Release Date: Apr 7, 2017
Record label: Guided by Voices
August By Cake is Robert Pollard's 100th album, and a double album to boot. Not only that but a great double album. It's amazing how Pollard still manages to mine new ground in the classic rock and pop vein, here big on the '70s, without simply rehashing old material. But it's not just Bob this time, there are contributions from all the rest of the band too.
To state the obvious: Guided by Voices is a band defined by the lyrical and musical voice of Robert Pollard. Since they formed in the mid-'80s, Pollard has been GbV's leader, and these days, as the frontman and only consistent member of the group, his status as their absolute ruler is uncontested. Which is one of the reasons 2017's August by Cake is a pleasant surprise.
For better or worse, Guided by Voices leader Robert Pollard has always staunchly resisted the quality-over-quantity rule. In addition to the band's proper albums, GBV has now issued five rarities box sets, each containing 100 tracks or more. So even fans will likely shrug knowing that August by Cake, GBV's 24th studio album, is a 32-track double-album.
It took a few attempts at doing the math to get to the same number that Robert Pollard has, in declaring August By Cake to be his 100th LP. It took some work, figuring out which EPs were long enough for him to consider them LPs, which box sets counted. I did get to 100, but I'm still not sure I got there the right way. What does it matter? At this point, I doubt anyone needs to be reminded that Pollard is capable of releasing a sometimes jaw-dropping amount of music in any given year.
With August By Cake, Robert Pollard, the guiding voice behind Guided By Voices, has now released 100 albums. Besides that incredible fuck-ton figure, it takes a lot for a man to release that many albums and still have people paying attention. But as prolific as Pollard is, his last few records have either totally missed the mark or been average at best, lacking much of the flavour that made his past efforts so engrossing.
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Robert Pollard was one of indie rock's slyest songwriters. As the leader of Dayton, OH's Guided By Voices, he cranked out warped, classic-rock indebted songs at an unmatched pace. Pollard could make a mean hook out of a nonsense phrase, but he was just as likely to sabotage a sentimental moment with odd studio effects or an abrupt ending.
Echoing the “GBV! GBV!” chant that opened Propeller, Pollard’s last installment beings with the resounding announcement of the title. It’s not Bob’s first double record, but it is the first double record for Guided by Voices, and that means something because, in this universe of fandom, everything means something. I say that with zero sarcasm because I am one of the ranks.