Sunday, June 10, 2007

Guided By Voices: Hardcore UFOs : Demons & Painkillers (2003)

I thought I'd start my 2003-era GBV coverage with the Hardcore UFOs boxset. More specifically, with Demons & Painkillers; a collection of Matador out-of-print singles, B-sides, and tunes from compilations. Albums like this are so important to fans like me who get into a band late in the game (or who do not have a record player), and missed out on grabbing some of these singles when they originally came out. This may be the best reason to pick up Hardcore UFOs, since Demons & Painkillers is a fairly decent album all on its own...

I have already covered some of these tracks in other entries, so I'll simply quote those reviews and interlace them with the new ones.

Motor Away 7" (1995)
From my entry here: "What made the Motor Away 7" single special was (like the My Valuable Hunting Knife single) the alternate take on the title track. The original from Alien Lanes is an anthem for the lo-fi movement. The version on this single sounds slightly more polished, and yet emptier. I choose the Alien Lanes version over the slick 7" every time, but there really is not much of a difference. I'm guessing finding this single is close to impossible now, but you can find its contents on the Demons & Painkillers disc in Hardcore UFOs...

The b-side Color Of My Blade is a special treat as well, and I would have loved to hear this song on Alien Lanes. It is a heavier, consistent rock track which keeps a nice pace and often sounds like it is straight out of the late 60's."

I actually left off the 7" version of Motor Away off the playlist, which I have since changed my mind about.

Tigerbomb 7" EP (1995)
From my entry here: "
Tigerbomb is likely best known for its inclusion of two 7" alternate takes on GBV hits from the Alien Lanes era; My Valuable Hunting Knife and Game Of Pricks. Whereas this version of My Valuable Hunting Knife fails to capture the magic of what made the original from Alien Lanes so excellent, the slick production and added intro make Tigerbomb's Game Of Pricks the ultimate version...

The 7" version of My Valuable Hunting Knife adds effects on Pollard's vocals with more of a dance beat, and has a nice loud finish which is slightly similar to the original. Since the original is one of my favorite GBV songs of all time, this version is different enough to also be included in my playlist. As stated earlier, the new intro on Game Of Pricks is absolutely beautiful, and really gets me pumped for the song. I could see it as a great intro at a concert.

As for the rest of the EP, it consists of what I would mostly consider throwaways, except for Tobin Sprout's Dodging Invisible Rays.
Mice Feel Nice (In My Room) had potential, maybe if there some chords being played over the main riff? Overall it comes off as a duller track which at over two minutes overstays its welcome. Not Good For The Mechanism has some of the grungiest and heaviest guitar in the GBV catalog, but is missing that trademark Pollard melody. Kiss Only The Important Ones is okay, but still does not stand out enough to make the playlist. It is a short little acoustic ditty with some feedback effects.

Dodging Invisible Rays does not explore any new territory for Sprout, but delivers that satisfactory pop injection we have come to expect from him. It also stands out quality-wise from this group, since the previous three tracks are recorded with poor quality (of course, sound quality is not a category in which one should be judging GBV).

Tigerbomb is mostly a gift to fans, with its alternate takes of GBV classics, a few tracks not good enough to make a proper album, and a hidden gem of a Tobin song. Just remember that you can get these songs on Demons and Painkillers from the Hardcore UFOs box set."

Holy crap, how did I leave Kiss Only The Important Ones of the playlist?! This song is beautiful, and it definately makes the list.

The Official Ironmen Rally Song 7" (1996)
From my review here: "
Deaf Ears has Pollard singing through what sounds at first like a megaphone from far away, over a repeated riff. The song suddenly switches gears and has Pollard singing "My final words have fallen upon deaf ears/My last few words have fallen upon deaf ears" over and over until the fade out finish. I really like the finish to this track, as it saves an otherwise so-so cut. There is also a Same Place The Fly Got Smashed outtake version on the first Suitcase box set, though it has nothing on the newer version.

Why Did You Land? starts out sounding like Sloan's Lemonzinger (and if you are not Canadian, you likely have no idea what I'm talking about). The chorus is great, and the track provides that nice shot of rock n' roll which GBV is known for. There is a slow version on Suitcase which removes everything that is great about this heavier version. June Salutes You! is another rocking track on what is truly a great single.

Guided By Voices treat their fans well. Instead of putting pure b-sides on their singles and EP's, they include tracks which for the most part are just as good as those on the full album of the same era. Like the single I Am A Scientist, The Official Ironmen Rally Song single is a couple of minutes of pop genius."

Under The Bushes Under The Stars Bonus Tracks (Europe 1996 & Japan 1997)
From my entry here: "
If you were lucky enough to find either a European or Japanese version of Under The Bushes Under The Stars, you would have been treated to a few bonus tracks. In fact the European release also contained the Tigerbomb EP and the split with Superchunk (another great band). I thought I'd go through some of these tracks since it appears that I'll get through Demons & Painkillers one release at a time...

Delayed Reaction Brats is swimming in fuzz and noise, but there is a fine song hiding underneath. I must say that is balancing on the fence when it comes to adding it to my playlist, and at just over a minute, I'll add it to the playlist for now. He's The Uncle is another short track which is oozing melody, mixed with some sound effects. It is surprising this didn't find its way to a proper album, as it would have sounded nice on Under The Bushes Under The Stars. The Key Losers is practically the same version as on Tonics & Twisted Chasers except with better sound quality.

As for the Japanese version of Under The Bushes Under The Stars, the version of The Finest Joke Upon Us is the same as on Mag Earwhig! Finks was apparently set to be on Pollard's solo album Not In My Airforce. It would make for a great car tune, and reminds me of a stroll through the park. It is a happy sounding little tune with a great riff."

Various Compilations (1996 - 1999)
The version of Postal Blowfish that made the soundtrack to the movie Brain Candy (made by Canadian sketch comedy group The Kids in the Hall) is a tuned up, slicker version then what was originally planned for Bee Thousand (and what eventually ended up on King Shit and the Golden Boys). There is a version of My Thoughts Are A Gas on Tonics And Twisted Chasers which I called a downright throwaway. The version here (and from the compilation album What's Up Matador) shares little resemblance. In fact, this a fairly rocking tune. Lastly, from the compilation Everything Is Nice comes Choking Tara (Creamy Version). The version that made Mag Earwhig! stands out on being one of the worst quality (production, that is) tracks on the album. The version here is cleaned up quite a bit, and sounds wonderful.

Cut Out Witch 7" (1996)
The Cut Out Witch single included two live tracks of Propeller tunes, Some Drilling Implied, and Unleased! The Large-Hearted Boy. Basically, I am trying to refrain from putting live tracks on the playlist. However, I should note that these two live tracks rock hard, especially Unleased! which rivals the album version.

Plantations Of Pale Pink 7" EP (1996)
From my entry here: "
Systems Crash is a short fuzz-rock anthem, which I admit I did not quite like when first hearing it. However, the track has grown on me considerably. I now see it as a companion to My Valuable Hunting Knife, as both are similar musically. Catfood On The Earwig is a longer (over two minutes anyway) track which sounds like a few different songs tied together. Parts of the track are decent, but the disjointed feel to it put me off slightly.

The Who Vs. Porky Pig suffers a tad due to recording quality, but the straight out rock comes through loud and clear anyway. I'm sure there are fans of A Life In Finer Clothing, especially with the nice lead guitar at the end of the track. However, the song doesn't stand out for me at all and is the least interesting song on Plantations Of The Pale Pink.

The Worryin' Song is a minute of beautiful melody layered with sonic noise (like most of the more poorly recorded songs), and has also grown on me lately. The final track, Subtle Gear Shifting, contains the album title lyric and is epic at almost four minutes long. There is not very much variation in the four minutes, as the track follows a pulsing guitar rhythm throughout.

Plantations Of Pale Pink does not contain anything that could be considered a Guided By Voices hit in any way, yet it still manages to be a satisfying treat. Is it a reason in itself to buy the Hardcore UFOs boxset? Likely not, but it still manages to be a huge check in the plus column when weighing the decision to spend the 70 bucks."

Bulldog Skin 7" (1997)
I did not actually review the Mag Earwhig! singles separately as I did for Under The Bushes Under The Stars. Luckily, this entry for Demons & Painkillers provides a forum for doing so. Bulldog Skin is a single which I called underwhelming in my entry for Mag Earwhig!, but I know just as much as the next guy that it rocks.

As for The Singing Razorblade, I have trouble deciding if I like it or not. It has quite the catchy beat, and a remixed Pollard chant which is actually quite cool. The acoustic Now To War from Mag Earwhig! is given the heavy treatment on this version, and
Mannequin's Complaint (Wax Dummy Meltdown) is a bizarre, rolling, rock opera tune that would likely fit nicely on a Circus Devil's album (or maybe it is just to jolly).

I Am A Tree 7" (1997)
I Am A Tree is one hell of a song. It is definitely among the rockiest, and best of GBV's entire catalog, and should have propelled them into rock n' roll stardom. How do the b-sides fair?

Do They Teach You The Chase? is a short, moody track. (I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries follows suit for the first minute, and sound quite similar to the prior track. However, at about the minute and a half mark, GBV kicks into gear and turns the track into something worthy of an I Am A Tree b-side. Lastly, The Ascended Master's Grogshop is a half-minute ballad.

Mag Earwhig! Japanese Bonus Tracks (1998)
Running Off With The Fun City Girls surely sounds like it comes from the Mag Earwhig! sessions, and has a nice punky-edge to it. None Of Them Any Good is another rocker that is decent enough to be included on Mag Earwhig!

As you can see from all the bolded tracks on this disc, as an album, Demons & Painkillers is pretty decent. Part of this is because Pollard chose to put softer versions of some tracks on the albums, and left the heavier versions for the b-sides. Another reason of course, is the re-recording of the Alien Lanes singles. And the last reason, GBV just has so many damn good songs, a bunch of them are bound to pushed to b-side status.

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

01 Motor Away [7" Version]
02 Color Of My Blade
03 My Valuable Hunting Knife [7" Version]
04 Game Of Pricks [7" Version]
05 Mice Feel Nice (In My Room)
06 Not Good For The Mechanism
07 Kiss Only The Important Ones
08 Dodging Invisible Rays
09 Deaf Ears
10 Why Did You Land?
11 June Salutes You!
12 Delayed Reaction Brats
13 He's The Uncle
14 Key Losers
15 Postal Blowfish
16 Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy [Live]
17 Some Drilling Implied [Live]
18 Systems Crash
19 Catfood On The Earwhig
20 The Who Vs. Porky Pig
21 A Life In Finer Clothing
22 The Worryin' Song
23 Subtle Gear Shifting
24 Finks
25 The Finest Joke Is Upon Us
26 The Singing Razorblade
27 Now To War (Electric Version)
28 Mannequin's Complaint (Wax Dummy Meltdown)
29 Do They Teach You The Chase?
30 (I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries
31 The Ascended Master's Grogshop
32 My Thoughts Are A Gas
33 Running Off With The Fun City Girls
34 None Of Them Any Good
35 Choking Tara (Creamy Version)


thomas said...

what a fantastic disc! love it pretty much from start to's almost like an alternative greatest hits for a parallel universe..

The Doorman said...

This is what makes GbV so insanely fantastic. All those amazing tunes that initially surfaced as Japan-only bonus tracks ("Finks" !! One of my favourite all-time tracks) or b-sides ("(I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries" !! another one). It still amazes me 'the general public' listens to all that mainstream crap while never having heard of GbV..

Ben said...

This is one of the few releases where I completely agree with your take on the songs. That is, except for Mannequin's Complaint (Wax Dummy Meltdown). The version here is fantastic, any strangeness aside. Plus, it even incorporates the group vocals from the sparse version off of Suitcase 2 (which is a decent version as well) at the end of the song.

This should really make the list. $0.02.

Ben said...

Also, I've recently discovered the awesome pairing of Bender's Bluffing Muscles and Delayed Reaction Brats [Longer Version] on the Carry-On: Left Overs & Side Dishes rarity which I finally found online somewhere.

These two show up in this order on the aborted The Flying Party Is Here album as well as an early draft of UtB, UtS, and I can't help but wonder why they got split up and lost to time.

These sound as if they were recorded together, and these two versions should always be heard together. The combination makes both songs way better.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!

On my list:

Color Of My Blade
My Valuable Hunting Knife [7" Version]
Game Of Pricks [7" Version]
Mice Feel Nice (In My Room)
Dodging Invisible Rays
June Salutes You!
Why Did You Land?
He's The Uncle
Key Losers
Delayed Reaction Brats
A Life In Finer Clothing
The Who Vs. Porky Pig
Mannequin's Complaint (Wax Dummy Meltdown)
(I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries
Running Off With The Fun City Girls
Some Drilling Implied [Live]
Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy [Live]