I don't think it is even possible to enjoy the majority of Vampire on Titus on the first listen, as it takes Guided By Voices' lo-fi sound to the extreme. It is a mix of some of GBV's heaviest songs and some slower numbers. The heavy tracks have great guitar parts, but are plagued by the tinniest, hard-to-hear vocals. Some may consider the vocal quality as endearing for GBV, but in fact it really does take away from the songs, mainly due to the fact that these are some of the best cuts in GBV's catalog. After a couple of listens, you should be able to hear the melody hidden behind the fuzz. The acoustic tracks are also lo-fi, but with better sounding vocals...
Let's go through the heavy fuzzed-out tracks first. These include "Wished I Was a Giant", Expecting Brainchild, Dusted, Sot, Unstable Journey, and Perhaps Now the Vultures. All of these songs except for Perhaps Now the Vultures are going to make my best of GBV playlist. Poor sound quality aside, they contain great riffs and sound better after each listen.
"Wished I Was a Giant" is a great opener, filled with huge power chords and a pounding drum beat. Sot is the "prettiest" of the group with a great lead and superb melodic vocals from Robert Pollard. Out of all the heavy tracks, Unstable Journey is my personal favorite. This one gets going and doesn't let up till the end, and Pollard's vocals have some odd echo effect going on. I wish there was a clearer version of this around somewhere (maybe there is).
The next group of songs are the beautiful slow/acoustic gems. These include the haunting #2 In the Model Home Series (which is unlike anything else GBV have put out), the shit quality yet dark Donkey School, the simply and quick acoustic World of Fun, and the beautiful ballads Jar of Cardinals, Gleemer, and Wondering Boy Poet. It is easy to put these songs on my best-of GBV playlist and box set since they are all within the one minute or so length. I should also note that there is a gorgeous piano version of Wondering Boy Poet on Suitcase 2.
What About It? and Non-Absorbing round out what really is a great album hidden behind lousy production. Non-Absorbing is the best song on the disc quality-wise, and maybe would have made a better fit on Bee Thousand.
The last group of songs are the throwaways, which include Superior Sector Janitor X, Marchers in Orange, E-5, and Cool Off Kid Kilowatt. What was that, Marchers in Orange...the Marchers in Orange which is often a fan favorite!? Maybe you will like this song. I have tried and failed. I do however love the rock version on the Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP (which also has a better version of Dusted by the way).
Tracklisting (songs in bold make my playlist/box set)
01 "Wished I Was a Giant"
02 #2 In the Model Home Series
03 Expecting Brainchild
04 Superior Sector Janitor X
05 Donkey School
07 Marchers in Orange
09 World of Fun
10 Jar of Cardinals
11 Unstable Journey
13 Cool Off Kid Kilowatt
14 Gleemer (The Deeds of Fertile Jim)
15 Wondering Boy Poet
16 What About It
17 Perhaps Now the Vultures
Vampire on Titus at Amazon