Now in our fifth calendar year|
PCR #248 (Vol. 5, No. 52) This edition is for the week of December 20--26, 2004.
|THE DIGITAL DIVIDE|
w/ Bloom, The Laundryroom Squelchers
Tabu Night Club, Orlando, FL, December 18th, 2004
Sadly now, I can say I was there at the third to last show of Guided By Voices' final tour before breaking up. I say "sadly" because we have lost America's greatest indie legacy. Robert Pollard's garage rock monster that started in 1987 as a simple love letter to his favorite '70s bands, the Who in particular, had by the end of '90s become as influential on indie rockers as The Velvet Underground was to '70s punk.
1994 is when they got noticed for releasing their masterpiece Bee Thousand. A lo-fi, two-track ode to the British invasion, Bee Thousand and its single "I Am A Scientist" set the groundwork for countless anti-studio up-and-comers. Much like that first Velvet Underground record it gave many the inspiration and courage to release their music that at one time would have remained garage confessionals instead of serious works of rock art.
But Pollard wasn't just sloppy, he was a calculated lo-fi conducter who switched lineups and guitarists faster than you could say "watch me jumpstart". Pollard hit upon a string of classic indie rock albums starting with Bee Thousands' follow-up Alien Lanes and continuing with Under the Bushes Under the Stars and Mag Earwhig. The slump came with 1999's Do the Collapse of which he most literally almost did. He regained hope with yet a new lineup for Isolation Drills and dropped the lo-fi for studio bombast, kinda his version of Who's Next.
2001 saw Pollard return to lo-fi for Universal Truths and Cycles and back into the indie worlds favor much helped by appearing as drinking buddies and opposite contestants on family fued for a Strokes video.
2003 saw what many consider their greatest album since Alien Lanes, Earthquake Glue, a homage to '70s pop and prog-rock via a sweaty garage band. It also produced their last great single "Best of Jill Hives".
Pollard, now in 2004 turing 47 and finally seeing his band recieve the notoriety it deserves, called it quits. Their final album Half Smiles of the Decomposed was claimed by Pollard to be his "masterpiece"---meaning it sounds as close to a Who album as any lo-fi rocker is gonna get.
The concert started with two opening bands who were not very memorable aside from the fact that we wanted them to leave to give GBV more time to rock. That was not a problem as it turned out that Pollard and company belted out songs for three hours! The band seemed relaxed and used to the usual pecularities of a GBV crowd such as throwing beer at the band and on everyone else in front. Pollard, of course, is the star, all 47 years of him, doing Daltry mic swings and windmill kicks in the air and jumping around like the indie-rock Mick Jagger he is.
The greatest Pollard moment of the night is when he mentions that GBV aren't on the SpongeBob soundtrack like fellow '80s college rockers The Flaming Lips and proclaims in all his Dayton Ohio drunken glory "I don't want to be on any fucking SpongeBob soundtrack". It should also be noted that GBV are almost the modern version of '70s bar band The Faces with their drinking, yet never wavering to rock out attitude.
To say I can remember every song they blew us away with within those great hours would be lying but the memorable ones really hit home as to how much I really wished I saw this band live when they were together. "I Am A Scientist", of course, was the one you saw everyone turning to each other to sing. Even I couldn't resist belting out the lyrics "I am a scientist I seek to understand me.....I shit myself with rock n' roll". "Back to the Lake" my favorite of the later era GBV sounded great and extra punchy as compared to the studio version. "My Kind Of Soilder", on the other hand, was almost indistinguishable from the album cut. "Glad Girls" and "Best of Jill Hives" were also dancable and hummable as you can imagine. It was during the heavy raveups "Cutout Witch" and "Exit Flagger" that I finally felt like I was part of a concert for once. I had no choice but to hop up and down with the too-close-for-comfort crowd and was forced to send the crowd surfer along their way and away from falling on top of me. The song that hit the hardest was "Huffman Prairie Flying Field" the last song on the final album. Basically this is the last GBV song and its chorus "if that's what you want than that's what I will sell you" and its soaring closing "for faaaaar tooo looong..." belted out by Robert Pollard in actual person was glorious and sad all in one. They ended their set with the classic "Motor Away". Which is what Pollard, the band, me, and about 200 othe people did that night.
What I took with me was I had just witnessed the end of maybe the last band living the great American rock dream. Playing in your garage hometown emulating The Who and other great rock bands and finally finding fame.
What sets Pollard apart was that he didn't achieve fame until his late '30s/early '40s and started out wanting nothing more than to be Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend swinging mics and kicking the air, drinking beer, rocking out and making great albums. All this he did but also made his own name without really sounding like the Who at all even though he was trying to. Robert Pollard has written close to thousands of songs as all GBV fans know and his new decision to remain a solo artist probably means it will still sound like GBV. Maybe ending the band was a needed release of baggage. Maybe he is an ego freak. Or maybe he just can't stand the fact that he might become Mick Jagger on stage everynight jumping and dancing.
I can't help but feel I felt a tad of resentment in Pollard's words when, though he is respected, he doesn't get asked to be on a soundtrack. Either way he gave us a great wealth of albums and now it's over. If every concert is as good as it was in Orlando, then it's a worthy end. There are two more shows on the 30th and 31st on New York that follow this one but on this night for all us GBV fanatics in Florida this truly was as Pollard calls the tour, The Electrifying Conclusion.
When you free yourself from the chance of a lifetime
You can be anyone they told you to
You can belittle every little voice that told you so
And then the time will come when you add up the numbers
And then the time will come when you motor away
Oh, why don't you just drive away?"
"The Digital Divide" is ©2004 by Terence Nuzum.. All photographs used in this review courtesy of Terence Nuzum. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.