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1 May 2016

Guided By Vocies - 'Bee Thousand (The Director's Cut)' (Scat)

As mentioned a few posts ago, I no longer have my original copy of Bee Thousand, as it was loaned to someone years ago and never returned. It's OK, I suppose; I've committed every second of it to memory over the past 20 years anyway, and while I'll happily replace it when I come across it cheap-ish, for now I survive. Bee Thousand (The Director's Cut) actually contains every song anyway - the first two LPs recreate an earlier, longer version as assembled in 1993, and the final platter contains the seven songs from the official Bee Thousand that weren't on the 1993 version (which includes some of the most definitive tracks of the album: 'Buzzards and Dreadful Crows', 'Hardcore UFOs', 'I Am A Scientist', and 'Gold Star for Robot Boy') as well as The Grand Hour and and I Am A Scientist 7"s. But sequencing is everything, as one listen to any side of The Director's Cut will indicate. So much of the genius of Bee Thousand is how it fits together as a complete whole, without any filler and with the transitions carefully chosen. 'Echoes Myron' without 'Yours to Keep' preceeding it (and that awkward tape splice) just isn't right! And opening the whole thing with 'Demons Are Real' is a bold choice, but the first chords of 'Hardcore UFOs' are the most iconic opening in indie rock history (except, perhaps, for 'A Salty Salute' on Alien Lanes) so it's hard for me to really think of this as Bee Thousand without it. And yeah, not every song here is great - the would-have-been third side gets pretty spotty, so it makes sense that 'I'll Buy You a Bird' and  'Zoning the Planet' were dropped later, when the album we know and love took its final form. And I don't know that the world needs the falsetto-filler of 'Rainbow Billy' for any reason except the historic record. But still, at this point, Pollard and Sprout were just hit machines, churning out such an incredible body of work that fan-assembled outtakes collections are still being assembled to this day. The liner notes, written here by Robert Griffin of Scat, are really nicely done, telling the story of his relationship to the band, and how this album took form over so many iterations. The other running orders are reproduced with Pollard's lyric sheet for the third one, and his cassette track listings for the others; it turns out it's Griffin himself who put together the iconic sequencing, and that the album was actually assembled on an early version of ProTools (not bad for 1994!). So all of this is rather disjointed - Christ, it's a cluttered mess - but it's a glorious one. Some of the songs turned up much later - 'Why Did You Land?' was sped-up and re-recorded as a b-side to 'The Official Ironmen Rally Song'; 'Stabbing a Star' came out on a 7", and bits of 'Bite' and '2nd Moves to Twin' turned up elsewhere on Bee Thousand itself. And even shaken up and put in a blender, there's so much here to love and enjoy, and so much meaning and associations to draw, maybe even amplified by its new juxtapositions. 'Smothered in Hugs' retains it's magic nostalgia; 'Hot Freaks' and 'Her Psychology Today' their rampant sexuality. 'Myron' feels like it ties together many threads, and 'Deathtrot and Warlock Riding a Rooster' has some beauteous self-harmonising. And this is before even getting to this final LP, which contains a few of the greatest GbV tracks (two versions of 'Shocker in Gloomtown', a song so great the Breeders covered it; and an Andy Shernoff-produced version of 'My Valuable Hunting Knife' which never ended up anywhere else, somehow). So even though I still wonder why Pollard originally wanted to end the album with 'Crocker's Favourite Song' instead of 'You're Not An Airplane'. Yes, listen to the original first, but thank God for Griffin's efforts in releasing this, both musically and writerly - this is an important bit of history, at least to people like me.

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