The overly ambitious indie auteurs share more music… and more after that!
We’ve had this discussion before. What drives artists to adopt such a prolific posture that they feel forced to give their fans and followers more music than they can possibly distill, much less digest?
To get the answer, one may want to query Guided By Voices. Over the course of their 35 year career, the group as a whole has released some 30 albums, often through multiple offerings in the same year. Add in the solo efforts and individual endeavors by principals Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Doug Gillard and any of the other two dozen or so current and former band members, and it all contributes to quite an aggressive cottage industry. Likewise, the fact that their music often tends to fall several degrees left of center makes for even more of a lopsided leapfrog in terms of tracking their trajectory.
Which brings us to GBV’s two latest entries, a pair of EPs titled Wine Cork Stonehenge and 100 Dougs. Anyone looking to make sense of this series may be thrown off by the titles alone, although there is some strategy involved when one considers these are simply sneak peaks at an upcoming album called Warp and Woof, due for release this coming April. Likewise, it’s not an unusual tack for these indie eccentrics. A more immediate album, Zeppelin Over China, scheduled for arrived in February, was previewed with a single, “You Own The Night” b/w “Your Cricket” which made its appearance last summer. Add to that a re-release of Pollard’s seminal album Waved Out, and an odds and sods double LP from another offshoot Cash Rivers And The Sinners, and it’s all a diehard devotee can do but dig between the couch cushions for the funds to keep up.
That leads to the ultimate question…how much is too much? Are twelve songs that tout an upcoming album essential? Granted, the band released only one formal effort this past year — that being Space Gun — but wouldn’t it be best to wait to release this music when the new record comes out instead of making fans pay twice for the same songs?
That said, some of the songs that grace these EPs sound like outtakes and leftover studio scraps that were never fully completed. Of the two, 100 Dougs is the better buy, given that the tracks “My Mouse,” “Skull Arrow,” “Tiny Apes,” and “The Pipers, The Vipers, The Snakes!” come across as full charged rockers with a drive and dynamic which ensures an emphatic impression. Wine Cork Stonehenge only offers a couple of tunes that boast a similarly assertive sound — “Bury the Mouse” and “Cohesive Scoops,” although closing track “It Will Never Be Simple” provides an amiable instrumental ending.
If, in fact, all 12 of these songs ultimately grace Warp and Woof, as is advertised on the GBV website, it might have been a better idea to offer free streams instead, allowing listeners to sample the songs in advance without committing their cash prematurely. It’s bad enough when bands continually reissue classic albums multiple times with additional bonus tracks on each edition and force their followers to buy the same album multiple times.
Suffice it to say, there’s no excuse for making buyers spend their money the initial time out. We can appreciate the productivity, but please avoid the impression you’re churning out the sounds simply to feed the cash cow.