Sound — 8
Guided By Voices, aka GBV, was formed in the early '80s but really came into their own in the early to mid-'90s, though their lineup has never been stable with the exception of the principal songwriter, Robert Pollard. While GBV disbanded in 2004, they recently reunited for what was initially to be a one-off show in 2010 and has since been a completely active band again, mostly with their most iconic lineup from the mid '90s. "Motivational Jumpsuit" is the band's 20 full length lo-fi release and contains 20 tracks, but the entire album still clocks in at just a little under 40 minutes as many of the songs are 2 minutes or less, which is common for GBV. GBV isn't necessarily for everyone, but as a child of the '90s I definitely found things to enjoy in this release.
The album opens with the track "Littlest League Possible," which has a strong post-punk vibe to it, which goes along with the song length of under 2 minutes. "Until Next Time" is an acoustic track with some truly spooky lyrics. "Writer's Bloc (Psycho All the Time)" is a really simple and catchy song, in the heavier vein of what GBV does. "Child Activist" is a super lo-fi track, with a strong psychedelic vibe to it, as well. "Planet Score" is one of the most straightforward "normal" sounding tracks on the album, but it still has a strong current of Robert Pollard's weirdness running through it. "Jupiter Spin" is another track that sounds like it is reaching back to '60s psychedelic music at the same time that it is embracing the '90s lo-fi indie spirit. "Save the Company" is one of the most "full" or "dense" tracks on the album. "Go Without Packing" is an acoustic track mic'ed with too much gain on the guitar, and some out-of-tune harmony vocals snaking in and out of the background. "Record Level Love" is pretty much stepping straight out of the '60s psychedelic scene, and an interesting track. "I Am Columbus" has a strong fuzz tone, but I would bet that the fuzz is genuinely created by lo-fi equipment instead of any designer analog equipment. The tambourine was actually really impressing me on this track, as goofy as that sounds. "Difficult Outburst and Breakthrough" is one of the more conventional songs on the album if you don't listen too hard to the vocals. "Calling Up Washington" is kind of a political noise-rock track written by lunatics. "Zero Elasticity" is a very groove-heavy song for something created by GBV and Robert Pollard. "A Bird With No Name" is a trippy acoustic track and some of the closest that GBV gets to sounding like Neutral Milk Hotel. "Shine (Tomahawk Breath)" is probably one of my favorite songs from the album, as well as being the longest album from the track at 3 minutes and 3 seconds. "Vote for Me Dummy" was like a time machine for me, pulling me back to the early '90s. "Some Things Are Big (And Some Things Are Small)" sounds like a crazy "Sesame Street" song. "Bulletin Borders" is one of the more punk rock tracks on the album. "Evangeline Dandelion" seems like the soundtrack to a BBC show from the '70s for some reason. "Alex and The Omegas" is an awesome closing track, with the great opening vocals "that is my soul with the broken fist."
Lyrics — 7
Robert Pollard isn't known as an ultra-talented vocalist, and there is a reason for that - he isn't talented and is not even competent, really. That is part of the charm of his vocals as he unabashedly belts out his vocals - much like his contemporary, Neutral Milk Hotel and Jeff Mangum. Also like Neutral Milk Hotel, Guided By Voices' lyrics often barely make sense (when they attempt to make sense at all), even at their least-abstract. As a sample, here are some vocals from the opening track "Littlest League Possible": "The nurse went through/ The division of conversation/ Where words collide/ To be the biggest fish in the smallest pond/ I'm the middlesest spider in the arachnid design/ Looking and fading out in the Texas league/ And meanwhile I took too much and also/ From running too fast/ You ran out of gas/ But that's not possible/ In the littlest league possible." I think this type of vocal and lyric has to be something you just like or don't like - personally I really enjoy it, but few of my friends enjoy GBV.
Overall Impression — 7
Listening to a Guided By Voices album can sometimes be like watching a really intoxicated street performer ad-libbing, and there is something magical about that. My favorite tracks from the album would probably be "Shine (Tomahawk Breath)," "Until Next Time," "Bulletin Borders" and "Jupiter Spin," but honestly I love the whole album. Again, this is one of those albums that isn't going to appeal to everybody but it is on heavy rotation on my mp3 player for now. I realized I've missed some other GBV releases, so now I'm off to go have a listen.