Thursday, January 12, 2006

Guided By Voices: Sunfish Holy Breakfast (1996)

1996 was probably the most prolific year of Robert Pollard's career. With a live album and three full length releases (two Guided By Voices, one solo), perhaps it was possible for this EP to to be forgotten from amongst that group. However, Sunfish Holy Breakfast rates amongst GBV's best EPs (of course under Fast Japanese Spin Cycle and the excellent Hold on Hope). The bad news is that at this moment, Sunfish Holy Breakfast is out of print. I was able to find a used copy at Amazon for just over $10 after shipping and everything. Other copies are around, with some going for around $30-$50. However, if you can get your hands on it, you will be rewarding with some pretty cool tunes...

Jabberstroker is a Tobin Sprout song, one of his best...or at least one of the prettiest musically. It keeps a constant slow pace, and never builds out of it. Stabbing a Star pushes the sound quality limits to the edge, yet an excellent track can be heard under the fuzz. Does anyone else see these lyrics as unbelievably cryptic ("Well meet the maid, she's likable/A tonic for the masses/Rubbing her ferocious fur/Like rockets through molasses")? I have no clue what the track is about, but its just under two minutes of the rock, and the roll.

At just over a minute, Canteen Plums is hard to pass up on. It is a fairly standard, yet beautiful Pollard track. Beekeeper Seeks Ruth falls short of my now high standards for GBV, and though not a bad song (how many times do I find myself saying this) it simply doesn't grab me the same way Jabberstroker and Canteen Plums did. Cocksoldiers and their Post War Stubble is an excellent slow rock track, which would have fit beautifully on Not in My Airforce, and next to If We Wait, the greatest contender for inclusion on Under the Bushes, Under the Stars.

A Contest Featuring Human Beings is a simpler track with A) Pollard singing over an electric rhythm guitar, and B) a really cool title. I'm torn between adding this to the playlist or not, but as of now I am leaning on keeping it. There are quite a few Pollard songs while at first may seem rather plain or even *gasp* boring, but after a couple listens, you find yourself enjoying it somewhat. The most "famous" track off of this EP is If We Wait. It may also have reached hit status in the history of GBV. Vocal melody is the key to making this song so good, as well as some of the nicest sounding acoustic guitar, creating what sounds like an old 60s ballad. It is actually quite Beatle-esque.

Trendspotter Acrobat is performed and written by Jim Greer, though it fits in with the rest of the GBV catalog quite nicely. Odd is probably the best way to describe this little ditty, though I must admit it was the first track to standout for me when first listening to Sunfish Holy Breakfast. The Winter Cows for the most part is non-spectacular, and would likely go unnoticed mixed with the majority of GBV's tracks. Heavy Metal Country once again has me on the edge of adding the track or not. It is a sonic-charged slow tempo, brooding, and sludgy track with some great vocals which placed properly on a mix disc can sound pretty cool.

Sunfish Holy Breakfast is somewhat hit and miss. Two tracks I've placed on the playlist (A Contest Featuring Human Beings and Heavy Metal Country) just barely made the cut. However, the outstanding tracks Jabberstroker, Cocksoldiers and their Postwar Stubble, If We Wait, and Trendspotter Acrobat, make this a near-essential purchase. Near-essential being key, as you should be able to find this cheap somewhere if you make a decent effort.

Tracklisting (songs in bold make my ultimate GBV/Pollard playlist/box set):
01 Jabberstroker
02 Stabbing a Star
03 Canteen Plums
04 Beekeeper Seeks Ruth
05 Cocksoldiers and Their Postwar Stubble
06 A Contest Featuring Human Beings
07 If We Wait
08 Trendspotter Acrobat
09 The Winter Cows
10 Heavy Metal Country

Sunfish Holy Breakfast at Amazon


JonnyP said...

Hi thanks for the good work - just got Box for christmas.

Just note to say Sunfish Holy Breakfast is available on emusic (with much more GBV)with their free trial is a very cheap way here this!

The Rock Robot said...

Hi jonnyp, I totally forgot about that.

All Matador Records GBV stuff (including Sunfish Holy Breakfast and Hardcore UFO's box set) is available at eMusic.

Thanks for the reminder

Dan said...

the two songs you left off are some of my absolute favorites. just sayin' -- maybe they'll grow on you. keep up the killer blog!


The Rock Robot said...

Hi dan. "Beekeeper Seeks Ruth" and "The Winter Cows" were both left off my playlist due to them being non-spectacular against the other tracks from the EP. I'm sure there are worse tracks I put on the playlist from other albums...however it is a state of mind kind of thing. When I'm going through the albums, I am not listening to anything other than that particular album/EP, and that can hurt the chances of songs such as the two we are talking about now, which (in my opinion) are the worse on "Sunfish Holy Breakfast".

However, I realize that every Pollard song is in the top 5 for some fan. And I felt sure someone would comment about my exclusion of these two tracks, which is a good thing because it is proof of the greatness which is Pollard's music.

The odd thing is, I have never received a comment about the inclusion of a song, only the exclusions.

Thanks for the comment/kind words, writing this blog is tons of fun!

Tim said...

Definitely my favorite GBV ep. Faves: Merseyish "If We Wait," "Cocksoldiers," and "Stabbing a Star"

Dave said...

Beekeeper Seeks Ruth is one of my favourite GBV songs of all time. I wouldn't expect it to be on everyone's favourites but for me it has such a warm, nostalgic feel to it.

Anonymous said...

This one is less unified in terms of feel/style than the other EPs.

On my list:

Stabbing A Star (should have followed Demons Are Real on Bee Thousand imho)
Beekeeper Seeks Ruth
Cocksoldiers & Their Post-War Stubble
Heavy Metal Country

I included If We Wait on GBV comps for mates, though; go figure.