I have long given up trying to sell people on the mania in my life: the band Guided by Voices and all other projects of lead man Robert Pollard.
Either Pollard himself or one of the many former members of Guided by Voices once said, “You’re either Guided by Voices or you aren’t.”
And that’s what I’ve learned. It’s like trying to get people into your religion by using logic. Logic won’t get you faith. It just happens. Some of the best people I’ve met on this Earth share this faith. As my pal Mel said, “It’s in our souls.”
The inspiring work ethic of Bob Pollard
The insane and constant output of main songwriter Bob Pollard (whose Friday album release, August by Cake, marks the musician’s 100th album over almost 30 years) scares the casual listener. The clichéd criticism is, “Bob needs an editor!” but that is what attracts me to him.
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People get obsessed with what they do not have but want. For example, people who feel powerless fixate on politics (oddly enough, a lot more friends are fixated politics right now). I fixate on Bob’s work ethic.
Whenever I try to write or create, I constantly self-edit and move excruciatingly slowly (I started this piece in 2011, by the way), or I ADHD-out and do anything else but write. As such, Pollard’s productivity and his constant flow of beautiful melodies, wordcraft and riffs astound me.
An anecdote tells of a teacher who had half the students sculpt a sculpture a day and the other half were to create one perfect sculpture in 30 days. Turns out the ones who completed a sculpture a day made sculptures as good as the ones who labored and sweated over one all month.
That’s Bob Pollard. He works within the tight parameters of “the four Ps” (pop, prog, punk and psych) yet keeps knocking out amazing songs. And he edits. He sequences. His albums have themes. If you don’t like a song, here’s a clever idea: Skip it. The next one is probably an anthem with poetry you can live by.
What to expect at a GBV show
If you go to ACM@UCO’s Metro Music Fest and catch Guided by Voices’ headlining show tonight at The Criterion, you’ll see a bunch of drunk and sweaty middle-aged men pumping fists and singing along with surreal lyrics that only kind of make sense. You’ll hear the prolific frontman give song intros like, “This one is off the second album of this one project you had no idea existed.” You’ll also see Pollard drink a lot of Miller Lites and take a pull or two off a bottle of Cuervo.
You may even think of snarky jokes to tell and text your friends because this isn’t a “cool” and “serious” (boring) concert with beautiful people swaying.
That’s your problem.
Exercising faith in rock and roll
To riff off a quote from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon: In the ’70s, people went to see bands who believed in them, the audience. In the ’80s, people wanted bands who believed in themselves. Guided by Voices simply believe in rock and roll. That is what is celebrated. And, if the faith hits, you’ll believe in rock and roll tonight.
Something a friend recently said really resonated with me. She was talking about her significant other not coming to tonight’s GBV show.
“He likes the music a lot,” she said, “but it’s not in his soul.”
And that’s the amazing thing. Because plenty of others among us — the poets, the clowns, the analysts, the cranks, the dads, the moms, the professionals, the professional fuck-ups and the investors — really do have this Bob Pollard/GBV music in our souls.