Guided by Voices
Please Be Honest
Release Date: April 22, 2016
Guided by Voices is one of the most prolific alt rock bands probably ever. Their DIY aesthetic (with the music often being recorded in actual basements and closets) is a fascinating juxtaposition to their jangly melodies and Syd Barrett inspired tunes. After a successful reunion album and tour a few years back, mainman Robert Pollard returns with a collection of songs recorded entirely by himself. Feeling that they sounded like GBV songs, he chose to release them under the band’s moniker instead of as a solo album.
As with most GBV albums, this one is comprised of both experimental lo-fi tunes and jangly indie pop ones. “The Grasshopper Eaters” is probably my favorite of the former with its loose stringed acoustic guitar rhythm backed by seemingly random metal clanging in the background and some kind of sound that makes it feel like your speakers are being overloaded. The short moments of acoustic guitar and vocal clarity bring it all together brilliantly. “The Quickers Arrive” is another of my favorite of the more experimental moments. It’s distorted guitar sound and overall darker approach is perfectly capped by the memorable lead guitar work and the haunting vocal. The cold drum machine sound of “Unfinished Business” is fascinating as well but, clocking in at a scant 1:30, it’s practically over before you can really latch on to it.
On the janglier side of things, “Glittering Parliaments” is 2:27 of pure indie rock brilliance. It’s moderate pace and feedback laden delivery makes it a tried and true garage rocker in an age when very few people can deliver that. “Kid on a Ladder” has a brighter sound and provides ample evidence that pop songs can be both catchy and artistic without compromising either. “Unfinished Business” is another standout for me. The beautiful sound of the acoustic piano and guitar on “Defeatist’s Lament” is another of my personal favorite moments. It captures the mood of the title wholeheartedly and reflects what the step just beyond frustration that every struggling person has felt at some point.
Having not heard GBV much over the last decade, Please Be Honest reminded me of how much I love these guys. They are one of a small crop of truly innovative and unique bands in our manufactured music world. I have always felt that GBV were very akin to early Genesis and Syd Barrett, but they don’t always wear that comparison as boldly as they do on Please Be Honest. Even now Pollard sounds like a young Peter Gabriel and phrases like Barrett. If you love exploratory and often frustratingly short songs then you should check out GBV’s Please Be Honest because “honest” is certainly what it is.
Reviewed by mark1340