18. 2021 GBV

Near the end of 2020, I had this idea to make a Robert Pollard covers album. I’d done one for Wire earlier in the year, and I thought it would be a good way to drum up inspiration. Needless to say, it got way out of hand, and I suddenly found myself trying (and succeeding) to record 64 covers of songs from Guided By Voices, Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils, and all the other projects Bob Pollard has gifted us over the last 35 years. The album cover features pieces taken from the sources (found online) of Bee Thousand, Under The Bushes Under The Stars, Mag Earwhig, Surgical Focus, and a non-album RP collage. The irony of this is that none of these releases are represented on this covers album. I also wanted to state, before I talk about the music itself, that the mere existence of this project has been a saving grace for 2021. It turns out, when you put out a massive big thing embracing DIY music, other DIY musicians flock to you. Thanks to all of you who found me through this, and anything else really.

“5 Degrees” is the best opener I could have covered for this. For one thing, my guitar playing has gotten just good enough that I can actually play Doug’s leads. That’s an empowering feeling. “Blazing Gentlemen” has two drum tracks because I had so much fun recording it that I needed something add just so I could keep working on it. I think the Circus Devils covers were consistently the most fun. Seeing as it is probably my favorite Pollard project, I guess the enthusiasm would translate. “Nully Scully” was a blast in that sense. “James Riot” was fun too. Less fun was pitching the song up a whole step and thinking I could still sing it at that point. More fun was nailing the Gillard leads. The bit at the end is from a demo that’s never been officially released…oops. I’m gonna be honest, because I didn’t write these and don’t really even remember recording those, I’m not gonna have a ton to say. “Amazed” was a deliberate attempt to imagine what the song might have sounded like in 1995 or 1996 or whenever if GBV had properly recorded it. “Backwash Television” was the song that kickstarted the project and it’s probably the closest to being a 1:1 recreation on here. If there was any song on here I’d want the original performers to here, it would be this one. “Shadow Port” was the Bandcamp preview track until…today. It’s kind of like “Backwash Television” where I managed to basically copy the original. I know that’s not a great thing when you’re covering a song, but for selfish reasons I’m just amazed I got as close as I did. “Shadow Port” changed my life, man. “Particular Damaged” just goes so hard here. God these are good covers. Being able to (sort of) nail the timing changes on “To Keep An Area” is another source of pride for me. I’m gonna use this space to make a bold claim: this covers album marks a shift in attitude from 2020 to 2021. Many of these covers are fairly messy. Amp sims on every song, poorly quantized drums banged out on a crappy MIDI kit, first-take vocals…No Victories onward showed a more disciplined approach to the process. Gun to the head, “Color Coat Drawing” might be my favorite song of all time. It’s an easy case to make. My somber take on the already low-key song caps off the first half of this monster quite nicely. It’s times like “I’ll Take The Cure” and “Photo Enforced Human Highway” that I really appreciate Todd Tobias as a sound designer. He’s really good at it. Surprised he doesn’t do movie soundtracks. Out of 64 songs, I think “Wings Of Thorn” is the only one that’s actually bad. It’s just lazy to my ears. Vocoders sound cool. That’s why I used one on “All The Good Ones Are Gone”. One of the coolest things about doing covers is adding shit that wasn’t in the original. It’s weird to suggest that, but the liner notes of that one Airport 5 single imply there was a whole other verse written for “The Wheel Hits The Path Quite Soon”, and I wanted to know what that would have sounded like, so I sang it. “Chicken Blows” was an accident. My original plan was to not cover anything from what I considered to be the most well known GBV albums (specifically, the albums from 1994 to 1999). Then I recorded this on a whim and it made it onto the album. Whoops. I don’t think I did an incredible job with “Hey Hey Spaceman” but I fucking NAILED the “Let’s go!” bit. “You’re Gonna Need A Mountain” was loads of fun but good god I do not wish to push my voice that hard ever again, nor do I really need to do such a massive covers project ever again. Still proud of it. Good shit.

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