The club is open

April 7, 2008

If you’ve been hanging around here long enough, the news that I love Guided By Voices will not knock you off your chair with surprise. They tickle my undercarriage like nobody’s business. (I put ‘Game of Pricks’ at the end of ‘The Dinner Party’ simply to get one of their songs onto mainstream telly) Now disbanded, there’s still no other group that fills me with such missionary zeal–they continue to do for me what the Pixies did before them, and Talking Heads did before that. Lead singer Robert Pollard’s output is staggering (he has written 1000+ songs) and Jesus, can he write a tune. Because his influences are not the standard ones, you hear melodies and structures in his records that you’ll hear nowhere else. Even when he’s bad, he’s good. And when he’s good, he’s amazing.

With that in mind, I’ve banged together a little GBV/Pollard primer, so you can dip your toe in before you become a lunatic, nerdy fan, as you undoubtedly will (be careful).

Link to mixtape

I should say that these choices are by no means constitute a ‘definitive’ list–I’ve chosen them because they’re all earworms, but it would be the easiest thing in the world to knock up another comp of identical quality. If you are interested in exploring further, start by picking up any of the following albums: Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Propeller, Under the Bushes, Under the Stars or Mag Earwhig.

(Thanks to Rich for letting me do this!)


  1. nothing as good as pollard but this fella is fascinating in the crazy rock musician way.


  2. GBV? Excellent! R. Stevie Moore? Excellent!!!



  3. Yes, I must thank you for introducing me to Game of Pricks. I love that tune now.

  4. ‘Big School’ is simply a brilliant piece of art.

  5. You are indeed a man of fine and discerning taste. GBV are one of my favourite bands and are responsible for one of the best gigs I ever attended, at The Garage in London, an evening enjoyed further as friends of mine, Magoo (who you should seek out if they’re not known to you), supported them.

    Personal favourites of mine include Motor Away, Tractor Rape Chain, Mice Feel Nice, Watch Me Jumpstart and The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory.

    I once sat through a set by Magoo next to a label boss interested in signing the band. Their set included a cover of Tractor Rape Chain, after they’d played it he leant over and told me that THAT was the hit. I couldn’t knock his ability to pick the best tune of the night but his lack of musical knowledge was a little disheartening !

    They continued with the GBV covers and included a cover of Chicken Blows on their Pop Songs album . . . have a listen here :

    [audio src="http://www.thesickroom.co.uk/magoo/media_pages/mp3/popsongs/MP3/MAGOO_chicken_blows.MP3" /]


    Daniel Weir

  6. No ‘Glad Girls’!?

    I was thrilled by ‘Game Of Pricks’ being on the IT Crowd, I’ll say!

  7. I got into GBV because of hearing “Game of Pricks” on The IT Crowd, thanks to your missionary-zeal.

  8. Graham–

    What’s wrong with Human Amusements at Hourly Rates? I’d never heard of GBV until I saw them in Chicago and went off to buy their greatest hits album and have been proselytising ever since.

    Mind you, they are without doubt also the ugliest band I ever saw. And that includes the Bay City Rollers.

  9. I second ‘Glad Girls’, the more “pop” GBV of the Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue albums is a great gateway drug for people not ready for the lo-fi crackle and hiss of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes.

    I agree with Graham though, I discovered the band through pretty much their worst album, Do The Collapse, and still thought they were great. Bob is a crazy legend!

  10. So difficult to choose GBV favorites, but I’d have to add Blimps Go 90 and Don’t Stop Now to your fine list.

  11. I’ll say this for GBV, I’ve never seen a band cram so many songs into a 90 minute set.I saw them at the Roadhouse in Manchester a few years back and was stood behind Badly Drawn Boy who spent the first halfhour shouting for Exit Flagger after every song .

  12. Minesweeper: The Movie

    “Why are you here, soldier?”
    “Because I’m bored!”
    “And don’t you ever forget that.”

  13. Ending with “Learning to Hunt” is cruel, Graham. I don’t think I can listen to that song without feeling like my heart is going to overflow.

  14. Great minds rock alike.

  15. Cheers for this Graham, I’ve heard a couple of GbV tracks before, but never got round to looking into them properly. This has served as a really good introduction! I’ll set about picking up one of those albums you mentioned.

    Cheers again!

  16. “Even when he’s bad, he’s good. And when he’s good, he’s amazing.”

    hear the solo stuff? :( plenty of good but there is some bad thats only bad.

    other songwriters with obsessive collectors on a semi or fully mainstream level:
    robyn hitchcock
    syd barrett(not as much anymore cos all the rarities have been released)
    nick drake(not as much anymore cos all the rarities have been released)
    the smiths
    suede(the amazing bernard butler version mainly)
    mansun(crazy obsessive fans, possibly more devout than any other band’s, great band too)
    the cure
    sonic youth

    …actually basically any band with a b-sides comp(suedes is best though)

  17. i always felt sonic youth were good for a listen but have never made the effort.

  18. damian, do it… now!

  19. *ahem*

  20. oh yeah should’ve pointed out it wasn’t sy

  21. what no universal truths & cycles? back to the lake, everywhere with helicopters, christian animation torch carriers? a production job deliciously somewhere between alien lanes and do the collapse? more tunes than you can shake a big bloody stick at? for shame…

    bob pollard is too prolific. fact. possibly.

  22. Teenage Riot is great, but I have to say, I don’t go back to Sonic Youth a lot. That thing Kim Gordon did with Chuck D…..yikes! Fuckin’ YIKES!

  23. Marxbeard, I’m gonna go back to that album, thanks.

  24. kool thing?
    sonic youth are still pretty great. playing at the feelies reunion show.

  25. Thanks for this Graham. Always meant to give GBV a listen and this proves I was missing out. Your music tastes are still as keen as when you did the radio show way back.

  26. cheers for that graham.. been playing the mixtape on repeat since yesterday..

  27. I’ve been looking for something to listen to this afternoon, this looks like just the thing.

    If you like the pixies, you probably like the breeders.
    We were at the gig in Glasgow last night, they were excellent.

    We’ve got a review up



    sorry for the shameless pluggery

  28. sonic youth – last 2 albums are excellent, rare case of a band getting it back after a period of crapness:

  29. the period of crapness wasn’t that bad at all though… and are you calling murray street crap?

  30. hey graham,
    dont know whether im posting this question in the right section but is there any chance that the documentary about you which was aired on RTE a while back will be repeated? I had it set to record and then then the power went out and i never got to see it..My friend says that you do something similiar to with your mobile, in that you “jot” down ideas in it too..Sounds sad but when i heard we shared that in common i felt pretty cool…

  31. fair point – “Washing Machine” had its moments, “Murray Street” i haven’t heard, I believe its good.

  32. Fergal,

    I have a copy on DVD if you need it.



  33. My fellow bloggist James gave me a copy of Alien Lanes recently and it really did rekindle my faith in the shorter track. It’s incredible stuff. Nuff respeck Graham on furthering their cause…


  34. hello graham, i’ve just done a cd what i think you might like, if you’d like a copy, send us a postal address and i’ll stick on in the post.

    off to sample guided by voices now.


    deejay mog.

  35. Just got round to listening to that GBV mixtape and I’m inspired to buy some. Loved it!

  36. Cheers for putting me onto GbV. Never even heard of them – amazing!

  37. This is the wrong place, but I couldn’t resist

  38. Quiet reverie is my favourite.

  39. Hola!

    Wha?! Do the Collapse is considered one of GbV’s worst albums?! Arrrgh! I bought Do the Collapse upon release because of Teenage FBI and loved the whole thing (and continue to love it), but was told it was different from their other stuff, so rather than risk disappointment I just didn’t bother getting any of their other albums. Idiot! Have now ordered the 5 recommended albums from eBay. Thanks Graham!


  40. Ev-Man

    I feel bad for saying Do The Collapse is their worst now… re-listening for the first time in years, it is pretty great. If you really liked that one, ‘Half Smiles Of The Decomposed’ has the same kind of mournful stadium rock sound, and the Keene Brothers record Bob did with Tommy Keene is wall to wall with jangly, wistful tunes in a similar hi-fi style.

  41. By the way, Dorothy, I saw your Beamz comment after I posted the link. But thanks!

  42. Hola!

    Thanks for the recommendations, John A. Will check them out.


  43. This is a pretty good mix, though as you (sort of) said, it would be easy to make 10 more just as good (and a lot longer.) For the record, you have track 1, “Alone, Stinking and Unafraid” credited to Guided By Voices, when it is, in fact, Lexo and the Leapers. I was going to assume you just called it all GBV for consistency’s sake, but you did attribute the Go Back Snowball track correctly, so I assume this was just an oversight.

  44. It started as convenience and ended as an oversight. I meant to say something about the many band names Pollard has traveled under but I never got round to it.

  45. Good to see more publicity for Bob’s work. And that’s a really cool mix of the “hits” with a smattering of the interesting side project stuff. Great job!
    What’s best is that you could make another 20 mixes with entirley different tracks that would be just as fantastic.

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