Guided By Voices - Under The Bushes Under The Stars
Whether you like this album ultimately depends on how much quirkiness you can take. Listening to it the first time reminded me in some ways of Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, another album which features short songs, and some interesting (read: unusual) song titles. Furthermore, both albums are often categorised into the lo-fi genre, and if categorisation by genre is your thing, then you might be tempted to look for further similarities. But on that score, you would be wrong. Under the Bushes under the Stars is an album which really defies this sort of categorisation. At times, there are softer acoustic moments of course, such as "Acorns and Orioles", but the album contains more than its fair share of up-tempo rockers.
The difficulty with such an album is identifying where to start. OK, if you start at the start, then the first three tracks, "Man Called Aerodynamics", "Rhine Jive Click" and "Cut-out Witch", provide a solid introduction to the album and, after repeated listens, begin to grow on you. But this is a difficult album to pin down and superficial listening may not benefit your appreciation of it in the way it might with some other albums. It takes several listens to begin to appreciate it, and by the time you are beginning to form a picture of the album, you find that it has already insidiously wormed its way into your mind and certain tunes have stuck there, forcing you to hum them when you are not paying attention to anything in particular. This has to be one of the most clear identifying marks of good pop music. "The Official Ironman Rally Song" is one such number, with its tongue in cheek warning in the opening line -
"Don't take this too seriously"
However, before long you find yourself drawn to other tracks with equal anticipation. "Don't Stop Now" is probably the most radio-friendly track off the album and happens to be my favourite, while "Redmen and Their Wives" is the most haunting. Other tracks, such as "It's Like Soul Man", seem to be pointing the band in a direction which they really have no business going. Could it be that the influence of Steve Albini and Kim Deal as producers has steered the band towards a wider audience? Is Guided by Voices a 'wider audience' sort of band? One thing is for certain. This is a band which is not going to stick to the conventional when it comes to song titles.
I suspect that each listener will form an opinion of this album based on the songs they like. The result of that innate filtering mechanism will be to pick out, to identify with and to anticipate certain tracks more than others. With each listen, some tracks will become stronger, others weaker. In the end, the album will become one where a handful or so of good to excellent tracks are surrounded by a fair amount of filler.
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on 2011-03-01 CharlesMartel Said:
The unique approach of GBV is always one which is refreshing. 24 songs and a lo-fi production style - this is the best of GBV's output.