Guided By Voices' Rock Revolution

Cover art from last year's Sunfish Holy Breakfast EP.

"Can't hear the revolution," sings Robert Pollard repeatedly on

the opening track of the upcoming Guided By Voices release, Mag Earwhig.

Nonetheless, the revolt--at the hands of Pollard and members of Cobra Verde,

who have largely replaced the former Voices for this album--is clearly nigh. By

the record's third cut, "I Am A Tree," their takeover is complete. Gone are

GBV's ringing melodies, replaced by sheer ringing. When the song kicks into

high gear, the broad pop guitar textures typically offered on Voices records

have been reigned in. The cracks have been filled with compact rock guitar buzz

and heftier drum propulsion.

Pollard began working with Cobra Verde on

Mag Earwhig, GBV's tenth album, last November. He originally met the

band (Doug Gillard, lead guitar; Dave Swanson, drums; Don Depew, bass; and John

Petkovic, guitar) three years ago, when Guided By Voices toured with Cobra

Verde on Scat Records' 1994 Insects of Rock tour. He emerged from the Cobra

Verde sessions with 15 songs, which were mixed and engineered by


When Pollard began sequencing the tracks, however, he became

discontent, as he is famously wont to be. Thus he returned to the studio for

some sessions with Spoon producer John Croslin and Guided By Voices veterans

Jim Pollard and Tobin Sprout. Still not fully satisfied, Pollard created more

tracks with his brother Jim Pollard, and Sprout, this time in the classic GBV

mold with basement quality sound. Recordings from from all three sessions

comprise the 21-song, 45-minute Mag Earwhig, due from Matador Records on

May 20...

The album's first single, "Bulldog Skin," is indicative of

the new sound. While the chorus remains close to GBV's roots in the Beatles,

the song's beefy driving riff and "Ooo-ooos" are pure Stones material. The

Verde version of the band takes a more experimental turn on "Portable Men's

Society." The tune's backdrop features a blanket of eerie synth, while the

guitars chunk along in regimented time. Both this song and its follow up,

"Little Lines," feature more targeted, sharper guitar solos than are standard

for a Voices release.

While the new direction clearly sets Mag

Earwhig apart from other GBV albums, fans of the band's earlier sound will

not be disappointed. In fact, the new album contains several trademark Guided

By Voices ingredients. Pollard wrote two tracks with Tobin Spout, the first of

which, "Are You Faster?," offers the well-established open spaces of the pair's

earlier work. The other collaboration, "I Am Produced," rattles off Pollard's

disgust with standard record making: "Pressed, printed, stomped, tripped,

trapped, tricked, packaged, shipped." Naturally the album also contains

Pollard's wry relationship assessments. "Did his wife in with 'Dueling

Banjos,'" he observes in "The Old Grunt."

The complete Mag Earwhig

track listing: "Can't Hear The Revolution," "Sad If I Lost It," "I Am A Tree,"

"The Old Grunt," "Bulldog Skin," "Are You Faster?," "I Am Produced," "Knock 'Em

Flying," "Not Behind the Fighter Jet," "Choking Tara," "Hollow Cheek,"

"Portable Men's Society," "Little Lines," "Learning To Hunt," "The Finest Joke

Is Upon Us," "Mag Earwhig!," "Now To War," "Jane Of The Waking Universe," "The

Colossus Crawls West," "Mute Superstar," and "Bomb In The Beehive."