Ageless GBV Enjoys Another Jolt Of Youthful Enthusiasm

Feature excerpted from the magazine for

It's the night before New Year's Eve, and the members of Guided by Voices (GBV) are holding court in the bowels of Harlem, N.Y.'s famed Apollo Theatre a few hours before a sold-out concert with local wonderkids the Strokes. GBV frontman Robert Pollard is excitedly discussing the Dayton, Ohio-based underground legend's next album, which he's planning on calling "Headache Revolution."

"The record is only 12 songs, which is not very many for us on a record," Pollard says. "Some of the songs are longer. A little edgier, I think. A little more experimental."

Cut to mid-April, and the 44-year-old Pollard is gulping coffee to ease the hangover brought on by GBV's 51-song, 150-minute blowout show at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Warsaw the night before. Everything is different, from the album title to the songs it contains, and even the band's lineup. Welcome to the strange and wonderful world of GBV.

Still, the biggest change is perhaps the least surprising. After a two-album stint with TVT, GBV is back home at the friendly confines of Matador Records, which lifelined the group out of years of regional obscurity in the mid-'90s. It was with Matador that GBV released some of its finest work, including such college radio touchstones as 1995's "Alien Lanes" and 1996's "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars."

So forget "Headache Revolution" and its 12-song tracklist. What the world will get June 18 is no less than 19 songs under the title "Universal Truths and Cycles," the first set in a multi-album deal that has given the already ageless GBV yet another jolt of youthful enthusiasm.

Although a handful of intoxicatingly catchy cuts -- such as "Back to the Lake" and "Cheyenne" -- survived from "Headache Revolution," the bulk of "Universal Truths" originated in one of Pollard's semi-annual bursts of extraordinarily prolific songwriting.

"It usually happens after an album is in the can," he says. "But this time I wrote 13 songs in an hour and they were all really cool. I thought I'd just save them for a solo record, but I realized our record wasn't necessarily finished. We didn't even have a deal yet."

The group trekked north to Kent, Ohio's Waterloo Studios and, under the direction of producer Todd Tobias (brother of GBV bassist Tim Tobias, as well as Pollard's partner in Circus Devils, one of the latter's countless side projects), banged out all the new songs in only four days. The sessions allowed Pollard to indulge a few of his favorite things: surrealistic wordplay ("Love 1"), arena-sized rock ("Skin Parade"), and homespun acoustic yarns ("Zap," "The Weeping Boogeyman").

GBV, which also features guitarists Doug Gillard and Nate Farley, was forced to leap one final hurdle earlier this year when drummer Jon McCann exited the group to spend more time with his family. Enter Dambuilders/Shudder to Think veteran Kevin March, who became GBV's third drummer in as many years when he joined in mid-April.

"He's the professional in our band," Pollard says with a laugh, alluding to the band's notoriously hard-partying antics. "It's good to have somebody like that as the drummer because that's the glue."

GBV will be on the road most of the summer, beginning June 7 in Memphis and wrapping with appearances at the U.K.'s Reading and Leeds festivals in late August.

Excerpted from the June 22, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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