Guided by Voices – Tigerbomb EP
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
The Tigerbomb EP feels like a convenient way for Bob Pollard to play revisionist with the two best tracks from Alien Lanes. The studio versions of “Game of Pricks” and “My Valuable Hunting Knife” are the first real step towards the clean, professionally recorded sound GBV adopted for the rest of its career (until last year’s classic line-up reunion). I don’t think it’s fair to be the sort of purist who wish GBV had just stayed in the garage recording pop gem after pop gem into a shitty four track, so I sort of love these re-recorded versions. Both versions of “Game of Pricks” offer something different. On Alien Lanes it crashes into the room and you just stand there like an idiot with your jaw dropped and hit repeat until your ears fall off. Still, Pollard knows it’s the best song he’s ever written, and the studio version amps everything up so that the song just fucking sparkles. You could play “Game of Pricks” on a child’s toy piano and it would still be a great song, because that’s how great songs work: no matter how you dress them down or doll them up, they always have that core of greatness that makes them shine.
I particularly enjoy the rerecorded version of “My Valuable Hunting Knife,” even though I think it works better in its stripped down version. The studio version brings some extra swagger to the table though. There’s a kind of reeling, drunken stumble to the track despite the crisp studio production. It’s borderline danceable! The middle chunk of this album is a strange tour through the weirder parts of Bob Pollard’s 1,000+ BMI registered songs. The title of “Mice Feel Nice (in my Room)” is better than the song itself which features future GBV guitarist Doug Gillard on guitar and is one of those Pollard tracks that sounds like he’s singing from the bottom of an empty can of Spaghetti-Os. “Not Good For the Mechanism” is a throwaway little shouter, but “Kiss Only the Important Ones” is a dusty gem. It sounds like a poorly recorded demo traced during some downtime at the studio, but it’s one of those quiet little heartstring-tuggers that Pollard hides in his discography like buried treasure.
Tigerbomb's highlight is Tobin Sprout’s lone contribution: “Dodging Invisible Rays.” When I first started listening to GBV, Tobin Sprout’s songs were always my favorites. They were the ones that made me stick around. Sprout sort of acts like the buddy who vouches for the drunken Pollard. “No, just give him a chance, I swear the guy’s a genius!” Sprout says with his psychedelic-pop tinged songs and their supreme, brain-melting melodies. I’ve always liked the idea that Pollard was the erratic genius, recording every single song that popped into his head and Sprout was the bespectacled nerd behind the desk weeding out all the crap and mining for gold. I barely even need to say that their dynamic is my favorite in the history of rock n’ roll. Fuck Lennon/McCartney. Pollard/Sprout forever. Anyway, “Dodging Invisible Rays” is the best song Tobin Sprout ever contributed to GBV. It’s just so loose and brilliant. I remember the first time I heard it, which was the day I bought this EP. I sat there on my floor in front of my record player at the Pink House and let it wash over me. And played the song five more times. When I joined a band, I made my band mates learn this so we could play it. Playing this track live to practically no one at the Replay Lounge was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
I love Guided by Voices because there is so much wrapped up in these unassuming, often poorly recorded songs. In the band’s sprawling discography you can find everything you could ever possibly want to feel. There is quite literally a song for every occasion. Graduation? “Echoes Myron.” Summer Barbecue? “Dayton Ohio Nineteen-Something-And-Five.” Ok, I’m biased. But that’s ok. I tend to not trust people who won’t tell me their favorite band straight-up. The common tendency when asked this question is to say “I like a lot of music” and while that’s totally true, come on. Deep down, what is the song of your soul? If you put a stethoscope up to my heart it would probably thump out the beat to “Smothered in Hugs.” While it’s important to listen to a lot of music and love a lot of bands, I think it’s equally important to be obsessive about one. That was what was so great about working at a college radio station. I met people with these great obsessions who weren’t ashamed to say they worshipped Pavement or the Pixies or Wu-Tang Clan. Never be ashamed! God, I sound like an evangelist. I feel like an evangelist when I talk about Guided by Voices to the uninitiated. Just the other day at work some GBV CDs came in and one of my coworkers said they’d never listened to them but heard good things and I went off. It’s hard to contain, it’s weird and I get this crazy gleam in my eye whenever I get a chance to wax rhapsodic about GBV, and I don’t think that will ever change. And I don’t want it to change. For our anniversary my wife got me a signed, screen printed Bob Pollard poster purchased online directly from Pollard’s wife. It was basically the best gift anyone could ever give me. Like ever. For some people, reading the Bible and developing a personal relationship with Jesus gives their life meaning. For me, listening to Bee Thousand and developing a personal (I FEEL LIKE I REALLY KNOW HIM OK!) relationship with Bob Pollard gives my life meaning. And that’s alright with me.
"Dodging Invisible Rays"
"My Valuable Hunting Knife"
"Game of Pricks"