Guided By Voices -- Bee Thousand


Originally Published In KADE Magazine September 29th, 1994

Actually, at this point, it doesn't even matter how good Bee Thousand actually is, cos there is now no question that Guided By Voices are going to be the next indie-rock superstars. Which basically means they'll be name-dropped in every alt-rock oriented rag from SPIN on down. It's already starting. But why?

Well, its in the nature of the indie-rock game as played in 1994.

As you'll soon see, Guided by Voices fit the criteria laid out by the Pavement/ Liz Phair school of indie-rock success. (But of course, not too much success, else you'll be deemed a sell-out and have your former fans turn their back on you.) Lets see exactly how GBV fit the rules:

1. Don't come from LA or NY or London. Bands that come from smaller scenes or cities are inherently cooler for crits who live in major cities and think they've seen everything. LA or NY bands are automatically suspect cos that's where the industry is based. And London: hahahahahahahahahahaha. Talk about burning with boredom now. Pavement is based out of Stockton, CA, so they fit perfectly, and Liz Phair comes from Chicago--which, before the success of Urge Overkill & Smashing Pumpkins , was hardly an alt-rock Mecca. And Guided By Voices: why, Dayton, Ohio. Perfect.

2. 4-track Demo ambience. Instead of worrying about "sound quality," release your album as lo-fi as possible. Lots of tape hiss, blurring of instruments and buried vocals. No problemo: most of Bee Thousand sounds just like my brother Joe's living-room tapes: songs recorded just seconds after they were written, or sometimes even before.

3. Have a good article hook. You know, something rock writers can relate to. Liz Phair sang "I wanna be your blow-job queen," something every (straight) (male) rock crit would love to have. Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard is a fourth-grade teacher, something every (single) rock crit is afraid of becoming.

4. Have a zillion independent releases nobody's ever heard. Liz Phair has a phantom demo tape Girlysound she made before Guyville and Pavement finally collected their random early EPs on a CD last year, but Bee Thousand is GBV's ninth (or something like that) album. When it hits, there will be a mad scramble for the other stuff, no doubt pushing some of their sales into the hundreds.

5. Be on Matador. Even better, Bee Thousand is on Scat--an indie distributed by Matador. Cooooooooool.

6. Be obscure: Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville is supposedly a song-by-song response to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, though nobody knows exactly how; many of Pavement's song titles have nothing to do with the words (and Stephen Malkamus mumbles or screams half of them incoherently anyways), though they've gotten better about it. GBV have song titles like "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" and "Gold Star For Robot Boy," many of which are longer than the actual songs. And the lyrics: "I met a non-dairy creamer/Explictly laid out like a fruitcake" is how they start off a sex song.

So see, given all this, how could Bee Thousand miss making it near the top of all the critics polls at the end of the year? I mean, it could suck. But quite the opposite.

Which brings us to my addendum:

7. Make a great record. Which Bee Thousand is, despite the ,ahem, buzz surrounding it. Cramming 20 songs and songlets into 36 minutes, Guided By Voices consistently make more from less. They reach in, grab your attention, and get out--always a good strategy. Especially when the songs continue stick in my head like Winnie-the-Pooh in the honey pot. Which means I'll be running around singing "Speed up, slow down, go all around" or "Dee dee dee dee dee, Kicker of elves" and yes, "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Die-rectory" for the next several weeks now.

And in "I Am A Scientist" Robert Pollard's written a lyric that captures the essence of being a Big Dumb Rock Guy :

I am a lost soul
I shoot myself with rock 'n' roll
The hole I dig is bottomless
But nothing else can set me free

Sometimes critics really do have more fun.

--Jim Connelly

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This document last modified 05 July, 1995.
I was listening to Patti Smith -- Radio Ethiopia.