Guided By Voices – How Do You Spell Heaven
Robert Pollard's latest release is a peppy selection of tracks that lacks the spark to push it to great heights
It’s already August and this is only Robert Pollard’s third album of the year. Following January’s GBV double LP August by Cake (his 100th album overall) and the final Circus Devils record, Laughs Last, 2017 feels relatively sparse for a man whose release rate has often felt like an absurd piece of performance art.
So how does this pace suit Uncle Bob’s indie rock veterans? Well… maybe a little too comfortably. Don’t get us wrong; by the standards of mere mortals, How Do You Spell Heaven is a mighty collection of crunching power chords and idiosyncratic pop – cuts like The Birthday Democrats and Steppenwolf Mausoleum are a firm reminder of the chest-swelling, polished stomp of GBV 2.0; as enticingly nostalgic for Pollard nerds as they’re welcoming to novices. It’s a peppy selection, with the recent re-addition of guitarist Doug Gillard to the fold seeming to have paid off in the melody stakes.
So why is this a three-star record and not more? Frankly, because of the same issues that undid the 2.0 line-up: a lack of variety, a suspicion of comfort zone, an absence of anything to confuse or truly dazzle. There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with How Do You Spell Heaven, it’s just that Pollard works best when walking the wire between fucked-up weirdness and acts of songwriting genius, and wobbling either side. Here he’s looking towards neither heaven nor hell; simply trudging (albeit stylishly) on terra firma.
Listen to: The Birthday Democrats, How Do You Spell Heaven