Friday, June 09, 2006

Guided By Voices: Suitcase - Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft: DISC FOUR (2000)

Whereas the focus of the previous three discs in Suitcase was with aborted album tracks (and some album cuts), the focus of the fourth disc is late 80's tunes...and boy were GBV on a roll during this era. On top of the five 80's releases (Forever Since Breakfast, Devil Between My Toes, Sandbox, Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia, and Same Place The Fly Got Smashed), GBV had more than enough material to release a sixth album, and a damn good album at that. Disc Four continues the trend of surprising quality, rounding out what truly is a great box set...

Trying To Make It Work Again is an oldie (1981) which at just over a minute, fails to leave any real lasting impression, and is followed by a huge riff intro in Turbo Boy. However, that great intro is just teaser to a completely unrelated song which does not follow through until an inspired chorus midway (Also, Pollard manages to sound like Neil Young during bits of this track). Chain Wallet Bitch is a 30-seconder toss-off from '93.

Little Head is a nice tune from '87 which has grown on me with repeated listens, and should have found itself on one of GBV's 1987 albums. UTBUTS castaway Why Did You Land? was a high-octane balls-out rocker, and it gets the slow/creepy treatment here (as a Bee Thousand outtake). It is unbelievable how different tempos can change a song so drastically. Though I like the faster version more, I find myself enjoying this slower version the more I listen to it.

I am a sucker for the late 80's GBV, and Time Machines (no relation to the Lexo and Leapers song of the same title) is no exception. You can tell one of these tracks by the similarity in recording dynamics, and listening to a bunch in a row can actually sound a bit monotonous. However, they are consistently good, and scattered throughout later era tracks, have an opportunity to stand out. Of course, both Turbo Boy and Little Head (mentioned already above) fall into this category as well. As does United, another melody monster.

Let's get through these late 80's tracks now, instead of the usual song-by-song routine. '88's Go For the Answers is in the spirit of a campfire sing-a-long, and Excellent Things is simply more trademark 80's GBV. Static Airplane Jive (other than sharing a title with a GBV EP) sounds like it was meant for Same Place The Fly Got Smashed, and relatively speaking, was also meant to be an outtake. Where I Came From shares more in common with the Forever Since Breakfast EP than all the 80's albums. Deaf Ears shares little with the UTBUTS outtake of the same name, but would have sounded right at home on Same Place The Fly Got Smashed, though like Static Airplane Jive, was probably best left off the album. Last of the late 80's tracks is Oh, Blinky, which may just be the best of the late 80's tracks on Suitcase, and a taste of things to come from GBV.

I'm pretty sure I earlier stated that Big Trouble was my favorite Hazzard Hotrods track. Well, move over Big Trouble, and welcome Farewell to Arms to the front of the pack! This song completely blew over my radar the first few times I heard it, but now I find it dancing in my head all the time. I think it is in the way Pollard sings the track that makes it stand out, but the lead guitar work is wonderful as well. I would love to hear a crisper version of this song, or a studio version.

As well as Chain Wallet Bitch, I would consider Best Thing Goin' Round, and Sickly Sweet as the albums throwaways (c'mon, its a GBV rarities disc, there are going to be throwaways). Sickly Sweet is simply abrasive to the ears, with unhearable lyrics.

Unshaven Bird is one of many underdeveloped ideas from Mr.Pollard, which for most of it's minute is completely forgettable, until a last second moment of greatness. Black Ghost Pie is awesome. 50 seconds of pure rock, and one of the best song titles ever make this one a keeper. It doesn't take long to hear that Rocking Now is a version of Do The Collapse's Wrecking Now. It is virtually a stripped down version of the superior album version.

Try To Find You is an oldie from 1984 which was recorded live, and is filled with a conversation between two women (which may or may not have been added to the track?). I find the voices extremely irritating, especially given that the song is fairly decent. After nearly a minute of cymbal introduction, Good For A Few Laughs begins. It is a brooding and short acoustic track which really never goes anywhere. Raphael is one of those longer GBV songs (a whole three minutes!) which would have actually worked better as a minute-long ditty, since it pretty much repeats itself for the entire length of the song.

My Feet's Trustworthy Existance is a fairly straightforward acoustic track, which does not in any way stand out among the GBV canon. For those people (like me) who love The Future Is In Eggs, you will find something to like in the instrumental version, simply titled Eggs.

On first glance, the GBV fan who is considering buying Suitcase may notice that there is a version of Wondering Boy Poet on this disc, and wonder what relation it has to the original. Generally, it is an extremely clean piano version, which may also be one of GBV's more "beautiful" moments. Not worth the $50 bucks by itself, but still a real treat for fans.

I took ten songs from this disc for my playlist, and perhaps would have took more/less depending on when going through it. Its highlights are definately the piano version of Wondering Boy Poet, and all the late 80's tracks. The overall quality of Suitcase as a whole really surprised me, and generally, there are far more good songs than there are bad ones. Therefore, go buy it. Now.

Tracklisting (songs in bold make my ultimate GBV/Pollard playlist/box set):

01 Trying To Make It Work Again
02 Turbo Boy
03 Chain Wallet Bitch
04 Little Head
05 Why Did You Land?
06 Time Machines
07 A Farewell To Arms
08 Best Thing Goin' Round
09 Sickly Sweet
10 United
11 Unshaven Bird
12 Black Ghost Pie
13 Go For The Answers
14 Rocking Now
15 Excellent Things
16 Static Airplane Jive
17 Where I Come From
18 Try To Find You
19 Deaf Ears
20 Good For A Few Laughs
21 Raphael
22 My Feet's Trustworthy Existance
23 Eggs
24 Wondering Boy Poet
25 Oh, Blinky


The Doorman said...

Been reading your blog the past week. Great job, very nice!
Now I feel the urge to leave a comment: "Excellent Things" is a beautiful song!! The guitar lead at the end makes it complete. This song really should make the final cut.

Patric Egan said...

hey man! i'm a huge huge GBV fan and also i really like your takes on Pollard's songs. i find myself agreeing with you a lot but i have to disagree with you when you say the song Time Machines has no relation to the Lexo and The Leapers song of the same name. the melody of the part where the words "time machine let's try it / i'll ride it with you" are sung are sang in a way that is very similar to the very first sung line of the Lexo song. also A Farewell to Arms sounds a lot like Refugee by Tom Petty.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked when I heard those two lines (Gonna try to find you
No matter where you may go) from Storm Vibrations on Try to Find You. I really love it when this kind of things happens.

Anonymous said...

sorry it was "happen"

Anonymous said...

I don't know any fellow GBV fans and have been trying to gain access to the forums on Disarm The Settlers with no luck for a year. Still, I've learned that tastes differ wildly among fans, but again I agree with you on almost everything. And on the rare occasion I don't I always enjoy your writing. This is such a great site. I'm sure it has been written here before but: GOLD STAR FOR ROCK ROBOT BOY

I prefer the later versions of Time Machines, Why Did You Land? & Go For The Answers.

My list:

Static Airplane Jive - should've opened SPTFGS instead of Airshow 88, I think
Turbo Boy - not a great song but a very entertaining one
Excellent Things - I think of this as Yours To Keep before the mutation
Where I Come From - wonderful song; the fruition of the Forever Since Breakfast sound
Try To Find You - Among the best of the prerelease material
My Feet's Trustworthy Existance - Outtakes that would have been highlights on proper albums like Bunco men, Shrine et al notwithstanding, it's orphans like this and Raphael that make these sets really special for me
Raphael - an earworm of the most infectious kind; I agree it would have made a marvelous snippet
Oh, Blinky - Let's Go Vike & this would make for great bookends
Wondering Boy Poet - I wouldn't mind a whole album of Bob & piano. This is just lovely.