Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Very well expressed, and highly apropos of you to make the TL;DR version possibly longer than the original.

    My one attempt to see GBV live was in Austin, at Emo’s, the same night Ween was playing at Liberty Lunch. The opening act, who objectively sucked, spent their entire set taunting and insulting Guided By Voices in such a weirdly affectless and limp manner that it seemed like lame performance art instead of just garden-variety lameness. GBV responded by packing up and leaving without playing, but they included the cancellation and interviews with the opening act in their documentary video (Hardcore UFOs?).

    The documentary has the additional benefit of leaving the viewer relieved that he/she didn’t have to actually get to know Robert Pollard in person.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Thanks! Living in Japan, I don’t know if you’ll ever get to see them now, I hear Bob doesn’t like traveling too far from home anymore. Which is a shame, because their live shows are like no others. Try to schedule your next trip back to the States to coincide with one. 🙂

      I initially saw them on the UTBUTS tour in ATL and it was pretty much a religious experience. Since then I have seen them in ATL again, Athens (GA), NYC, Portland OR, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and (town much closer to my hometown, multiple times).

      They happened to be playing in London when I was there, but the show was sold out and nobody was selling tickets outside.

      I get the impression Pollard can be sort of blunt & abrasive in that Midwestern way (also, since he comes from sort of a jock culture, there’s probably a lot of s**t-talking), but it seemed to me like if you approached him the right way (bring beer; don’t be too pushy OR too obsequious) you’ll be fine. Whereas I don’t EVER want to meet Westerberg, who seems like a real jerk. I’ve even stopped reading Westerberg interviews or articles, because I don’t want to ruin the records.

      Have you seen Town of Mirrors (book, collects a bunch of Pollard’s collage art)? I have to say, it makes a pretty convincing case for his skills as a visual artist as well.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        Dayton OH was a stop for me when I was an up-and-comer in the hobo scene, and everyone knows everyone in music there, so if RP was a jerk I probably would have heard about the scandal. (An acquaintance’s mom said “one of the Deal girls” helped GBV get off the ground.) I mean he looked to be kind of an exhausting motormouth in the documentary, not a bad guy.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        Haven’t seen that book, no.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “one of the Deal girls” – I love the idea that not only does someone’s mom know Kim and Kelly, but that’s how they are known around town. They sound like trouble.

        Apparently Bob was going to break the GbV ‘no girls allowed’ rule for Kim, but they had a falling out – he was drunk, and said something in an interview that pissed her off. So “exhausting motormouth”* sounds about right.

        *Two parts of his working process I find fascinating are the bar napkin** thing, and the fake bands*** thing.

        **If you go drinking with Pollard, he will dictate song titles to you, and you will write them down on a napkin. Weeks or months later, he will ask you for that napkin and you must produce it. He will then write songs to go with those titles.

        ***He used to cut out people’s individual pictures from newspapers, magazines and yearbooks and collage them into pictures of “bands” – then he would look at the resulting picture, and try to figure out what kind of song THAT band would play, and write that song.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:


        I got a cheap used copy ($2.50 + $4 in shipping) from Powell’s in Chicago via Amazon. Not sure what shipping to Japan would add.

        I also have the Greer book, and the 33 1/3 Bee Thousand book, and Tobin Sprout’s childrens’ book (Elliot).

        I’m sick. Help me.Report

      • Avatar tony conley says:

        I just saw this comment, and felt it should get a response. I’ve known Bob since we were ten years old. We were in our first band together (Anacrusis), and I’ve sporadically made music with him over the years, lastly playing guitar for the Moping Swans record. He’s actually only abrasive when he’s approached abrasively – in fact, he’s amongst the most accommodating people you would ever meet. Sure, he’s been drunk and surly onstage in the past, but that is mostly in jest. We’ve had our differences on rare occasions, but he’s one of the best people I’ve met on this planet.

        When he talks shit, it’s generally to get a laugh, or to respond to rudeness. Many people have found him to be aloof, but that’s generally because they have no idea of the extent of his hearing loss over the years – it’s not that he’s dismissive, it’s often just that he can’t hear what is being said if he can’t see the speaker!


      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @tony-conley – Tony – thanks for the perspective.

        If it’s not clear, we’re obviously big fans, and not trying to disrespect the man in any way. krogerfoot clarified what he meant, and I certainly had never gotten the impression that Pollard was anything other than a pretty regular nice guy (albeit one who I think is touched by genius, not that he needs me to tell anyone that).Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        Hi Tony,

        One of the wisest pieces of advice I got was that before meeting your heroes, you needed to be grown up enough to handle the knowledge that being a genius doesn’t make someone a smart, nice, or good person. So it’s great to hear what you have to say, from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

        The hard-of-hearing thing is something else to keep in mind when approaching musicians. That and the inevitable asymmetry of fame – when you’ve got some renown, the population of people that know YOU hopelessly outnumbers the population of people you know. This is even tougher for nice people. Sounds like Robert Pollard is handling things pretty good.Report

  2. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Goddammit, no Spotify in Japan, apparently. I’ll have to trawl through my own Top 50 to compare it to yours and see if we can still be on speaking terms.Report

  3. Avatar Nonoy says:

    You should be the number one GBV fan. You’re so passionate on writing about your experience with GBV.

    The first song I’ve heard from GBV is the Official Iron Man Rally Song in 2001 from a radio show called Not Radio on Nu-107 Manila, Philippines. The rest is history. I listen to all of their songs; as in all songs are awesome to the ears.

    Pollard and company never ran out of formula what their music is all about. While Bobby never ran out of ideas, the band still can maintain the aesthetic sense of their music.

    Until now I still listen to their songs, old and new. I never get tired listening to them.

    Long Live Bobby and Guided By Voices!Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:


      I am toying with the idea of an online listening party one Friday night, for Bee Thousand, if there are people who haven’t heard it (or, for people who have, and want to listen communally anyway). Drinking will be encouraged.

      So if anyone is interested, leave a comment saying so, and I will see what I can set up.

      Or, just listen to the dang thing, it’s only a half-hour of your life!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I should be able to join in, if ya do it.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        I’m gamer than a three-dollar bill, if that’s the phrase I want, and I have no problem with drinking during (my) Saturday morning. Might be a bit early for Nonoy over there—wait a minute, they’re an hour or two later in the Philippines. Let’s do this.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I can’t definitely commit to any given Friday night, but I’d be interested, if my schedule allows.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        My main issue seems to be how we all hear the album simultaneously. If we were all in the same room, it’d be simple.

        Turntable.fm looked promising, but they appear to limit you to 3 or 4 tracks max per album.

        There IS a complete copy of the album on YouTube, in HD even (ha! GbV in HD!), and YT integrates nicely with Google Hangouts.

        But the YT copy has breaks between the tracks, possibly to prevent YT easily ID’ing the album for copyright removal – for an album like B1000, the flow is a big part of how it works the way it does (I even joined “Yours to Keep” and “Echos Myron” together as one track in my own library, so when shuffling they wouldn’t get split, which just seems wrong – the transition from one to the other is one of the greatest in all pop music). Plus the breaks aren’t all that clean.

        Still, that may be the best I can do, unless anyone has any better ideas (that don’t involve me getting fined for copyright infringement…or worse yet, joining Facebook).

        I thought it was 2013! This should be easy!Report

      • Avatar Nonoy says:

        I’m interested on that online listening party on Friday night Glyph. Perhaps give us the link of that radio here would be great! 🙂Report

  4. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Another thing: Band names, which don’t matter unless they’re terrible. Guided by Voices is a winner right out of the gate, namewise.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:


      I have no doubt it was probably chosen seemingly at random, way back when…but with the benefit of hindsight, it couldn’t be any more appropriate, evoking both the way the “voices” of their musical ancestors come through in their songs, as well as Pollard’s emphasis on working quickly, via instinct and intuition and inspiration rather than over-reliance on logical analysis – hitting “record” as the spirit moves, as it were.

      Plus, “G-B-V! G-B-V! G-B-V!”
      (“Is everybody ready to rock?”
      “This song does NOT rock.”)

      The way they invented their own mythology kills me – this faux audience chant that they made up themselves to play into (and simultaneously mock) their rock star fantasies, that now ACTUALLY gets chanted at their shows…Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        “Amplified to rock” (the equivalent of “we’re set to pop here, honey”) is the default phrase meaning “time to get started” for me and a number of people nearby who perhaps wonder how universally understood this English expression really is.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        In the 33 1/3 book, the author links “Hardcore UFOs” back to the Hollies’ “Carrie Anne”, both lyrically (in an earlier version of the GbV song, called “Walls and Windows”, though the lyrics were later changed) and melodically, the way it rises and falls.

        Now when I listen to the song, I can hear Hollies (another band my dad listened to when I was small) “ghosting” through it.

        And the way the guitar just abruptly vanishes partway into the song, then comes back…and at first you wonder why they didn’t “fix” it, then you realize it’s because the mistake makes it even more perfect…

        God I love this band and that album.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Also, of all the Pollard side bands, Boston Spaceships (now defunct, as I understand it) were maybe the most GbV-like. If you haven’t tried them, they are pretty worthwhile.Report