What ho! Part 2 awaits!
“They’re Not Witches” - Alien Lanes
This is another one of the short, simple tunes that really makes Alien Lanes work for me. Additionally, at first listen the lyrics are weird and silly, but lines such as “Red ants and mercy giants, the angels of the fall” have come to make sense to me in a way that, unfortunately for you idiots reading this, can not be expressed in words.
“Cut-Out Witch” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
This track (perhaps for it’s slow ramp up at the beginning?) reminds me of Sonic Youth. Ultimately, what has kept it one of my favorite tracks on this record is the bizarre relationship between the singer and his subject that is implied. “Do you suppose she could save my life?”
“Striped White Jets” - Alien Lanes
This is the first song I ever saw Guided by Voices play live. It made no sense and also made perfect sense. This is a great song to sing out loud in the car. I have no idea what the song means, but, you know, Robert Pollard loves planes.
“Tricyclic Looper” - King Shit and the Golden Boys
This song is a stupid, fun song from the early years. It’s also about early anti-depressants which is always fun. “Come on loop!”
“Closer You Are” - Alien Lanes
This song is bar none, my favorite song to sing aloud to in my car. It is definitely the most shouty song on Alien Lanes. It’s also SUPER FUN to air drum to! The words are just so much fun to say! “Try to be nice, and look what it gets ya!”
“Hot Freaks” - Bee Thousand
This song is one of the early hooks that turned this band into my favorite band. This would not feel entirely out of place on a Velvet Underground record. The words may not be explicitly sexual, but they are weird, and fun, and the guitar part underlining the whole thing is incredibly hypnotic. Plus, who doesn’t like to think about meeting a non-dairy creamer?
“No Sky” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
Heh, 69. Anyway, this song is, I think, a great example of being both personal enough and vague enough to draw any listener in. For me, it captures post-break-up loneliness in a way that is exactly depressing as it should be.
“Particular Damaged” - Propeller
The guitar work on this track fills me with tension. It is a very suspenseful sound. And the highly distorted vocals add to the track’s suspense. It sounds like the whole thing is coming to you through a tin can, but in the best way possible!
“Shocker in Gloomtown” - Grand Hour
This is probably the first song on here that I would say definitively sounds like Guided by Voices. There’s that Beatlesesque harmonic quality with that punk rock frenzy. It also happens to be about a band, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a really fun and quick pop song which is GbV’s stock and trade.
“Take to the Sky” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be the last track of UtBUtS or the second to last track. I like it more as the last track because it is upbeat and weird and acoustic. The lyrics seem to shift from surrealist nonsense to legitimate comments about a college campus, and the simple, driving acoustic chords propel it forward, lightly.
“Indian Was an Angel” - King Shit and the Golden Boys
Here’s another one I know next to nothing about. I love it though. It really leaves you with only the bare essentials of what makes a great GbV song. Vocal harmonies and a simple, propelling guitar part.
“Matter Eater Lad” - Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer
This is a deep cut, guys. Like, super deep. But they’ve been playing it live a bunch recently. It really is the best of both worlds, too. Its verses contain the harsh, punkish chords that feel very Mitch Mitchelly, but its chorus is so fun and bouncy! Also, this year’s Let’s Go Eat the Factory seems to be, at least in part, a reference to this song.
“Deathtrot and Warlock Riding a Rooster” - King Shit and the Golden Boys
This one is ALL vocal harmonies. The lyrics are stupid. The only instrument is a piano. So fuck it, listen to it for the vocal harmonies and see GbV doing what they do best, yo!
“Buzzards and Dreadful Crows” - Bee Thousand
It seems to be a fairly straightforward rock song, but the lyrics are super fun, and melodically, it is so much fun! It feels so much like a 60s pop tune! “There’s something in this deal for everyone!”
“Metal Mothers” - Propeller
For the longest time, this song would get lost to me. It falls in between a few of my favorite GbV songs. But it belongs on the forefront. It builds and releases perfectly. This is one of the rare GbV tracks that allows the guitar work to truly shine (in so far as its climax is a guitar solo.)
“Acorns and Orioles” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
This track belongs here mostly for its brilliant chorus and simple acoustic composition. “I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.”
“Awful Bliss” - Bee Thousand
This is probably the track on Bee Thousand that took me the longest to come around on. It is by Tobin, and it is GORGEOUS. I think the opening lyric is so evocative and brilliant, “You chose a giant step that caught your eye.”
“As We Go Up, We Go Down” - Alien Lanes
Mid tempo, but upbeat, this one is a bit of a trickster. The lyrics are pretty dark. “I can’t socialize, I’ll be institutionalized.” It’s a fun, fun track to listen to, but nothing about it is more fun than shouting along to the lyric, “I speak in monotone, leave my fucking life alone!”
“Yours to Keep” - Bee Thousand
This one feels so private to Robert Pollard, that it’s hard to write about. I will, thusly, totally cop from the 33 and a third entry on Bee Thousand and mention how incredible the idea of the “sweet flesh prize” being a “necklace of fifty eyes” is.
“Teenage FBI” - Do the Collapse
By Robert Pollard’s own admission, this song is lifted from stupid shit his fourth grade class said when he was still a teacher, but his vocal delivery, and the song’s almost Green Day-esque pop sensibilities really allow the listener to put some fun high school bullshit on this one.
“Pimple Zoo” - Alien Lanes
I’m not even going to say anything about this, just quote the lyrics. “Sometimes I get the feeling that you don’t want me around.”
“Atom Eyes” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
This is another “mentos” thing. But the other weird thing I can’t shake about this song in particular is that I’ve always imagined it as an answer to “Underwater Explosion.” Is that weird? Whatever. Oh, and it’s a Tobin song.
“Man Called Aerodynamics” - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
There are songs higher up on this list that have opened GbV albums, HOWEVER, this is my favorite album opener of all time. Those opening guitar chords set the tone for this entire album. Plus, the song acts as somewhat of a meta-commentary on the types of songs that Robert Pollard was writing at the time.
“We’ve Got Airplanes” - King Shit and the Golden Boys
I’m not sure when this song was recorded, but it was pretty early in the band’s existance (no later than 1988 probably) and therefore, is the most GbV sounding thing the band recorded in the 80s. Basically, it is way more Beatles than REM. There was still exploring to do, but this track really lays down the groundwork for an ideal GbV song.
“Gelatin, Ice Cream, Plum” - Static Airplane Jive
This is an extremely “punky” Guided by Voices song. IT’s loud, the guitars are crunchy, and Robert Pollard’s voice gets lost. But it is fun as hell to try and guess the lyrics, and shout along to this song when you drive really fast on highways.