Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thoughts On Psycho And The Birds, The Takeovers And The Keene Brothers

(photo of Slusarenko, Richie T and Keene courtesy of Breck Rowell)

Feeling much more like a human being today- the cold bugs are on the run. I've noticed that when you are sick for a few days, you start to forget what it feels like to be well. And then when you start to recover, it's surprising how much better you feel both mentally and physically! This may all seem very logical to the rest of you but for my poor brain, its a great insight. Spent a lot of the day watching my DVD of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. I had forgotten what a visual delight that movie is. I am a total sucker for the book series and this is the first film that really lives up to the printed page.

On to the business at hand! So I've spent about a week with my CD copies of Psycho And The Birds, The Takeovers and The Keene Brothers (for more info, look here). And I may be the worst possible person to give my thoughts on these new albums after such a short time. So I'm not sure what I was thinking when I promised this post a while back! It takes me forever to "get" new music. When they say an album is a "grower", make that double for me. And GBV and Bob's albums are nearly always growers- the only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head are "Speak Kindly" and "Half Smiles Of The Decomposed".

But I will give it a go. And here I go..

Psycho And The Birds "All That Is Holy" - This is easily the most enigmatic of the three side projects. The spare, crusty and purposely lo tech packaging design bespeak to the musical content on the CD. To create the final product, Bob has once again sent home recordings to Todd Tobias and let him work his mojo on them. And the result has a very different feel than the similarly conceived Circus Devils albums. For one, Bob's vocals are buried in the mix, making the lyrics hard to decipher by design. And the extremely short songs are framed by poppy yet strange instrumentals, the familiar alongside the odd- lots of organ, acoustic guitars and strings. Their shortness makes it that much harder to get a bead on what you are hearing. The melodies are off kilter and meandering as well, reminding me of the more psychedelic Nightwalker projects. A folk Nightwalker maybe? Ah hell, I don't know! My favorite tracks so far (the most poppy, I guess) are Late Night Scamerica, The Killers, and the MP3 previewed Hello Forever, which reminds me of Peter Gabriel. Get back to me in a few months on this one!

The Takeovers "Turn To Red" - I hate choosing favorites, especially on three records so absolutely different from one another. It's like choosing a favorite child. But Turn To Red is it! Instead of loosing Todd Tobias on these tracks, Bob gave them to the short-lived GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko. And holy shit, the result is incredible! I felt from the word go that Slusarenko's work on Half Smiles was some of the most melodic and subtle playing in the GBV canon. And he proves himself invaluable once again here. The best comparison for the album that I've been able to come up with is Bob's 1998 solo album Waved Out- the same mix of bold rock and tuneful silly weirdness. Insane/Cool It sounds like the best 60's Rolling Stones song never recorded. Scuffle With Nature is disturbingly delicious. Sweet Jelly shares a guitar part with one of my recent Bob favorites Breadcrumbs For The Whales and may be one of the weirdest Bob tracks ever, which is saying a lot. Fairly Blacking Out kicks ass, 'nuff said! Serpentine Rain Dodger is weep worthy- amazing amazing. It was built on the skeleton of a late 80's Bob recording unearthed on the bootleg rarities collection 30 Songs (known there as She Don't Know Your Name). Bob wisely handed it over to Chris and the result is magic. And what the fuck is Bullfighter's Cut? Wow. Turn To Red kicks ass.

Keene Brothers "Blues And Boogie Shoes" - Now this is the one I'm really struggling with. Sonically, The Keene Brothers is the most radio friendly I have ever heard Bob. The production is impeccable, the instrumentation sublime, the songs very pop. Pollard's vocals have never sounded stronger or better. And the lyrics are pure poetry, sad and beautiful. Why am I struggling then, you ask? I guess the album is so different that what I am used to, that my brain won't wrap around it. Or something. Get back to me on this one too. I suspect it may sneak up and grab me by the throat one of these days. Standout tracks so far are Death Of The Party, Island Of Lost Lucys (loveliness defined) and This Time Do You Feel It.

I'll be back!

(photo courtesy of billyverde)


Blogger XRayLexx said...

Im loving Keene Brothers album. Its a classic and full of pop gems. Pollard sounds like he is enjoying himself. Takeovers is a great album too. Strugglying with Psycho and the Birds, the vocals are a bit low but it has its moments.

1:02 AM

Blogger Phil said...

Since I posted this, the Keene Brothers record is growing on me big time too. I knew I just needed some more time with it. And I totally agree that Psycho and The Birds may never make much sense to these ears. But Takeovers is still my tippy top favorite. So weird, so good... Thanks for your thoughts!

9:32 PM


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