Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guided By Voices: Earthquake Glue (2003)

Earthquake Glue is likely the new-era GBV disc that I listen to the least. After the rock-fest that was Universal Truths & Cycles, Earthquake Glue has a slightly more pop-mellow vibe, and reminds me of Kid Marine in its okay-ness. That is, there is not a bad track on the album, nor does it really ever shine through as spectacular. It has its fair share of hits (My Kind of Soldier, The Best of Jill Hives, and Useless Inventions are up there with GBV's best), but the album overall may take more listens than usual before other tracks begin standing out. That being said, the whole album is pretty much making the playlist...

My Kind Of Soldier kicks things off in a good way. I love the intro to this one, and the chorus ("My kind of soldier/You can ride on my shoulders when you've won") is extremely catchy. A definite hit on first listen, it is surprising this wasn't playing on modern rock radio all over the place.

The military-theme continues with My Son, My Secretary and My Country, which finishes with a genius charge of "rahhhhhh!" (which the liner notes attribute to the Model Prisoners of the 5 Sense Realm), blending nicely into my personal favorite of the album, I'll Replace You With Machines. There is a watery sound effect which continues throughout I'll Replace You With Machines. At first, this effect is extremely cool as part of the intro. However, I think it overstays its welcome, and it would have been nice if it faded out shortly after the song's beginning. Otherwise, this track kicks ass ("Ain't it funny how it gets there/And they say it never does/I'll replace you with machines/I can't face you").

She Goes Off At Night is the first of those slightly-better-than-okay tracks which will make the playlist due to having at least one part being pretty cool (in this case, the verses). It's a painless pop tune which Pollard can write in his sleep. Beat Your Wings is even closer to the cut-off which goes over the top with its stellar finish, guitar solo included.

Useless Inventions is among the realm of great GBV tunes. From its opening pulsing riff to Pollard's melody-oozing verses, this one is topped off with a killer chorus as well. The lyrical work is among Pollard's best ("Come on and purchase the new one/Be the first to strap it on/Lose antiquated fixations that you cannot be without/For a nice try change this model out").

Dirty Water has its moments, and its role of being the darker track on a mostly joyful album is a highlight. It is immediately followed by one of Pollard's most beautiful songs, The Best Of Jill Hives. This goose bump inducing pop-ballad is a candidate for the best song to introduce your friend to GBV with.

There is something going on with Pollard's vocals on Dead Cloud. This track is another on-the-fence decision for making the playlist. It is fairly repetitive, but the dueling vocal "She said to send the sunlight to me" part is quite nice. Mix Up The Satellite has a great title, and sounds like something from a dreamy early-70's prog-rock tune. The Main Street Wizards also follows the mood of Mix Up The Satellite, though once again Pollard's vocals sound a little different (higher?).

Wow is A Trophy Mule In Particular a cool track. The "...and earthquake glue" part is genius, and its continued build up to the line "for I am a soldier" nicely wraps up the album theme. This would have been a wonderful final track (come to think of it, a perfect opener as well). Apology In Advance has some great parts, including the line "been around the block, i even threw up one street over" and an interlude with some sweet lead guitar work. Finally, Secret Star is the epic of the album with three fairly distinctive parts, and Of Mites And Men (which starts off sounding like Club Molluska) is the closer, and probably the heaviest song on the album.

Don't let the fact that almost the entire album made the playlist fool you, Earthquake Glue is good, but is not among the best GBV albums. If I rated songs on a ten point scale with six being the minimum to make the playlist, there would be a bunch of sixes on here. But let's face it, when it comes to GBV-proper albums, there are rarely any songs that are duds since Propeller and onward. Is Earthquake Glue essential...of course it is, but so is every GBV full album.

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

01 My Kind Of Soldier
02 My Son, My Secretary And My Country
03 I'll Replace You With Machines
04 She Goes Off At Night
05 Beat Your Wings
06 Useless Inventions
07 Dirty Water
08 The Best Of Jill Hives
09 Dead Cloud
10 Mix Up The Satellite
11 The Main Street Wizards
12 A Trophy Mule In Particular
13 Apology In Advance
14 Secret Star
15 Of Mites And Men


Evan said...

"It is immediately followed by one of Pollard's most beautiful songs, The Best Of Jill Hives. This goose bump inducing pop-ballad is a candidate for the best song to introduce your friend to GBV with."

Absolutely. My brother listened to that song, no exaggeration, twenty times in a row when he first heard it.

I love the blog, by the way. Been reading it since July '06 or something like that. Keep up the great (and fascinating) work!

The Rock Robot said...

Thanks Evan for the kind words.

Vince said...

I used to feel the same way about the "watery" sound effect on "IRYWM" (it sounds like someone tapping on a spring reverb), feeling that the noise should be harder and more identifiably mechanical. Later I have come to realize that it is in all likelihood a f**ked-with spring reverb, that it sounds pretty cool as is. It is even cooler if you think about the place in the pantheon of GBV sound effects that the Patented Jimmy Pollard Amp Drop holds, and upon that reflection the ONLY sound effect that could possibly be used, and used so throughout the song. Currently, "IRYWM" is the ONLY EG song on my various computers / mp3 players.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%! A fine album with a few masterpieces and "a bunch of sixes!"

My list:

My Kind Of Soldier
My Son, My Secretary, My Country
I'll Replace You With Machines
The Best Of Jill Hives
Useless Inventions
A Trophy Mule In Particular
Secret Star

Wow, what an EP that would make! I prefer the Edison's Demos versions of most of the others.