Guided By Voices' new album Let's Go Eat the Factory is a noisy, fuzzy, melodic, fairly short, occasionally frustrating mess—so basically, if you're a GBV fan, you'll love it. Singer-songwriter Robert Pollard and crew made their mark in the '90s with a doggedly lo-fi sound and Pollard's flair for dashing off surreal tunes that could often clock in under two minutes. The band brought its share of both delightfully bizarre "What the fuck?" moments and flashes of transcendent genius, striking a perfect balance between the two on records like 1994's Bee Thousand and 1995's Alien Lanes. Factory follows in that grand tradition, as GBV returns from its short-lived 2004 breakup. With few tracks cracking the three-minute mark, you feel like you're perusing a series of experiments in mad scientist Pollard's wild laboratory of surreal, lo-fi pop. Even the singles (the catchy, melodic "Doughnut for a Snowman" and "The Unsinkable Fats Domino") and the single-worthy ("Chocolate Boy") are gone almost before you've noticed they were there. Among the less easily-digested highlights, there's a brilliant triptych in the album's first half: "Spiderfighter"'s dense opening section gives way to a beautiful piano outro, "Hang Mr. Kite" mixes an anxious string part with equally ominous lyrics, and then "God Loves Us" breaks through with its jubilant verse/chorus/refrain "We are living proof that God loves us." And then there are those "What the fuck?" moments we mentioned. "The Big Hat and Toy Show" sounds like a soundcheck goof-off, and it's hard to tell if Pollard or the guitar is drunker in the 34-second "Go Rolling Home." But by now, we wouldn't expect anything less from a good GBV album. It's reassuring that, despite being firmly settled into middle age, Pollard and company are still just as weird, wild, and enjoyable.
Worth a Listen: "The Unsinkable Fats Domino"