Okay, let me just say it; Guided By Voices really don't get going on all cylinders until Propeller. That being said, there are many fans of the band that consider Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia among their favorites (as well as the next release Same Place the Fly Got Smashed). I do consider Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia as the first album to have the GBV sound, whereas the previous two releases (Devil Between My Toes and Sandbox) sounded like a completely different band. Since I am doing this guide in a somewhat cronological order, it is safe to say this record is Guided By Voices' best yet (as of 1989), and may be the best reason to pick up the Box boxset...
Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia starts up with the sludgy and cool The Future is in Eggs. With a drumroll which sounds alot like the one in the Top Gun theme and feedback laden vocals with great rhyming structure ("Spiffy kids in combat suits/Who crushed with marching army boots/The fearless leader on his back/Dead from a cocaine heart attack"). I absolutely love this song, especially when the second guitar kicks in half way through and takes the song to a beautiful finish.
Slopes of Big Ugly is the first clue that there are changes among GBV. I think it was around this time that Don Thrasher took over on drums and Greg Demos began playing some bass. I find this song to be something like what The Doors would create, with Pollard telling a story over a strange background. It finishes just as it is getting interesting (as many Pollard songs do). Paper Girl is a cool song; A fuzzed-out heavy intro which sounds like a completely different song than the folky part that follows. There is a version of Paper Girl on Suitcase 2, which has clearer sound and is rid of the backing vocals. I like both versions equally, so both will likely make the playlist.
Navigating Flood Regions is a builder, a term I use for those GBV songs that start out kind of quiet, than build all of a sudden to a loud and/or faster part, and then finish abruptly. Actually, this one doesn't finish that abruptly, but it is pretty short. At the opposite end of the length spectrum, at over four minutes, An Earful O' Wax is the longest track on the disc. There is a scrambling type effect used over some vocals in the middle of the song, and there's some nice lead guitar and soloing during the last minute that make this song a keeper.
The intro to White Whale sounds a lot like the Hold On Hope EP track Fly Into Ashes minus the lead guitar. This is the type of song that I could get into after more listens, as it is fairly non-spectacular at first. I really dig Short on Posters, which is one of GBV's one verse/one chorus/finish type of songs. Does anyone else think some of their early stuff sounds like Live?
Chief Barrel Belly is the heaviest track on the disc, with some power chord riffage, and it has been growing on me. Dying to Try This sounds like a home demo of a far better song. Robert Pollard goes solo on Liar's Tale, using a tremolo effect on the guitar which gives the song an organ sound. Though I like the more quirky GBV tracks, I could not get myself into this one. Lastly, Radio Show is fine way to end this fine album, with some of it being mixed backwards and all. I'm sure it would find itself on many GBV fan best of compilations; it's a straight out rock and roller.
Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia is a good album. There is not a dud on the disc, and it contains some of the frantic randomness that would later become a GBV staple on albums such as Vampire on Titus and Alien Lanes. However, I do not find it as easy a listen as later GBV mainly for how clean, yet minimal the recording sounds. The randomness in quality of later albums keeps things interesting, where as here it can get monotonous after a while (though not as much so as Sandbox). That being said, this album may be the best reason to fork the money to buy Box, as it truly is the first album with the classic GBV sound.
Tracklisting (Songs in bold will be added to my best of boxset/playlist)
01 The Future is in Eggs
02 The Great Blake Street Canoe Race
03 Slopes of Big Ugly
04 Paper Girl
05 Navigating Flood Regions
06 An Earful O' Wax
07 White Whale
09 Short on Posters
10 Chief Barrel Belly
11 Dying to Try This
12 The Qualifying Remainder
13 Liar's Tale
14 Radio Show (Trust the Wizard)
Box on Amazon