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Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory (Guided by Voices, Inc./Fire)

21 January 2012

I think it’s safe to say that Let’s Go Eat the Factory, the brand new Guided by Voices album, was highly anticipated by longtime fans and perhaps even newcomers they’ve added to the fold since the 2010 reunion of the “classic lineup” that made the records that range from 1992’s Propeller to 1996’s lo-fi swan-song Under the Bushes, Under the Stars. It’s also the first album released under the Guided by Voices name since the 2004 swan song Half Smiles of the Decomposed. Though others may disagree, I think that this album is a mix of good and not so good. Let’s start with the good. The album starts off strongly with “Laundry and Lasers” followed by “The Head”, both of which establish the mood early. This is a sprawling, lo-fi album that at least in sound and fidelity will resemble the mid ’90s incarnation of the band. The album’s poppier tracks like “Doughnut for a Snowman” and “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” (which was recently performed by the band on The Late Show with David Letterman; watch it here) are two of Robert Pollard‘s best compositions ever. So far, things are good.

However, things hit a snag at the Tobin Sprout track “Spiderfighter”. Though a few of the other songs he wrote for this album are good musically, he puts so many effects on his vocals that the listener is hard pressed to hear them, which is a disappointment given that he has such a nice voice. Regardless, this is still predominantly Pollard’s show and on most of this record, the songwriting is noticeably thin. Given how many solo albums he’s released, this is somewhat understandable. Perhaps he’s saving some of his best material for them? The other exceptions are “How I Met My Mother,” “Chocolate Boy” and the closer “We Won’t Apologize for the Human Race”. These are all fine songs, though again not quite up to par with “Doughnut for a Snowman” or “The Unsinkable Fats Domino”. On the other hand, a few of the songs here (including Sprout’s “Old Bones”) are borderline unlistenable or skippable at best.