La La Land

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices Inc. , 2023

REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


It’s nearly impossible to read (or write) a review of a Guided By Voices record that doesn’t reference the sheer volume of releases the band cranks out. Two per year is the minimum, three is common, and more is not unusual. Back in the days when Tobin Sprout was playing guitar and adding his wonderfully wistful lo-fi pop sensibility, I’ll admit that I often found it taxing to wade through the fragments and unfinished ideas. Granted, when the pay-off was a song like “I Am A Scientist” it was certainly worth the effort. (And, yes, I’m saying that Bee Thousand loses my attention at points.) But Tobin departed, line-ups shifted, the band ended, line-ups coalesced and line-ups re-coalesced, and now this version with Tobin’s successor, Doug Gillard, back on guitar, along with Bobby Bare Jr.., Kevin March playing drums and Mark Shue on bass, has been with GBV mastermind Robert Pollard for something like 30 records. That might not even be an overestimate.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another thing that’s changed is that, while those incredible pop hooks are not as frequent, gone entirely are the fragments and ephemera. Now every song sounds fully considered and fleshed out and, given what that means in terms of sheer number of tunes, the success rate is pretty much unprecedented.

So now we arrive at La La Land, the first GBV record of 2023. It’s safe to say that if you’ve enjoyed the last, oh, 15 GBV records you’re going to like this one. As do I. And La La Land continues the muscular, mid-tempo, mid-period Who-style rock and roll songwriting that has characterized the current line-up.

“Another Day To Heal” starts things off in typically rollicking fashion. Then there’s the ’60s jangle of “Released Into Dementia” and the tuneful, pastoral “Ballroom Etiquette.” “Queen Of Spaces” provides a little acoustic… space. The piano-led “Slowly On The Wheel,” which breaks into a soaring sing-along second half, is a favorite. Those slightly melancholy vocal hooks are what I love most about GBV, even if I can rarely figure out what the lyrics are about. “Cousin Jackie,” is another hard-hitting rocker as is “Wild Kingdom” and “Face Eraser.”

Which brings us to the difficulty of reviewing present-day GBV: it’s hard to keep finding adjectives to describe consistency. There isn’t anything on this record that I can say doesn’t work. So I’ll just say that La La Land doesn’t quite have as many high points as last year’s Crystal Nuns Cathedral or 2017’s How Do You Spell Heaven, but it’s a good listen. And one thing is for sure: if you want to hear what GBV comes up with next, you won’t have to wait long.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 John Mulhouse and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Guided By Voices Inc. , and is used for informational purposes only.