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Guided By Voices Show Off New Music, Lineup ... And More

Revised configuration of lo-fi rock act offers sampling of new songs from forthcoming album.

LOS ANGELES -- Lo-fi rockers Guided by Voices didn't only unveil a batch of new material at their show here Tuesday night -- frontman Robert Pollard also divulged to the packed crowd at the legendary Whisky a Go Go that he wears white briefs.

While performing one of his trademark kung-fu kicks early in the show, the silver-haired Pollard put a rip in the upper-thigh area of his black jeans. The tear progressed to where his underwear was in clear view by gig's end.

"I thought that was the best part of the whole show -- even better than hearing the new songs," Mark Watts, 32, of L.A., said. "Here's Pollard rocking out with his underpants showing. What a rock moment."

Backed by a newly revised lineup, Pollard led the band through a two-hour-plus set that leaned heavily on the melodic, power-pop songs featured on its forthcoming album.

From the somewhat droning "In Stitches" to the power-rocker "Surgical Focus," GVB's new tunes display a tendency toward more traditional structures, fuller choruses, bolder riffs and intense drumming.

"There's a lot of guitar heroics, and I'm usually not into that," concert-goer Ryan Pettigrew, 20, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., said. "It seems pretty poppy, so I'm not sure yet. But usually, with GBV, you have to get used to it over time."

GBV's lineup nearly dissolved completely while on tour last year, when Pollard's backing band, Cobra Verde, got word of the frontman's plans to go with new musicians. Pollard formed the new group of musicians -- two of whom have worked with GBV previously -- in time to record the forthcoming album. The latest ensemble includes Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard, ex-Breeders drummer Jim McPherson, and GBV alumnus Greg Demos on bass. The new lineup has been touring off and on for the past year.

GVB finished recording the new album -- the title of which has not been announced -- last month with former Cars frontman and solo-artist Ric Ocasek, who has produced hit albums by bands such as Weezer and Nada Surf. GVB was in town to shoot a live club scene for the upcoming indie-flick "Dean Quixote," due next year.

The new album, the follow-up to 1997's Mag Earwhig!, was originally slated for a February release but has been pushed back to March, Pollard told the crowd Tuesday. Though Mag Earwhig! had higher production values than usual for this four-track friendly band, some fans were surprised at Ocasek's involvement in the new album.

"I can't imagine what it's going to sound like, with the 'You might think I'm crazy' dude working on it," fan Dee Burke, 23, said, referring to the Cars' 1984 new wave hit, "You Might Think." "But [Ocasek's] cool, and I have no doubt they made a great album."

GVB's first new tune of the night came with the punker "Teenage FBI," propelled by an incessant garage-guitar riff. Later, "Just Say the Word and I'll Be There" was moody with a vaguely tribal beat, while several other new songs, including "Surgical Focus," were characteristically concise, rock quasi-anthems.

More subdued moments came with a ballad beginning with the line, "Sometimes I wish I was dead," and the mid-tempo "Hold On Hope."

Formed in the mid-'80s in Dayton, Ohio, GVB put out six self-released albums before scoring an alternative-rock hit with the 1994 release of Bee Thousand, which featured the single, "I Am a Scientist" (RealAudio excerpt).

The band later signed on with Matador Records, releasing 1995's Alien Lanes, 1996's Under the Bushes, Under the Stars and Mag Earwhig! to critical acclaim.

Dressed in solid black, Pollard displayed his distinctive stage style throughout the show, marked by slouched, drunken postures broken abruptly by the aforementioned kicks and jumping-jack dance moves. "Rock out with your c--k out, ladies and gentlemen," Pollard said after singing "Teenage FBI."

The words proved prophetic, considering the status of his jeans later in the show.

Bassist Greg Demos occasionally made moves similar to Pollard's, simultaneously flicking his tongue in a manner reminiscent of face-painted, Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. Demo's antics were particularly entertaining, given his getup: a white business shirt and super-tight, striped bell-bottom pants.

"Rock 'n' roll -- we're here to carry it on, if not in music, then in appearance," Pollard said toward the end of the show. He then asked the crowd for a cigarette, to which several concert-goers responded by throwing fresh smokes onstage.

After stumbling around in search of a lighter, Pollard finally scored one from atop an amp and lifted it to his lips.

"Maybe rock 'n' roll is dead when you light the wrong end of your cigarette," he said, turning the butt around.

"He's got good rock shtick," concert-goer Jory Felice, 32, of L.A., said afterward. "He really channels the positivity of rock 'n' roll."