Guided By Voices’ 24th studio album is refreshingly accessible, and as good an entry point as any for a newcomer.
It’s been over three decades of relentless work under the mainstream radar and hundreds upon hundreds of songs for Guided By Voices’ indefatigable leader Robert Pollard, but arguably he’s never busier than he is right now. Reforming the iconic indie group in late 2011 and offering up what often felt like an exhausting barrage of albums (three in 2012 alone, for instance!) in the ensuing years, another brief split happened in 2014 before Pollard used the Guided By Voices name all for himself with 2016’s Please Be Honest. Then, he reunited with former creative foil Doug Gillard last year, the guitarist who anchored GBV’s second, more radio-friendly incarnation from 1997 until the group’s first disbandment in 2004.
This renewed partnership forged the double-album, 32-track blowout August By Cake earlier in 2017, and now Guided By Voices are back for a second album in a year with 24th studio album How Do You Spell Heaven. Just like its predecessor, it contains some of the most direct, accessible and fundamentally earthbound song-sketches that Pollard has made for many a year, and actually provides a pretty decent entry point for a new listener to this most extraordinary of bands.
How Do You Spell Heaven indulges in all the qualities that Pollard has perfected over the years, opening with the shambling, lo-fi yet fundamentally anthemic and catchy guitar-pop of ‘The Birthday Democrats’. The five-strong group then takes the listener through indie guitar-shredding rave-ups (‘King 007’), charming unfinished acoustic sketches (‘They Fall Silent’), mellifluous melodies (‘How Do You Spell Heaven’), grungy instrumental (‘Pearly Gates Smoke Machine’) and atmospheric left-field moments (‘Steppenwolf Mausoleum’). All in an average day’s work for Guided By Voices, really.
READ MORE: Guided By Voices // ‘Alien Lanes’ at 20 years old
Unlike some very early or quite recent GBV albums, the unguarded and uninitiated listener isn’t alienated by some of Pollard’s more esoteric moments on How Do You Spell Heaven. Hardcore fans will be well used to this sort of thing by now, and it has nowhere near the consistency of mid-‘90s career peaks like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. But, combined with its immediate predecessor released earlier in 2017, this constitutes something of a resurgence for Pollard and GBV. Let’s hope it’s permanent and not an Indian summer. (7/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to How Do You Spell Heaven here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Doug Gillard, Ed Biggs, GBV, Guided By Voices, How Do You Spell Heaven, review, Robert Pollard
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