Release Date: Nov 13, 2012
Record label: GBV Inc.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When Peyton Manning returned to the NFL this year after missing last year due to injury, we saw flashes of greatness in those first couple games. There were bumps -- those three picks against Atlanta, for example -- but we watched him recapturing his greatness, getting back into the flow. It's not that he was bad, or even really rusty, early on. He just wasn't at 100%, and well, now we've seen him get back to the business of being a Hall of Fame quarterback.
If Malcolm Gladwell happens to need more case subjects to test his “10,000-Hour Rule,” Guided by Voices get the indie-rock vote hands-down. All of us (including frontman Robert Pollard) have lost count of how many records the Dayton legends have released. But Bears is their third this year alone, a fact that is stunning in its own right. And for a band that was never expected to return as recently as a few years ago, that’s Woody Allen–level good.
Even when Robert Pollard was exploring new extremes in amateur home-recording, hyper-prolific songwriting, and Budweiser consumption in the 1990s, he was always picky about which of the thousands of songs he wrote was officially issued under the Guided by Voices name. From their 1986 formation through to the b(r)and's dissolution in 2004, Guided by Voices proper released an average of one full-length album per year. That's a brisk clip for most acts, but a relative coffee drip when you consider the song overflow Pollard continues to divert to his exponentially increasing array of solo and side projects.
The Bears for Lunch rounds out a ridiculously busy year in the history of Ohio lo-fi pioneers Guided by Voices as their third full-length album released in 2012. Back with a vengeance from an eight-year hiatus, the GbV brand is recalibrated for this trio of new albums with the classic 1993-1996 lineup of the band that produced its most adored records like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand. The drive to create is audible, with all three of these collections (as well as two solo albums released in 2012 by GbV frontman Robert Pollard) stuffed with frantic amounts of song ideas, from off-the-cuff free-associative ranting to fully formed jangling power pop.
The word 'institution' gets thrown around, but July 2012 in Dayton, Ohio was official Guided by Voices month. Thanks to The IT Crowd, GbV are now emblematic of geeky obscurity to the extent that my (retired) father has heard of them, and I’ve had to explain that 'they’re basically like The Who, with offcuts from The White Album mixed in. ' Of course, there’s no danger of GbV selling out (to whom?) nor of becoming obsolete, but without a distinct concept you have to wonder what’s going to make their zillionth album special.
In 1999, Guided by Voices switched gears in an effort to engage a brave new world entering a brand new century. Bandleader Robert Pollard brought in Cars frontman and power-pop producer-extraordinaire Ric Ocasek to assist in his vision. Do the Collapse was born out of said vision; and it certainly sounded different. Was it pressure, whether self-imposed or label-enforced, that brought forth the overproduction? It was the band’s first album with TVT Records after leaving indie-darling Matador in its lo-fi dust.
Tucked away in the liner notes, near the songwriting credits and stashed behind the copyright symbol, is the name of a band's publishing company, part of the necessary infrastructure for the collection of licensing fees that then, as royalty payments, keep bands in shoes. For Bob Pollard, that company is the appropriately named Needmore Songs. In 2012, the legendarily prolific songwriter pushed the Needmore roster passed the 1,500 mark as he released not one but three full length albums under the Guided By Voices banner: January's Let's Go Eat The Factory, June's Class Clown Spots A UFO, and now November's The Bears For Lunch.
With the delivery of two new albums and a slew of tie-in singles so far this year, the reunification of the classic Guided By Voices line-up has already proved itself as far more than just a cash-grab from sentimental indie-rock fans of a certain vintage. Thus, with reunion record number three the modest objective is just to keep up the momentum without any majorly embarrassing slip-ups. Reassuringly, The Bears For Lunch fulfils such an aim as well as offering a more distinctive character.