Is it better to be a long-running band making pretty good music, or is it preferable to craft several classic albums and burn out into the night? Oddly enough, Guided By Voices has managed to do both. They have obvious classics (Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes), and they've managed to produce at least one good song every year they've existed. This is why for their adoring and long-loving fanbase, it's easy to call oneself an "eternal GBV fan," as Jay Carney, Amazon's PR flack and former Obama press secretary, does; Beto O'Rourke is obviously a fan as well.
Earth Man Blues sees the band trying their hand at a grand, pop journey whilst retaining their homemade edge. The result unfortunately doesn't really do justice to either of these ambitions. The charming and scruffy production style of their earlier records has ironed out over the years into something far more ploddish and clean. Granted, this is likely a product of the changes in recording technology, but the fact remains that Pollard's loose, jammed out guitar style and lackadaisical vocals are shown up to be very rough-and-ready when there's no clouds of fuzz to hide behind, especially on "Dirty Kids School" and "How Can a Plumb Be Perfected", where Pollard is barely hitting the notes vocally.