These days, Guided By Voices are better known as ‘that band whose (now-former) drummer tried to sell his used kit as memorabilia for $55k, and whose singer decided to be a dick about it’ than an actual source of music. But, the low-fi 90’s rockers are back with Motivational Jumpsuit, their 20th (!) album and fifth one made after a 2010 reunion that the aforementioned singer and chief lyricist, Robert Pollard, promised would never happen. Like many of their previous albums, it features 20 tracks of a roughly grindcore duration, so there’s a variety of stuff to peruse, and you never have to get bored.
However, there are a couple turn-off tracks that don’t require too much cynical effort to dislike – it’s all quite simple. Which sometimes makes it sway between ‘charming’ and borderline ‘pedestrian.’ When it’s the former, it’s just as genuine and satisfying in its mild self-deprecation and tongue-in-cheek humor as any indie rock, especially on the opening track “Littlest League Possible“, which might as well be the anthem for any Bad News Bears-esque ragtag bunch or “biggest fish in the smallest pond:” [LISTEN]
Most of the album flows together seamlessly, which is especially well-done in the first several songs but increasingly relies on fade-outs later. When it leans into less-enjoyable territory, it’s generally because the song feels sing-song-y without being catchy (“Difficult Outburst and Breakthrough“), or Pollard’s trying to make some large personal statement with pretty generic riffs and lyricism (“Writer’s Bloc“).
That’s not to say the former educator doesn’t have the ability to sometimes say a lot with very little, because he manages that on back-to-back tracks “Save the Company” and “Go Without Packing.” Conversely, “Some Things Are Big (And Some Things Are Small)” suffers a bit from the Captain-Obvious touch (hint: the title includes the entire hook). He seems to bounce between his natural, low-key David Bazan vocal style and a more nasally John Lennon vibe, both of which work out great except when he affects too much of a British accent every now and again.
It’s certainly worth putting in your itunes and ‘un-checking’ the ones (if any) you consider duds. Perhaps that’s part of their ability to retain some sort of relevance in 2014 – they are ridiculously prolific and provide almost nothing but bite-sized tracks. Thanks to that virtue alone, universally-tolerated sound, there’s almost certainly something here for you.