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Do the Collapse

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Do the Collapse

Artist: Guided by Voices
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: August 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

The buzz on Do the Collapse is that it's GBV's mainstream move, an attempt to make a fairly standard rock album. There's something to that appraisal. Do the Collapse is the band's most normal sounding record, thanks largely to very competent production by the Cars' Ric Ocasek and solid drumming from ex-Breeder Jim MacPherson. But the change in the band's sound has actually been incremental and evolutionary, maturing as Guided by Voices' leader Robert Pollard aged and it became clearer that the former Ohio high school teacher was making a career of music. It's been a while since Pollard made brilliant, crazy one minute songs like he did on the great records, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Pollard has been working to try to move beyond the cheap lo-fi sound of his earlier records. GBV's 1997 CD, Mag Earwhig!, had a number of three or four minutes songs like the exhilarating I Am a Tree. And it's exaggeration to call Do the Collapse mainstream.

While he has always had a gift for a great pop hook, Pollard is too weird and idiosyncratic to ever really be mainstream. On every Guided by Voices record, there are great rock songs, moments of brilliance and some totally pointless songs such as when Pollard shows his weakness for stupid, bombastic arena rock. The quality of the record basically depends on the proportion of great rock to garbage. The proportion is good on Do the Collapse, better than on the still quite good Mag Earwhig!

Do the Collapse starts on a very high note with Teenage FBI, perhaps the best rock song of '99. Ocasek mixes the band's driving, rock guitars and fun, cheesy keyboards to create a sound  reminiscent of the Cars. The song keeps gaining momentum as the guitars build. The sound is so infectious that it's tough not to sing along as Pollard sings "someone tell me why." The lyrics have a wacky charm as Pollard asks himself why he acts like a fool when a woman is around. What that has to do with being followed by the Teenage FBI I don't know though it all makes sense in Pollard's weird world.

The big surprise on Do the Collapse is the very good ballad, Hold on Hope. Sincerity has never been Pollard's strong point but Pollard is refreshingly direct and unironic on the truly moving song as he sings of trying to overcome frustration and reach out for something better. The normally unconventional  Pollard seems surprisingly comfortable with the arrangement of piano, acoustic guitar and even strings at the end. Dragons Awake!, which also has strings, is more like past GBV ballads, conjuring up a strange world, but it creates a nice mood with a simple acoustic guitar. Then comes Surgical Focus, an excellent rocker which has a nice  open, driving sound like Mag Earwhig's very good Jane of the Waking Universe. Pollard winningly sings of giving himself up to a strong, compelling woman who says she will "get into your head and I will keep you and cleanse you." Do the Collapse works well in a number of different pop and rock styles. Pollard is still making quirky, interesting songs. Wormhole is a likeable song, a metaphor for seeking a safe, simple life, in which Pollard is an earthworm. Pollard can be maddening and compelling in the same song. In Liquid Indian, Pollard delivers some gibberish about being "a born again boot-stomping witch humper" but then seques into an irresistable psychedelic poppy chorus. Pollard shows his pop skills on Wrecking Man, which has a likeable delicate Beatlesque feel with playful strings. It has other good rockers like Things I Will Keep and Strumpet Eye. An Unmarketed Product is a short, fast fun song like on earlier GBV records. There are also fairly stupid exercises like In Stitches, where Pollard sings spacy junk over a repetitious grinding guitar, and Optical Hopscotch, which don't go anywhere.  Pollard isn't a  great singer, but he projects an interesting, distinctive persona. As he shows repeatedly on Do the Collapse, as he has in the past, Pollard has a great gift for making great pop songs in all kinds of variations. The sound and songs aren't totally different from the band's earlier work, just a little more mature and inviting to a broader audience.

Review by Will
3½ stars out of 4

This new album by GBV has to be one of the most refined recordings I've heard in a long while! Not to mention Rick Ocasek formally lead singer of (The Cars) was the producer for this avant gaurd sextet who formally displayed the worst ever productions in the last 7 years! I'm sure these poor quality recordings were completely self induced and intentional by all members of GBV. Although thier past recordings lacked good sound quality the music was good and had merit. Due to college radio airplay in 91 they were well excepted and soon to be signed to Scat Records in 92! The new album "Do the Collapse" was relased in 99 on TVT records.



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