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4 July 2016

Guided by Voices - 'Sunfish Holy Breakfast' (Matador)

Even big record companies like Matador make mistakes sometimes. I'm referring to the label which incorrectly lists this as a 33 1/3 rpm release, which gets me every time, so trusting am I of printed materials. But that's the only mistake they made - this EP, really pulled together from odds and ends, has somehow snuck into my personal canon of GbV's greatest works. Maybe it's just a case of right-place/right-time; at this point, Pollard and company could really do no wrong. Two of these songs were previously released ('Stabbing a Star' & 'If We Wait') and both are great, but the latter is transcendent, and also among the most literally written of any Pollard song ever, lyrically. It's another inspirational tune, akin to 'Watch Me Jumpstart', except the collective pronoun 'we' turns this into a group exercise, and the musical progression follows the lyrics. A drunken friend once unlocked it; the first verse is drenched in self-doubt, the drums come in and rouse the narrator towards action, but then doubt returns and he falls back on his knees until ultimately deciding to rush out the door and seize the world. It's also funny that for as much as Pollard has enriched my life with his cryptic turns of phrase, here, where he lays it down honestly and directly, it's even more powerful. What else makes Sunfish Holy Breakfast great? It actually opens with a Sprout tune, and a wonderful one in 'Jabberstroker'. The two sound quite unified in 'Canteen Plums' and 'A Contest Featuring Human Beings'; it's a union that was never quite as solid as during this moment. Most of the songs on this record are build around thick, chugga chugga guitar chords, though it's a testament to the lightness of melody on 'Beekeeper Seeks Ruth' that the mix doesn't get bogged down despite it's limited frequence range and dominance of the bedroom six-string overtones. When you throw in a few ascending 'The FLYing party is HERE!' it can really lift a track up. The thick guitars are full-on during 'Cocksoldiers and Their Postwar Stubble', and no amount of Kim Deal production can save this from its title, one of the most masculine monikers ever composed -- but that's actually beneficial, a faux-meatheadedness. The slow, four-chord progression takes us through a relatively slow melody, and it finds its way into the cortex like the rest of 'em. It still makes me jump around my room and do air-drums along with the rolls (and the vacuum cleaner sound that's on Alien Lanes is also here - maybe it's a bong hit?). Closer 'Heavy Metal Country' is also done in a big studio, but instead of getting the big 'rock' treatment, it sounds like something from the 4AD label circa the late 80s. All the male rock here stuff, it's really just a pisstake, as is the sleeve art -- I think -- which a casual observer may get confused with that one No Neck Blues Band album. A shoutout as well to Jim Greer, who wrote 'Trendspotter Acrobat', which slots in perfectly among the rest. Maybe it's time to check out those DTCV albums.

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