Guided By Voices: How Do You Spell Heaven [Album Review] 1 453

Guided By Voices: How Do You Spell Heaven [Album Review] 1 454

Guided By Voices
How Do You Spell Heaven
GBV, Inc. [2017]


Fire Note Says: The revamped Guided By Voices continue their hot streak with an instant classic.

Album Review: You can be forgiven for missing some of Robert Pollard’s output – the discography is indeed deep and daunting. That said, let me put this right out front: there are no excuses for skipping this one. Technically, this is the twenty-fourth GbV album (not including compilations like King Shit And The Golden Boys, the fan club release Tonics And Twisted Chasers or box sets, “best of’s” and live albums.) There’s a lot to sift through. As has been much-publicized, this is Pollard’s 101st album overall. You would think he’s said everything he needs to say by this point in his long and storied career but the hits keep coming! And if you’re a regular reader of The Fire Note you, no doubt, have a good percentage of those 101 records. You would also know that this version of the band includes Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr on guitars, Mark Shue on bass and Kevin March behind the kit. It’s a dream line-up and they live up to that characterization by delivering the most straight-forward GbV record since Sandbox. It is also one of their best.

If you stare at any Guided By Voices album long enough the secrets of the universe reveal themselves. This is a known fact. What is also true is that Pollard likes to begin his records with a barn burner and How Do You Spell Heaven is no different. “The Birthday Democrats” ranks right up there with “A Salty Salute” or “Teenage FBI” as perfect opening tracks. A basic, two note riff announces that this outing is a rock and roll record – pure and simple. Pollard’s voice remains in fine shape as he hits the higher notes without the pitchiness which has crept in on some of his recent work. The band sounds engaged and very energetic. That was easy to manifest on GbV’s last album, August By Cake, as all five members contributed songs and lead vocals. Not so this time. All the tracks here, minus Gillard’s “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine,” were penned by Pollard giving Heaven a more unified feel. There are rockers aplenty: “Paper Cutz” and “Diver Dan” immediately spring to mind. But what really separates this album from all of GbV’s post-reunion records is the absence of throwaway tracks. There is no filler, no song sketches – just 15 really cool tunes. Like all things Pollard, there are little surprises thrown into the blender. Clocking in at four minutes (by far the longest track) “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine” is an instrumental T-Rex kind of jam. The classic rock bug is never far from the surface on this album and that song drives home the point with elegance. There’s nothing quite like it among the 17 million songs Pollard has written. Being Guided By Voices, there’s so much more to discover though. From the jangly power pop of “Nothing Gets You Real” to the lounge-jazz of “King 007” Pollard and his cohorts have distilled everything that made August By Cake such a thrill ride into a single, easily digestible disc.

It is, of course, getting harder to distinguish between Pollard and his solo albums and side projects. To whit: last year’s Please Be Honest was Pollard singing and playing all the instruments himself. But that was before this variant of the band came into being. In the ever-changing world of Guided By Voices, it is entirely possible that this rendition won’t last long. And that would be a pity. Gillard has always been a terrific foil to Uncle Bob – rivaled only by Tobin Sprout in importance and gravitas. His guitar hero chops have always aligned beautifully with Pollard’s vision of marrying Cheap Trick style Midwest American rock to The Who’s British Invasion bombast. There’s just no telling where GbV’s heading next. The decision to revive the name plate in 2012 seemed odd at the time. But after nine (good to great) albums in five years, perhaps he knew full well that his muse shines brightest with those three magical words on the album cover – beckoning the curious and the converted alike. Guided. By. Voices. Just don’t gaze too long at the magical orb. The secrets of the universe can really weigh you down if you’re not careful. And lighten your wallet at the same time!

Key Tracks: “The Birthday Democrats” / “Diver Dan” / “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine”

Artists With Similar Fire: Cheap Trick / The Who / The Replacements

Guided By Voices Website
Guided By Voices Facebook
Rockathon Records

– Reviewed by Scot Lade

Scot Lade

Scot Lade

Scot is a classically trained guitar player who has played in such legendary Florida bands as Disorderly Conduct, Foul Existense (sic) and, most recently, wedgepiece. He currently resides in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Scot Lade
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Hovvdy: Cranberry [Album Review] 0 482

Double Double Whammy Records [2018]


Who: Based in Austin, Texas, Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. The duo, both primarily drummers, first met in the fall of 2014 and quickly bonded over a love for quiet music. Cranberry is their sophomore record.

Sound: If you are into current soft intricate warm jangly rock like Ultimate Painting, Pinegrove, (Sandy) Alex G or past favorites such as Low and Yo La Tengo then Hovvdy should be a great new listen for you to check out.

TFN Final Take: Pacing is everything and on Hovvdy’s sophomore record, Cranberry, the Austin duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor take you on a soft ride through 12 new tracks over 33 minutes. These disguised pop tunes have a way to get in your head with every well-placed strum of guitar, every stroke of the keys and every soft hit of the skins. This gentle wave is Hovvdy’s success because the record never tires even though the group maintains a very similar mood and execution through the entire album. What I really liked about Cranberry is the subtle bit of haze that Hovvdy places over their layered vocals. They are a little bit lo-fi and a little bit bedroom pop that consistently pulls a catchy tune together. Hovvdy is a band to just put on, relax and let Cranberry take you to another place.

Hovvdy Website
Hovvdy Facebook
Double Double Whammy Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Scot Lade

Scot Lade

Scot is a classically trained guitar player who has played in such legendary Florida bands as Disorderly Conduct, Foul Existense (sic) and, most recently, wedgepiece. He currently resides in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Scot Lade

Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 498

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

Scot Lade

Scot Lade

Scot is a classically trained guitar player who has played in such legendary Florida bands as Disorderly Conduct, Foul Existense (sic) and, most recently, wedgepiece. He currently resides in Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Scot Lade

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