Review – Guided by Voices at Neumos, Seattle, April 18 2017
– by Gold Star for Robot Boy
The big news: Guided by Voices will release a new album in three months’ time. It’s called How Do You Spell Heaven, and contains 17 songs, all Robert Pollard compositions. The record follows what is being called Pollard’s one-hundredth studio album, the Guided by Voices record August by Cake.
The news about the album title came from Pollard, onstage at Neumos, as the quintet delivered a powerhouse two-and-a-half hour set between weekends at Coachella. Pollard remarked that the festival’s organizers had wanted them to “stay in the area,” or words to that effect; but Pollard insisted they get to play some shows, including Seattle. The band had also played Portland the night before, at the Doug Fir Lounge, and has a few other shows coming up.
The set leaned heavily towards material from August by Cake, including tracks like “Hiking Skin” (which opened the show), “It’s Food”, “5 Degrees on the Inside”, “Generox Gray”, “Goodbye Note” (sung by guitarist Doug Gillard), “Packing the Dead Zone”, “Keep Me Down”, “West Coast Company Man”, “Packing the Dead Zone”, “Warm Up to Religion”, “Sudden Fiction” (sung by bassist Mark Shue), “Cheap Buttons” (which Pollard introduced as “10 Million Ringo Fans Can’t Be Wrong,” then joked that that included Ringo fans “living and dead.” Introducing another new track, “Substitute 11”, Pollard mentioned the “14 years in the Dayton public school system” he’s worked as a teacher, and how the song is based on a recurring nightmare in which he passes out, drunk, in a class room and wakes up to find the room empty.
“Dr. Feelgood Falls Off the Ocean”, “Try It Out (It’s Nothing)”, “The Possible Edge” and “Escape to Phoenix” from the new album were also played. Some rarely played older material included “Peephole” (from Bee Thousand), “Lord of Overstock” and “Tropical Robots”.
Some other tracks from the 30-song-plus set: “Some Drilling Implied”, “Tabby and Lucy”, “My Zodiac Companion”, and “Love is Stronger Than Witchcraft”. Of course, a selection of fan favourites drove the crowd into frenzy: “Glad Girls”, “Tractor Rape Train”, “Cut Out Witch”, “Bulldog Skin” and “Teenage FBI”. The night ended with a rousing rendition of “Baba O’Reilly”. Pollard also shit-talked Pete Townshend and the Flaming Lips‘ Wayne Coyne, a long-running subject of the singer’s between-song banter.
That banter took a surprisingly political (for Pollard) turn when, in introducing a song, he said of the U.S.: “I’m not sure if it’s still free” (unfortunately, I don’t recall the exact context, but it may have been while introducing the song “When We All Hold Hands at the End of the World”). He also said something about North Korea and the U.S., and about how “Little fat babies could destroy the world.”
Besides Gillard, Shue and Pollard, the current lineup of the band includes Kevin March, who was simply amazing on drums for the entirety of the set, and Bobby Bare Jr. Bare seemed especially into the set, though everyone played their hearts out.
Following the show, we questioned Gillard about the new album, and he told us that he was excited about the new record, which he called “tighter” than August by Cake. He also informed us of the number of songs (17), plus he was nice enough to bum us a smoke.
All in all it was a great show and if you weren’t there well, too bad, suckers.
Watch some video we shot of the show here. Songs include all of “Make Use” plus most of “Motor Away”.