"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
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."