Friday, September 07, 2007

Guided By Voices: Hardcore UFOs: Human Amusements At Hourly Rates - The Best of Guided By Voices (2003)

A Guided By Voices greatest hits package? How can a band with as many rocking songs as GBV have a single disc greatest hits? I think this needs to be put into some context before continuing. First off, this album is virtually meaningless for someone already a big fan. Because of this, its inclusion in Hardcore UFOs is an odd choice. Who other than those already owning every GBV album would buy Hardcore UFOs in the first place? Therefore, I must review this disc in its non-Hardcore UFOs stand-alone version aimed at the person who has not yet discovered Robert Pollard and GBV. This was the very first GBV album I ever purchased, and in the context of a primer for newcomers, this greatest hits package is perfect...

I honestly cannot argue with the tracklisting on this package, as it truly highlights all era's of GBV. Also, it is all GBV with no solo Robert Pollard, nor any GBV-related side-projects. And let's face it, isn't GBV the gateway drug to all things Pollard?

When I started listening to Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, I instantly fell in love with all the newer tracks; stuff from Isolation Drills, Universal Truths & Cycles, & Earthquake Glue. However, after more listens it was the lo-fi tracks that started grabbing my attention (Non-Absorbing, I Am A scientist, and Shocker in Gloomtown are great examples).

Quickly there was not a song I didn't love on this disc. I saw the mega-rock potential with I Am a Tree & Cut-Out Witch, and lo-fi minute-long weirdfest in Hot Freaks. I heard the pop rock gems Surgical Focus and Glad Girls, and I even felt that Official Ironmen Rally Song, Twilight Campfighter, and The Best of Jill Hives formed some sort of beautiful ballad trilogy.

I then started to look up GBV in earnest and started planning my next purchases. It was time to see if the regular albums had more to offer than the greatest hits package. I was floored by the amount of material it turned out GBV had out there with all the albums, EPs, singles, and boxsets. And then I realized that Robert Pollard had tons of solo material as well as side projects out there as well!

Based on what I can find on the internet, I decided to pick up Bee Thousand (which appeared to be known as their greatest), and Vampire on Titus (which was often described as their harshest and lowest of lo-fi, and "only for the fans" type of material). I figured if I couldn't get into their (by popular vote) greatest album ever, then I could probably just stick with the greatest hits. By contrast, if I could dig their least accessible, then this would be a great band to invest in.

Long story short, I have most of the Robert Pollard/GBV catalog in CD form (I don't own a record player, but I do have Bee Thousand: Director's Cut and the Love is Stronger than Witchcraft vinyls), and I started this blog, and I can easily say without a doubt that Pollard/GBV make up my favorite music. I like a lot of other bands with almost as much enthusiasm (I won't name them here, but maybe I'll write about them sometime), but none have captured my attention like GBV.

Basically what I am trying to say is that my entire path into the world of Guided By Voices started because of the perfect selection of Human Amusements. Though looking back at the GBV catalog, I would predict a fan selected greatest hits would be a lot more late 80's/early-mid 90's focused, whereas this album captures plenty of the newer stuff. Not including solo Pollard, any side projects, nor any fan mixes, this is the very best official Guided By Voices album. it truly is a studio greatest hits, unlike the new Fading Captain greatest hits compilation Crickets, which has more of a fan-based song selection feel.

And since I was so good at not making any suggestions as to what should have been included and what shouldn't (which I'm sure every GBV fan feels compelled to do with this album), I feel I deserve to make my one small suggestion; Where the hell is Weed King?

Tracklisting (Hardcore UFOs order - NOTE: Order of tracklist on Hardcore UFO's is chronological. The non-Hardcore UFOs version is a random order):
01 Captain's Dead
02 Drinker's Peace
03 Exit Flagger
04 14 Cheerleader Coldfront
05 Shocker in Gloomtown
06 Non-Absorbing
07 Tractor Rape Chain
08 Hot Freaks
09 Echos Myron
10 I Am a Scientist
11 A Salty Salute
12 Watch Me Jumpstart
13 Game of Pricks
14 Motor Away
15 Hit
16 My Valuable Hunting Knife
17 Cut-Out Witch
18 The Official Ironmen Rally Song
19 To Remake the Young Flyer
20 I Am a Tree
21 Bulldog Skin
22 Learning to Hunt
23 Teenage FBI
24 Things I Will Keep
25 Surgical Focus
26 Chasing Heather Crazy
27 Twilight Campfighter
28 Glad Girls
29 Back to the Lake
30 Everywhere With Helicopter
31 My Kind of Soldier
32 The Best of Jill Hives


More Hot Dogs Please! said...

I definitely agree with your point about "Hit." I was already familiar with Alien Lanes by the time I got Human Amusements, but it would seem like an odd choice if you didn't know it went with "My Valuable Hunting Knife." It would have been less confusing if they put the songs together on that album, similar to the way they released a video for "Auditorium/Motor Away."

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chris said...

Just wanted to thank you for continuing this blog. Lots to catch up on!
And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one to get into the band through this compilation. It's amazing - now that I own so much GBV stuff, it's easy to see the omissions (Weedking, Don't Stop Now, etc) but Bob really seems to have worked some magic with this tracklisting. It's such a perfect intro to the band and their style - I wouldn't change a thing. I've given this CD to friends and they immediately want more, as soon as possible.

Zerr Cute! said...

This was actually my intro to GBV as well. I'd heard bits and bobs of the then recent stuff and tried (but missed) seeing them at one of their final shows in LA before their 2004 breakup. I couldn't have anticipated the million subsequent reunions but I'm glad it worked out that way because it sort of energized me into rapidly absorbing everything I could to make up for lost time. I spent a terrible summer in Bakersfield, CA in 2004 and this was the only album of theirs I could find at the big record store in town. Turns out it was a wonderful intro and like you, I was willing to put up with the minute-long freak fests if it meant approximating the great stuff I found here. Thanks so much for sharing and keeping this going!