It would be hard to imagine a pairing of two more different musicians -- one a cult figure credited with helping spawn the lo-fi revolution of the early '90s, the other a multiplatinum artist known for creating some of the slickest studio pop of the '80s.
Yet just such a merging of seeming opposites -- Guided by Voices mastermind Bob Pollard and former Cars leader Ric Ocasek -- provided the creative spark for the upcoming GBV album Do the Collapse, set for release Aug. 3.
"Ric knows what it takes if you're interested in moving up to another level," Pollard said (RealAudio excerpt of interview).
Pollard hooked up with the former Cars singer and indie-rock producer (Weezer, Nada Surf) to record an album of songs Pollard said were pure power-pop classics -- a decided turn away from the purposely gritty, garagey sound of most of his band's dozen-odd albums.
"It's pop, but real powerful power pop," said Pollard, who noted that the record's first single is "Hold on Hope." "There may be some of our fans who like it when the songs sound different, with a different fidelity, but these are all f---ing hi-fi."
It was the first time the group worked with an outside producer on an entire album. And for a band accustomed to cranking out records and songs with speedy abandon, the process was an eye-opener.
The sessions for Do the Collapse were much more involved and organized than the lightning-fast, hectic process that Pollard said produced their 1997 disc Mag Earwhig!, a record that featured such lo-fi mood rockers as "Bulldog Skin" (RealAudio excerpt).
Pollard, a schoolteacher by trade, said the group spent two months recording Do the Collapse last year, considerably longer than the two-and-a-half weeks they spent recording their 1996 effort Under Bushes, Under the Stars.
Pollard said Ocasek forced him and the most recent lineup of the ever-mutating band to really knuckle down in the studio in a way they never had before.
"With Ric we had to do arrangement and a few days of -- what's that called? -- preproduction," Pollard said. After several weeks of rehearsal, Pollard said GBV finally entered the studio and had to relearn how to record an album, indulging in such previously unused-by-GBV techniques as recording several versions of a song and splicing together the best parts to make one seamless track.
GBV have released a barrage of cult-building, home-recorded albums and singles since their mid-'80s birth in Dayton, Ohio, mining an inspired mix of British-Invasion pop, post-punk and jangly rock. They developed a reputation for their artistic four-track recordings and for cramming dozens of songs on each album.
After putting out six self-released, lo-fi records between 1986 and 1992, the band gained notoriety in 1994 with the album Bee Thousand, an effort that catapulted GBV overnight into the rock spotlight.
Pollard is the sole remaining original member of the group, which, by some estimates, has had more than 40 members since its inception.
The current lineup of GBV features Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard, ex-Breeders drummer Jim MacPherson and Breeders bassist Nate Farley. The new album is GBV's first for TVT Records, and represents the end of a nearly six-year association with New York label Matador Records
Given Pollard's prolific nature -- GBV have released an average of two albums and several EPs and singles every year since 1993 -- the nearly two-year wait between Earwhig! and Do the Collapse was a veritable lifetime.
In an April 20 posting on the Matador website's bulletin board, Matador co-founder Gerard Cosloy responded to some GBV fans' suggestions that the band's prolific output might have turned Matador off.
"The 'prolific' issue isn't so simple," Cosloy wrote. "Matador wasn't on Bob's case about the glut of GBV-related product any more or less than Bob's managers have been on our case about what they thought to be insufficient sales."
Cosloy said the label did its best to stock the numerous GBV albums in stores but found retailers didn't always have space for the constant stream of releases.
"For serious GBV fans, the huge list of available titles is a great thing," Cosloy wrote. "For those who have yet to purchase a single GBV album, it can be very confusing. ... It sucks that we were unable to keep working together, but everyone at Matador hopes that Guided by Voices have tons of success in the future."
The full track listing for the album is: "Teenage FBI," "Zoo Pie," "Things Will I Keep," "Hold on Hope," "In Stitches," "Dragons Awake," "Surgical Focus," "Optical Hopscotch," "Mushroom Art," "Much Better Mr. Buckles," "Worm Hole," "Strumpet Eye," "Liquid Indian," "Wrecking Now," "Picture Me Big Time" and "An Unmarked Product."