Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit
By Alina Lehtinen
Do you like old friends? The good ones. The few who have remained loyal?
That’s what listening to the latest Guided By Voices (GBV) album is like: old friends that keep coming through.
Motivational Jumpsuit was released in February 2014 and it’s the band at its best, whipping through songs in a charged, melodic way, with Robert Pollard not pausing for a minute to let anyone who falls behind catch up.
Like dependable friends; Motivational Jumpsuit stays loyal to the band’s original and well-known style, perhaps because most of the songs have been written by Pollard, who happens to be GBV’s primary songwriter. The songs’ average duration is still about two minutes, the longest being “Shine” with a duration of 3.04 minutes. The tracks also follow similar patterns than older GBV songs with the music ending promptly without a “warning.” There’s that same gliding guitar and lyrics that might or might not make sense, but fuck it. Some things sound that good.
Loyal friends come through and so did GBV in 2010 when the band’s “classic” 93-96 members reunited. Besides Pollard, the bands members are Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin March.
Whether you like them or not, you can’t accuse GBV of being lazy. Since reuniting the band has released six albums. All in all the band has released 20 albums since their first album in 1987 and is already planning to release another album later this year titled Cool Planet.
Only a handful of bands have been able sustain this kind of productivity for so many years. If you minus the bands inactive years (2004-2010) from the mix the productivity level is one album a year on average. This would be an impressive figure even for bands half the age of GBV. How has it been possible to sustain this creativity, work ethos, and productivity? This is a feat I’d love to understand, but don’t.
The closest Motivational Jumpsuit offers an answer to the mystery of GBV’s output is Writer’s Bloc (Psycho All the Time):
A lifetime of nighttimes
In the publisher’s screaming house
I can’t get it out
Unlike productivity your true friends won’t let you down. Motivational Jumpsuit is no exception. The high points are “A Bird With No Name,” “Shine,”Some Things Are Big And Some Things Are Small,” “I Am Columbus,” “Record Level Love,” “Until Next Time,” and “Jupiter Spin.” Damn. I just listed nearly half of the songs on the album as high points. Sometimes that’s just how it is and also an indication of what GBV has achieved over its years of making music.
However, if you like surprises Motivational Jumpsuit is not for you. It is more for those who like the traditional GBV sound. What you see is what you get. – (9/10)
P.S. I also like the GBV website, which features album art and a music video on the same page without being loaded down with distractions. Then there is the GBV Database, where you can go back through “On This Day in GBC History” and download live shows.