Lavin Rant: Guided by Voices’s “Let’s go eat the factory”


by Mike Lavin

Guided By VoicesLet’s Go Eat the Factory [Fire/Guided By Voices Inc.; 2012]

Bee Thousand was a sort of ’90s gem that has an everlasting staple on underground indie music moving from the late ’90s up until now. Guided By Voices returns to that original line-up of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes with Let’s Go Eat the Factory, the first proper record since 2004’s Half Smiles of the Decomposed. GBV bring back that middle-aged frantic songwriting style with a four-track to record with in someone’s garage with a disjointed vibe that doesn’t live up to the standards GBV have set up for themselves long ago.

Perhaps that uncanny charm of lo-fi production and knack for creating incredibly catchy pop tunes has simply worn off for lead man Robert Pollard and gang. Let’s Go Eat the Factory a lot of the times sounds a little too coarse and messy, the modernized distortion of Pollard’s vocals polarizes the whole aesthetic of GBV, and some of the instrumentation is just questionable; really overly dramatic strings on “Hang Mr. Kite” and some interestingly put piano on the end of “Spiderfighter” to try and create some heart-warming ballad, but Pollard’s vocals are just off with the high production.

Factory isn’t all a drag though, there are some real shining moments that reminisce of those glorious ‘90s-GBVs. “Imperial Racehorsing” is an all-out frenzy of guitar full of GBV’s nuances and “Doughnut for a Snowman,” which was supposedly written years before Factory’s recording, is full of that traditional GBV goofiness and randomness. The only time a distortion of Pollard’s vocals is effective is on the frantic “Either Nelson” where lo-fi production and studio work are combined into one.

For most of the tracks off Factory, they are simply unmemorable. GBV’s LP have always had a tendency to be disjointed when it comes to theme and a cohesive sound, but Factory is simply everywhere in the context of cohesion. Bee Thousand had one of the most important element in all of indie pop music; a hook. Factory has little to no hooks inserted in its music. When some hooks are found in Factory; they are only short lived – “The Head” has a nicely put organ overlaying some guitars that I’d love to hear to go on longer, but only clocks in at 1:10.

So long the days of “Hardcore UFOs” or “Gold Star For Robot Boy” or even “Kicker of Elves” off classic GBV LPs. Another record is scheduled to be released from GBV entitled Class Clown Spots a UFO, but I highly doubt that this release will be a savior to the “classic” GBV reunion, but I’ve been very wrong about upcoming releases, so we’ll see. I’ve always wondered when a band releases a reunion album like Factory what the reaction of music audiences and critics would be if they didn’t know it was reunion album rather just a brand new band releasing music. With that thought in mind, Factory would be a failure and waved off as something unmemorable and trite.