Friday, July 15, 2005

Guided by Voices


Human Amusements at Hourly Rates Posted by Picasa
I started listening to Guided by Voices only three or four years back and I sincerely regret not following their music earlier. Take a gifted schoolteacher, Robert Pollard, and give him 2 decades to amass a prolific song list of lo-fi rock (much of it unnoticed) and what do you get? Indie royalty.

If you’re new to Guided by Voices, I’d highly recommend their greatest hits album “Human Amusements at Hourly Rates.” The album itself is a bit sporadic with its song listing and a few of the tracks seem a bit . . . uncooked. Nontheless, it’s a great buy and a wonderful addition to any music library. Their music isn’t pretentious nor are they trying to fool you with fake emotion. The best part is that it's something you can have on in the background when friends come by.

Their sound isn’t too heavy; I suppose I would call it indie pop (though it’s not as happy sounding). Nevertheless, the music's energy is surprisingly uplifting. I haven’t been able to get “My Kind of Soldier” and “I am a Scientist” out of my head for weeks (which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that I have had the album on an endless loop at work and in the car for an extended period of time . . .).

I had the honor of seeing Guided by Voices perform live at Coney Island’s first Siren Music Festival a few years back. Actually, tomorrow (July 16) is scheduled to be this year’s Siren Music Festival. If you’re in the New York area, I’d recommend checking out the line-up. It’s a hot, sweaty, beer-and-pot smelling venue, and that's on top of the already pungent aroma of Coney Island. There are two stages set up and there’s music all night long. Plus, it’s free. I’m kind of sad I’m in California now since it will be the first year I’ve missed it. To look at tomorrow’s lineup, see http://www.villagevoice.com/siren.

The thing I remember most about Scott Pollard—apart from his fantastic voice—is how much he smoked and drank on stage. He probably played four songs that day, and polished off about half a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack. That image of seeing him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth as he was strumming his guitar encapsulates my view of this band's general universe. Their songs aren’t exactly polished, but you know they have more fun playing music for themselves than for the crowd.

It’s a shame you won’t see Guided by Voices around anymore since they disbanded in 2004. If you were lucky enough to catch one of their last performances on Conan O’Brian, you’d know how big of an occasion it was for everyone. Now I have my doubts about performers retiring and then “returning” immediately to sell more albums (Jay Z anyone?). But I think for this band, I’d make an exception.

2 comments:

mike said...

Actually, it's 'Robert' Pollard (not Scott).

Glad you like the band. They are(were) magnificent.

A.H. Rajani said...

Thanks, I updated the name.