Guided By Voices: Motivational Jumpsuit [Album Review] 7 786

Guided By Voices: Motivational Jumpsuit [Album Review] 7 787

gbv-motivational-jumpsuite Guided By Voices
Motivational Jumpsuit
Guided By Voices Inc. [2014]


fire-note-headphone-approved




Fire Note Says: GBV hit a home run with their strongest “classic lineup reunion” album yet!

Album Review: When Guided By Voices re-formed in 2011, no one knew how long it would last or how any new albums would stack up with their previous work. But the band was up to the challenge—did we really think they weren’t?—and delivered four stellar albums in a little over a year. Now they’re back after nearly a year of silence with Motivational Jumpsuit, their first album of 2014. It’s not just the newest Guided By Voices album; it’s their best album since the reunion and one of the band’s best albums period.

What strikes you on the first few listens to Motivational Jumpsuit is the hooks—they’re everywhere. The band hasn’t produced an album this consistently catchy and tuneful since at least Isolation Drills, and at its best the record recalls the effortless melodies of Alien Lanes. The impeccable sequencing of that album is also evoked here, with each song perfectly placed in relation to one another. “The Littlest League Possible” swings for the fences right out of the gate, its final chord melting away into the acoustic strum of “Until Next Time,” which opens with the unforgettable line: “I’m off to work again / There goes Mario Andretti / She’s a real believer / In getting there first every time.” Before that track has time to fade out, “Writer’s Bloc (Psycho All The Time)” fades in, a relentless guitar riff propelling the song forward and lyrics playfully winking at the year-long absence—Pollard belts out, “the last recording nearly killed me!” The groovy fuzz of “Child Activist” follows, lo-fi production giving a nod to the band’s early-90s peak.

But when the first thundering chord of “Planet Score” crashes through the speakers, the magnitude of Motivational Jumpsuit becomes clear. The track’s ascending chord progression, moody melody, and muscular production recall tracks like “Tractor Rape Chain” and “Game of Pricks;” it’s not the first classic track to come out of the reunion, but it’s the first to come so close to the impact of the band’s glory days. And it’s just the first one here. “Save the Company” emerges a couple tracks later, building from a single electric guitar to a majestic tour de force, its slow but steady cadence calling to mind some of the band’s statelier moments (“Don’t Stop Now,” “The Official Ironmen Rally Song,” etc.). “Vote For Me Dummy” is another stunner, perfectly setting up the album’s final quarter with its chiming lead lines, chugging rhythm section and engaging vocal melody.

guided-by-voices
The band’s other songwriter is no slouch either; Tobin Sprout gets five tracks on Motivational Jumpsuit, and his tracks are nearly as strong as Pollard’s. There’s the jangly pop of “Record Level Love” and “Calling up Washington,” the trippy psychedelia of “Jupiter Spin,” and two of his strongest reunion-era contributions to date, the melancholy “Shine (Tomahawk Breath)” and the dynamic quiet/loud contrast of “Some Things Are Big (Some Things Are Small).” The album ends with a one-two Pollard punch: “Evangeline Dandelion,” a pretty acoustic number, ends in a burst of enthusiastic applause (a callback to the opening applause of 1992’s Propeller, no doubt) that leads into the rollicking closer “Alex and the Omegas,” a gritty rocker that should be effective on stage when the band heads back out on the road.

There are plenty of other great tracks that I failed to mention (“Difficult Outburst and Breakthrough,” “Zero Elasticity” and “Bulletin Borders” are particularly good), but what should be apparent by now is that the success of the “classic lineup reunion” was no fluke. Robert Pollard is clearly hitting yet another peak as a songwriter, and Motivational Jumpsuit proves that he and his bandmates are still capable of creating timeless records that are in a league of their own. Let’s hope that league continues to get bigger.

Key Tracks: “Planet Score,” “Save the Company,” “Vote for Me Dummy”

Artists With Similar Fire: The Who / Pavement / Bob Mould



Guided By Voices Website
Guided By Voices Facebook
Rockathon Records

-Reviewed by Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
Simon Workman

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7 Comments

  1. Although I think The Bears For Lunch was better, Motivational Jumpsuit is just awesome. “Planet Score” is the best Pollard track since “The Best Of Jill Hives.” And the Sprout songs are all perfect. Great album. Now I’m really excited for Cool Planet to be released in May.

  2. The Bears for Lunch was probably my favorite of the last four (although Class Clown Spots a UFO is close), but Motivational Jumpsuit feels just as cohesive and has more of those big power pop hooks. They’re all great though, and I’m also looking forward to Cool Planet and anything else Bob wants to release this year!

  3. I just listened to MJ again and it gets better and better with each spin. “Until Next Time” really got me this time around. And “Vote For Me Dummy.” And “Zero Elasticity.” I’m sticking with this order for the post-reunion albums:

    1) The Bears For Lunch
    2) Motivational Jumpsuit
    3) Let’s Go Eat The Factory
    4) Class Clown Spots A UFO
    5) English Little League

  4. The Fact that GBV is still making rock and it still sounds great is amazing in general.I liked Bears For Lunch,but in my own opinion i really think Motivational Jumpsuit is a very solid GBV album.I like that they have switched up the vocals on some of the songs.Maybe that was part of the deal to come back with the original line up?Who knows?Just glad they are still crankin out the rock and still doin’ it well!

  5. All the above are great comments but we can all agree these albums are the epitome of rock craftsmanship. Also, an accurate and enthusiastic review. What Bob and the boys have been doing for years…making songs that stick with you all day…they’re still at it. In this sad and sometimes depressing world, GBV and Pollard and Sprout songs are a beacon of hope and joy in the dark, even when the songs themselves might be sad. GBV should be HUGE, but I love it they don’t care and live for the song and the sound.

  6. This album is a gem. I have liked the pervious efforts of the “Reunited” GBV but this one just a little more umph too it. I think Bob shows a little more attitude on his songs that may lack on the recent ones( not to say I didn’t like them)

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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 466

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
Simon Workman

Latest posts by Simon Workman (see all)

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 858

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
Simon Workman

Latest posts by Simon Workman (see all)

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