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Guided By Voices

Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia - 2023 Reissue

    Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia was Guided By Voices’ third album, self-released by the band in 1988 in a pressing of 500. While both of the band’s earlier albums exhibit strong songwriting and plenty of vision, it is here that the GBV sound really begins to coalesce. While Devil Between My Toes is rife with contrasts, variety, and dark psychedelia, and its follow up Sandbox is a cohesive ’60s-influenced affair, Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia marries the two approaches to outstanding effect.

    Unsurprisingly, recording began before Sandbox was even done pressing. These sessions would yield an aborted LP titled Learning To Hunt, but after personnel changes and second thoughts, Robert Pollard shelved most of the tracks, dismissing them as too similar to those on Sandbox. Fair enough, as many of Pollard’s more recent songs were simply on another level than previously. Here are the first of the classic Pollard slow-burners, often built on a simple melodic or rhythmic figure that circles itself ever outward, accumulating heft, variation, and inevitability as the song evolves into something unexpected yet inevitable. It’s the aural equivalent to watching a butterfly grow out of its cocoon.

    A few things are unique to this particular LP. Original powerhouse drummer Peyton Eric returns for nearly half the tracks, while engineer and lead guitarist Steve Wilbur shines at his brightest, resulting in some of the most thoroughly rocking GBV songs to ever be cut to lacquer, such as “Earful o’ Wax,” which simply explodes out of the speakers when the solo section begins. On the other end of the spectrum, you get Pollard recording perfect pop gems at home with just voice and guitar, which would become a calling card on later GBV albums. There’s simply a tremendous variety of material, all strung together in such a way that the album is all of one piece, a mosaic.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. The Future Is In Eggs
    2. The Great Blake Street Canoe Race
    3. Slopes Of Big Ugly
    4. Paper Girl
    5. Navigating Flood Regions
    6. An Earful O’ Wax
    7. White Whale
    8. Trampoline
    9. Short On Posters
    10. Chief Barrel Belly
    11. Dying To Try This
    12. The Qualifying Remainder
    13. Liar’s Tale
    14. Radio Show (Trust The Wizard)

    Electric Eels

    Spin Age Blasters

      The electric eels were the first punk band, full stop. They may not have “started” the genre, but they were the first to tick all the boxes. The eels rejected every 1970s rock convention—professionalism, virtuosity, subject matter, image. Dave E.’s caustic vocals, complete with an aggressive lisp and a head full of snot, would become de rigeur a few years after the group disbanded. Meanwhile, the songs’ focus on car crashes, suicide, neuroses, and generally hating people were as far out of the mainstream as possible. The two eels tracks that do approach the subject of romance couch it in terms of not really caring that much about it (“Jaguar Ride”) or placing it in the context of a grisly murder (“Silver Daggers”). Also consider John Morton’s signature guitar sound, a nails-on-chalkboard tone with brutally free soloing inspired more by Albert Ayler than the blues or aspirations to technical facility. Ditto Dave E.’s clarinet playing and affection for lawnmowers and vacuums during live performance. They were notoriously violent not only among themselves, but towards audiences, police, and anyone unfortunate enough to be around them when things went south. Then of course there are the leather jackets, the clothing festooned with rat traps or safety pins. And no bass player, why bother. There is simply no other “proto” band to have had all these pieces in place circa 1973- 1975.

      Yet it is a mistake to consider the eels exclusively in such a context. Yes, the eels could and did shock anyone who encountered them, but they also had great songs. While both Dave and John were visionary writers, they also had rhythm guitarist Brian McMahon, a melody and riff machine who wrote many of the band’s signature songs. And they were no one-trick pony. Although much of the band’s material is appropriately high-energy, there is also the downer eels—morbid, harmonically risky, and in full existential crisis. Although it’s not a focus of this compilation, the eels also had a penchant for completely free improvisation.

      Over the last forty plus years, there have been several electric eels compilations. Spin Age Blasters is quite simply the best one ever assembled, every single key track is here in its best version, properly mastered by John Golden, and sequenced with an eye towards both flow between tracks as well as individation between sides. A true monster of an album.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Splitterty Splat
      2. Wreck And Roll
      3. You're Full Of Shit
      4. Tidal Wave
      5. Refrigerator (alt)
      6. Cold Meat
      7. Spinach Blasters
      8. Jaguar Ride
      9. Zoot Zoot
      10. Giganto (Cyclotron)
      11. Bunnies
      12. Roll On, Big O
      13. You Crummy Fags
      14. No No
      15. Sewercide (alt)
      16. Silver Daggers
      17. As If I Cared
      18. Natural Situation
      19. Cards And Fleurs
      20. Agitated (orig)
      21. Cyclotron
      22. Black Leather Rock
      23. Dead Man's Curve
      24. Safety Week
      25. Accident
      26. Anxiety
      27. No Nonsense

      Guided By Voices

      Sandbox - 2023 Reissue

        Even back in 1987, Guided By Voices was not content to release just one album in a year—Sandbox was released in the summer of that year following Devil Between My Toes’ appearance that February. Likewise, in similar GBV style, the sound and approach of the two albums could not be more different. Where Devil mostly mines a darker, lo-fi psychedia, along with several instrumental explorations, Sandbox is sunny, direct, has a bigger, crunchier sound, and zero instrumentals. Where Devil has a murky and impressionistic black and white photo of a rooster for a cover, Sandbox sports a full color photo of the band relaxing on a lawn on a sunny day. Let’s also recall that unlike today, in 1987 a full-color album jacket wasn’t just a little more expensive than a black and white one, it was way more expensive. Right up front, the band was communicating that this was a more commercially ambitious endeavor, while behind the scenes they rented better gear for a bigger sound, and tackled more sophisticated arrangements and honed in on the hooks and harmonies of the songs. Of all the band’s early self-released albums, Sandbox differs the most from the sound fans would later associate with the group, which is in itself a recommendation. Nowhere else will you hear the perfectly rendered three-part harmonies of “Long Distance Man,” direct Beatles quotes, or Robert Pollard reveling in his southern Ohio drawl. It’s also true that one of the more enjoyable aspects of the record is finding all the places where the band’s future is indeed foreshadowed. Simply put, Guided By Voices just can’t help but be a little weird, even when attempting something like a power pop album. At the close of the opening track, Pollard announces, “Ladies and gentlemen! Back by popular demand for your entertainment and spiritual enlightenment...Electric Jam Soul Aquarium!” a truly “wtf is happening here” moment. Or the stripped down gloom of “Trap Soul Door”—a track that could be right at home on nearly any later GBV album wherein Pollard intones, “Just one spark can start a hell of a fire.” Little did he know how true that statement would become.

        Guided By Voices

        Devil Between My Toes - 2022 Reissue

          Devil Between My Toes was the debut album by Guided By Voices, originally self-released by the group in February 1987 in an edition of 300 copies. Disillusioned by the lukewarm reception to the band’s debut EP the previous year, Robert Pollard resolved that this record would be conceived for an audience of one: “(it) is strictly for me and me only. Because no one’s going to buy it, no one gives a fuck, but I’m still gonna do it. So I might as well put only what I want on it, for me. An album for me.”

          Even amongst the 30-odd proper GBV albums, Devil Between My Toes remains unique, and not simply because it was the first to be released. Much like its out-of-focus cover photo of the mean rooster next door (Big Daddy), the album’s vibe is dark, minimalist, and mysterious. Most of the album was recorded as a trio, and it contains more instrumentals than any other GBV album, but like the best LPs in their catalog, the sequencing renders these tracks essential to the flow and mood of the LP. While there are the expected Brit Invasion hookfests sprinkled throughout, we’re also treated to career highlights like the monolithic “A Portrait Destroyed by Fire” (Tobin Sprout’s first GBV appearance) and “Cyclops,” a track that would be right at home on Vampire On Titus had it been recorded more crudely.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Old Battery
          2. Discussing Wallace Chambers
          3. Cyclops
          4. Crux
          5. A Portrait Destroyed By Fire
          6. 3 Year Old Man
          7. Dog's Out
          8. A Proud And Booming Industry
          9. Hank's Little Fingers
          10. Artboat
          11. Hey Hey, Spaceman
          12. The Tumblers
          13. Bread Alone
          14. Captain's Dead

          Spike In Vain

          Death Drives A Cadillac

            Death Drives A Cadillac was Spike In Vain’s second album, never officially released and unheard in its final form until now. Like many hardcore bands circa ’84 and ’85, the group was ready to further expand its palette and ease off the thrash tempos. Recorded roughly a year after Disease Is Relative with a bigger budget, the album is even more wide-ranging, and the songs are more fleshed out. “Despair grew inside her, I grew inside her. She named me Spirit Death, and this is my song” sings Chris Marec, the vocalist on half of this LP.

            Though less “young” than their debut, that album’s darkness lingers, but here has a more removed, observational quality, with many songs sung in character or in the third person, along with a tendency for anthropomorphic allegory. It has a bit less to do with screaming for death to come than with a growing resignation to being the other, a recognition of inescapable alienation and its relation to childhood trauma. —all with a heaping side of absurdity and a sense of wonder at the gradually unfolding endtimes.

            That said, many of the tracks wouldn’t be out of place on the debut, and some feature exotic tunings. Bits of roots music come into play as well—gospel, blues, and country figure to some extent in a third of the songs, sometimes in convoluted, Beefheart-esque ways, and at other times toying with genre archetypes as a cat does a mouse.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Too Cool
            2. Abysmal Child
            3. Spirit Death
            4. Dogsleds In Heaven
            5. Rattlesnake's Wedding
            6. Escape From The Zoo
            7. Lady Luck Is Dead
            8. Valentine's Day
            9. Big Black Locomotive
            10. Party In The Ground
            11. Totem Fields
            12. Gospel Motel
            13. Count Basie's Ghost


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