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Either way, Alien Lanes finds Guided by Voices in the frustrating position of a new-aesthetic Moses: they can lead us to the low-fi promised land but can't enter with us. In other words, the band is like mass-marketed "homemade" cookies: a well-intentioned contradiction that has outgrown its usefulness.

But for everyone who still loves the music, maybe there's a third possibility. Maybe the home-style tape recorder is neither utility nor gimmick, but rather an irreplaceable piece of the band -- even more so than any instrument or musician. That makes Alien Lanes simply a better distributed chapter in the band's recasting of classic psychedelic rock as sloppy post-punk; another collage with dozens of irresistibly cryptic song snippets shifting speeds and colors but not stopping (except for a disturbing homosexual slur halfway through) until the last Beatlesque "all right" 28 songs on.

-- Roni Sarig

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