Music preview: Guided by Voices returns to lo-fi arena-rock glory


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Guided by Voices -- the pride of Dayton, Ohio -- helped usher in the surprising lo-fi rock movement in the late '80s, before blossoming into what is described as a basement arena-rock band with a passion for The Who and other British Invasion bands.

After more than a dozen albums and many rowdy drunken marathons -- with stocked beer cooler positioned right at center stage -- GBV launched a farewell tour in 2004 coinciding with the album "Half-Smiles of the Decomposed."

Guided by Voices

With: Heavy Times.

Where: Mr. Smalls, Millvale.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $27.50; 1-800-745-3000.

Frontman Robert Pollard -- a high-kicking former jock and school teacher -- turned his focus toward his solo albums, and all indications were that GBV was finished. In 2007, he told Magnet, "To me, it's just cashing in. If you're gonna get the band back together, it should be to support a new record, not just to play the hits. That's like doing the county-fair circuit. I don't see Guided by Voices reforming. For one thing, there were 50 or 60 people in Guided by Voices over time."

That changed in 2010 when Matador Records planned its 21st anniversary show in Las Vegas.

"Matador asked for this lineup for their anniversary," guitarist Tobin Sprout notes in an email interview. "That show went well and a tour followed. Then an album. And another, and we're working on more."

That lineup was the classic lineup from 1993-96 that created such favorites as the breakout album "Bee Thousand," the Matador debut "Alien Lanes," with its blast of 28 songs, and 1996's accomplished "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars." After that album, Mr. Pollard notoriously fired the band and replaced it with Cobra Verde for "Mag Earwhig!"

With this reunion, Mr. Sprout, who has released a number of solo albums, says, "We picked up right where we left off. We had played together for so long that it didn't take long to get moving again. I still remember how to play most of the old songs. Everyone got along well before, so it just came together as it did in the '90s."

That lineup got back together to record "Let's Go Eat the Factory," a GBV lo-fi psych-rock throwback with such songs as "Doughnut for a Snowman," "The Unsinkable Fats Domino" and "Hang Mr. Kite."

"It was like working on an album in the '90s. We had demos to listen to, then one practice before the studio. In the studio we had the music recorded in the first few takes. Add vocals and overdubs, and it's finished. We never labored over it."

Of course, one reunion album wasn't enough, so GBV returned in June with a second, more hook-filled one called "Class Clown Spots a UFO," and a third one, "Bears for Lunch," is due by the end of the year. That's in addition to a new Pollard solo "Jack Sells the Cow."

In the meantime, the reunited GBV -- led by the 54-year-old Mr. Pollard -- is back on the road once again, playing to ecstatic crowds and enjoying a slightly finer way of living.

"It seems to go a lot smoother now," Mr. Sprout says. "We have better transportation, and rooms. The crowds are a bit larger, but I think all in all the shows are the same. We play about half new material and half the old standards. And as we go they seem to all blend into the show. I like hearing how new songs come together live: 'The Head,' 'Hang up and Try Again,' 'God Loves Us' and some others blend in with the older ones, like 'A Salty Salute,' 'Gold Heart.' "

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.


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