Despite having been around since 1987, not many people know who Guided By Voices are. The one name to know is Robert Pollard, the frontman and basically head honcho of the band since its inception. Sure, there’s been a lot of other people in the group as well, drummers, guitarist, bassists, but the lineup’s gone through a lot of changes. The only one who has stayed all the way through to today is Pollard, lead singer and decider of whatever or whoever Guided By Voices means at the time.
All of the lineup changes hardly ever really truly matter, as even listening to the records out of order. Basically, you can’t tell the difference. Lyrically, compositionally, and sonically, every record sounds about exactly the same, even if Pollard played every instrument himself. Every member of Guided By Voices could come back for a Sly and the Family Stone number of musicians reunion album and it would still sound like four guys in their parents garage. In fact, Robert Pollard did write and play every instrument on this record, and it sounds just the same as it did in 1987 when their first record, Devil Between My Toes, came out.
Granted, Devil Between My Toes is still my favorite out of all of their records, which is strange since it’s their debut, and now they’re on #23, Please Be Honest. Honestly speaking (pun 300% intended, couldn’t help myself), I have indeed heard every single one of their records, all 23 of them. Maybe it’s that the band never changes their sound, especially the sound of the recording, but it’s something about never seeing a band grow or even mature that’s just so off-puttingly dull. With the band’s return from an eight-year hiatus in 2012, Guided By Voices have released six albums over the course of three years. Taking a break after 2014’s second release, I thought a good break from the constant barrage of music they’d been outputting would focus them a bit more, and get them to think about who they were now that they were in their fifties.
What is the new Guided By Voices? They didn’t take that call however, as Pollard seems to be the only one left, making albums entirely by himself. Not to say that I’m not surprised by how Please Be Honest sounds, as there’s no other way I can even imagine one of Guided By Voices’ records to sound, it’s just disappointing. It’s the feeling of how big they could have been, had they just… (insert many reasons here). Pollard sounds like a man trapped in 1987, trying to remake the glory days of when they were young and one of the biggest indie band names of the ’90’s. Like I said, I’m not surprised, just disappointed.