2:49 PM CST, January 4, 2012
3 stars (out of 4)
When Robert Pollard dissolved his longtime Dayton, Ohio, band Guided By Voices in 2004, he remained prolific, churning out multiple albums annually under a variety of guises. For his diehard fans, there’s been no shortage of Pollard music, which is why this GBV reunion is in many ways business as usual.
“Let’s Go Eat the Factory” (Guided by Voices Inc.) is another relatively brief album (41 minutes) stuffed with 21 songs and fragments full of Pollard trademarks: concision, sometimes taken to absurd extremes; arty experiments juxtaposed with shout-along choruses; bedroom production; cut-up lyrics; an air of tossed-off spontaneity that suggests both joy-of-discovery enthusiasm and serious attention-deficit issues.
This latest edition to Pollard’s epic discography carries a bit more weight than usual, however, because it reunites him with one of Guided by Voices’ most notable lineups, the one that created such indelible mid-‘90s albums as “Bee Thousand” and “Alien Lanes.” Though the presence of guitarist Mitch Mitchell, bassist Greg Demos and drummer Kevin Fennell is surely welcome by GBV diehards, the real attraction is the additional songwriting power provided by guitarist Tobin Sprout.
By now Guided by Voices fans know the drill: Each album is going to be packed with a huge range of music, from seconds-long false starts to more fully developed melodies that draw on everything from progressive-rock and orchestral pop to punk and glam. This time the hits outweigh the misses. The occasional annoyances ("The Big Hat and Toy Show," “The Things That Never Need”) are sandwiched among more than a dozen keepers, including an oddly sweet ode to childhood (“Doughnut for a Snowman”); the autumnal chamber pop of “Hang Mr. Kite” and “Chocolate Boy”; the all-enveloping psychedelic “Waves”; and a would-be arena anthem that sets the bar for the young year’s best song title, “The Unsinkable Fats Domino.”