellent runthrough of "Smothered in Hugs" nearly makes up for the "Postal Blowfish" fiasco, though the album ends on an uncharacteristically mellow note with "The Official Ironmen Rally Song" rather than with a big rock number (the way the band normally closes its set), which makes it seem likely that the producer of this album just put as much of the show on this record as would fit, with little thought given to pacing. With a collection of songs this good and this well performed, it is hard to find any fault with it, although as live Guided By Voices releases go, Jellyfish Reflector and King's Ransom: Happy Motherfuckers and Sad Clowns (with 30 and 38 tracks, respectively) probably give listeners more for their money. And Jellyfish's version of "Postal Blowfish" rocks.