Guided By Voices

Robert Pollard, the middle-aged, Midwestern, mike-swinging, karate-kicking, beer-swilling lead singer and songwriter of Guided By Voices, is something like the Henry Aaron of modern rock. See, each GBV release is akin to a ball game in which Pollard is the only batter. And miraculously, this fortysomething ex-schoolteacher from Dayton, Ohio, manages to get on base with almost every song. But the even more amazing part is that on all the GBV discs (and with side-projects, etc. -- there have been dozens since 1987), Pollard manages to knock at least two or three straight out of the park. These are songs that Paul McCartney or Ray Davies or Syd Barrett would kill for, rough-hewn pop tunes with odd titles like "My Valuable Hunting Knife" and "Everywhere with Helicopter," catchy miniatures so uncannily brilliant and eerily familiar that they might have been moldering unheard inside a shoebox somewhere since the late 1960s. Of course, the downside is that few outside of GBV's elite throng of cult-indoctrinated minions are willing to slog through the musical equivalent of a seventh-inning stretch on album after album, year after year, no matter how great the promised reward. Well, Matador Records has just solved that problem for all of us with the release of Human Amusements at Hourly Rates: The Best of Guided By Voices, which serves up 32 certified grand slams lovingly chosen and sequenced by Mr. Pollard himself, from all phases of his band's ludicrously prolific career. This collection stands as a true, accessible masterpiece from one of the few rock geniuses currently drawing breath, and it lists at only $11.98. Beat that!

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Scott Faingold