Monday, January 08, 2007

Guided By Voices: The Pipe Dreams Of Instant Prince Whippet (2002)

Two months later and I'm back with a new entry into what has now been a year-long project; creating the ultimate Robert Pollard/GBV guide. My absence has been quite necessary as I have been a) doing the whole Christmas /New Year thing, and b) I moved into a new house. With the new house I have picked up a killer sound system to enjoy my GBV-related tunes on, so I'm pretty excited about that. So the first post of the new year, in the new house, and on the new sound system is Universal Truth's and Cycle's companion EP, The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet. Whereas the Hold On Hope EP was generally better than its companion album (Do The Collapse), Prince Whippet is definitely more of an extension of Universal Truths and Cycles...

Visit This Place starts thing off right with steady guitar riffs and classic Pollard vocals ("Crawl from the holes that hold your eyes/Feel the importance of crying"). Swooping Energies reminds me a bit of Whiskey Ships from Waved Out, with its bar lounge atmosphere (crowd chanting and reverbed vocals). Two songs in, and Prince Whippet is already catchy and addictive.

Things slow down for Keep It Coming, a track that would have sounded right at home on Suitcase (in a good way), or some tracks from Mag Earwhig!; a throwback to the lower quality sound of old. The verses in this track are gorgeous, and I started to pick up some of the more complex guitar parts after hearing the track on a good stereo.

I'm a bit split on Action Speaks Volumes. Mainly, its repetitiveness keeps it from being a no-brainer for the list. However, for now, I'm going to add it to the playlist. The pumping, driving guitar beat is cool in itself and almost epic in its doomsday sound. Stronger Lizards (aside from a great title) starts off with great promise, and builds to one of the most wonderful pop gems, and then stops suddenly at the 55 second mark. What the? This could have been one of the greatest GBV songs ever! The hint those 55 seconds leave me wishing to hear more! Oh well, isn't it kind of a GBV staple to have a few songs that end just as they are really getting going?

Similar to Stronger Lizards, I was hoping the title track of The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet would last a little longer than a minute and a half. A little silly, this song is extremely catchy, and Pollard's ah-ah-ahh-ahhhh-ahh-ah finishing off the track is superb.

Similar to Action Speaks Volumes, Request Pharmaceuticals is a darker, fuzz-filled cut. For some reason, the vocals at the beginning somewhat remind me of that Underworld song on Trainspotting (or was that Orbital? Who cares, my electronica phase was over ten years ago). The guitar on this track kicks ass, and its brooding sound fit into this short album perfectly.

Is any song on Prince Whippet not going to make my ultimate playlist? Likely not, as For Liberty makes the playlist just for that little guitar ditty that gets played twice during its 53 seconds. Now on to Dig Through My Window. How is this song not on Universal Truths and Cycles? It is the definite hit on this EP, the hidden gem, the Bunco Men if you will. It is a beautiful ballad that provides a bit of a preview of where GBV is heading towards in Half Smiles of the Decomposed.

The EP is finished with the perfect closer Beg For A Wheelbarrow. A punk-ish marching tune ("But by and large/blood of the vine/fruit of the womb/sweat of the brow..."). This is another track that would have sounded great on Universal Truths and Cycles.

100% of Prince Whippet makes my playlist (though there were a couple of close ones). This EP is more of a mini-album. It is extremely cohesive and every song sounds related to the rest of the disc. If all of these tracks made Universal Truths and Cycles, then that album would have made a killer double-album. However, they have their own character, and that is what makes Prince Whippet such a treat. It may be an EP, but it plays like an album.

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

01 Visit This Place
02 Swooping Energies
03 Keep It Coming
04 Action Speaks Volumes
05 Stronger Lizards
06 The Pip Dreams Of Instant Prince Whippet
07 Request Pharmaceuticals
08 For Liberty
09 Dig Through My Window
10 Beg For A Wheelbarrow


jazman said...

Hey Rock Robot...congrats on yer new digs, new sounds, and the New Year!

I got an uncontrollable urge a while back to run into a local chain media store and see what GbV I could find in the racks. Of course, they had next to nothing - they had "Half Smiles" (the then-current release), and this little gem, which I snatched up and ran back to my car to play. Whoowee! Whatta rush!

Fave tracks? Well, I LUV "Beg for a Wheelbarrow". Talk about depressive!

"But by and large, Blood of the vine,
fruit of the womb, sweat of the brow
and nothing to show but destitution
For the rest of your days
you must dig a deeper hole
And then you'll feel better"

Yup, I just love when Bob gets into his "dig a hole" imagery.

Another standout track for me is the title track. Am I nuts, or does the opening rhythm riff sound like "Diamond Head" era Phil Manzanera? And I also love "Stronger Lizards" - the best damn 55 second song in the universe. And to top it off, my wife loves "Dig Through My Window", so we have a GbV song we can share - now how good is that!

thomas said...

It might not be quite as brilliant as the "Hold on hope EP" but this is a solid mini album, I love the title track, and "Dig Through My Window" of course. . .and the cover art is great too, especially the band photo on the back if i remeber correctly...

I think there were four seven-inch singles for UTAC released simultaneously in a limited edition that first showcased some of these tracks on the b-sides, they were gorgeous little items, still have them somewhere...

keep it going!

Tam said...

this is a great project - keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I've always thought Pipe Dreams was a better record than UT&C.

The Rock Robot said...

Thanks for the comments everyone (jazman - your insights are always welcome!).

I could never say Pipe Dreams is better than UT&C (maybe mostly for size alone), but I do think that if these tracks were added to UT&C, then this could have been one hell of a double album.

To me, the tracks of Pipe Dreams do fit the mold of UT&C, and works as a great companion to the album.

ben said...

I agree with Jazman.
Great release and 'Beg for a Wheelbarrow' is a true gem.
Seeing them perform it at the final show was utterly mind blowing....sooooo rock!

Top stuff.


"06 The Pip Dreams Of Instant Prince Whippet" LOL PIP

Anonymous said...

A fine record in its own right, and as a companion piece to Universal...

If Liam Gallagher needs a hit, point him towards Dig Through My Window.

My list:

Visit This Place
Request Pharmaceuticals
Dig Through My Window
Stronger Lizards
The Pipe Dreams Of Instant Prince Whippet
Beg For A Wheelbarrow