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Guided by Voices: August by Cake

Robert Pollard, the primary creative force behind Guided By Voices (GbV), has hit 100 albums with the release of August By Cake, his first double album. Additionally, he has around 2,000 songs copyrighted under his name. Granted, not all of these albums and songs are under the GbV moniker, but the band has been nonetheless prolific under Pollard’s leadership.

GbV has essentially been a band for 35 years, and part of their charm that fans have come to expect is that the band stumbles and rambles through lo-fi garage rock songs that often pack the entirety of a catchy rock song within the span of 1-2 minutes. Just as a song gets through it’s first or second chorus, it’s over. If anything, this aspect of GbV adds immensely to the replay value of their music, and this is also true of August by Cake. For a double album with 32 songs, there is no hesitation in pressing play again when the 32nd track is over.

Pollard’s surreal lyrics and vocal melodies have also always been central to the GbV sound, and even after years of heavy drinking and playing in smoke-filled bars, his voice and those remarkably inspired melodies still hold up on August by Cake. Once again, Pollard’s penchant for writing catchy melodies (and songs) make for decisive repeated listens.

Although Pollard has always been the principle songwriter of GbV, Pollard has always operated best with musical foils that take some of the writing credits. On August by Cake, Pollard specifically asked each band member to contribute two songs each. And, in fact, the other members wrote some of the best songs on August by Cake. The other members of the band wrote tracks like “Deflect Project”, “Sudden Fiction”, and “Overloaded”.

August by Cake is one of, if not the best, GbV release of their most recent era. Who knows when Pollard and co. will ever slow down, but for now, they can bask in the fact that they’ve fulfilled an obligatory rock’n’roll rite of passage: the double album.

Recommended If You Like: Robert Pollard, Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils, Tobin Sprout, Airport 5, The Olivia Tremor Control, Royal Trux, Sebadoh
Recommended Tracks: 3 (When We All Hold Hands at the End of the World), 1 (5 Degrees on the Inside), 21 (Dr. Feelgood of the Ocean), 23 (Deflect Project), 10 (Overloaded), 4 (Goodbye Note), 18 (Cheap Buttons), 7 (Absent the Man), 15 (Sudden Fiction), 17 (It’s Food), 11 (Keep Me Down), 13 (Warm up to Religion)
Do Not Play: 24 (Upon the Circus Bus); avoid 20 (Chew the Sand), 6 (Fever Pitch), 9 (What Begins on New Years Day), 20 (Chew the Sand)
Written by Josh Gaston on 04/04/2017