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Guided By Voices with The Laughing Chimes - The Athenaeum (Columbus OH) - April 5, 2024

14 April 2024

The boys are back! Last year Guided By Voices held a triumphant two-day celebration in their hometown (well, Robert Pollard’s hometown anyway) of Dayton Ohio to celebrate 40 years of high kicks and beer chugs. After four shows the following month, the band took the rest of the year off to do what they do best – create new music. This would be the first live show since Nowhere To Go But Up came out, GBV’s third record of 2023 and along the way Pollard found the time to squeeze in a lo-fi EP he recorded with some local friends under the rubric of Rip Van Winkle and well as rousing Circus Devils from their six year slumber. And of course the endless product stream shows no signs of abating, with rumored records Saturn Room and Strut Of Kings (apparently shedding the previous working title of Gimme Green Heaven) in the works or perhaps already completed.

As hinted to in “Weed King”, Pollard has had little difficulty keeping his violent pace. Which creates a bit of an issue in the live setting. Last year or so the band started having opening acts again rather than doing a marathon set by themselves, and instead of average over 50 songs played, they’ve trimmed it back to a still fairly stupendous 40 or so. With the relentless creative stream in full effect, new songs played mean old songs are jettisoned.

But in a bit of a power move, the show started with a banger from the past, “My Impression Now,” the crowd instantly energized. The new stuff had to wait for the next song, with “For The Home” the first of a half-dozen played throughout their set. The mid-tempo carried across pretty much all of them, aside from the Who-like breakdown towards the end of “Jack Of Legs”; ditching the plodding “Stabbing At Fractions” (and the written set list with “Stabbing” gave me a jump scare, hoping that “Stabbing A Star” would make a rare appearance, having been shelved since 1997) for the more up tempo “Cruel For Rats” would have been a plus.

After finishing what Pollard said was his favorite song in the set, he made a wry comment of “That’s a long ways away from “Hey Aardvark.” Not denigrating the band’s legacy at all, just a reminder that the GBV of today is pretty far removed from what was happening 30-odd years ago. Of course, the band isn’t forgetting its heritage and they can’t leave the stage without at least a dozen or so classics from the Scat and Matador Records years. Rightly so, songs like “I Am A Scientist,” “Shocker In Gloomtown,” “Game Of Pricks,” “Tractor Rape Chain” et al – they are rightly venerated by old and new fans alike and can easily belong in any conversation about best rock songs from any time period.

But Pollard is equally energized by the current material, created with a lineup that’s been together longer than the classic Sprout/Mitchell/Demos/Fennell from the ’90s. To underscore this, he cranked out not one but three high kicks during “Romeo Surgeon.” It was made clear at GBV 40 he’s all about looking forward rather than glancing backwards, with no special guests from the band’s history coming out for a single song over the two nights. Tonight, the one special guest came out as the song written about and for underage rockers was finishing, Pollard’s daughter Erika beaming with a mix of pride and joy and Bob’s grandson shyly smiling at the side of the stage.

Speaking of under age rockers, “The Laughing Chimes” look like the ink on their high school diplomas is still wet. The quartet hails from nearby Athens OH and just recently put out a single on Slumberland (There are five left so act fast!). The Seurkamp brothers who comprise the rhythm section take the jangle of early R.E.M. and fuse it with strains of early ’80s Rough Trade and 4AD. It’s a good hybrid and will be interesting to see where they take it.