Sunday, March 14, 2004

#44) Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (released in 1994, I bought this on CD from Arboria in 1995 - Alien Lanes was already out - after hemming and hawwing for ages, despite adoring the "I Am A Scientist" video I saw on a Bob Mould/Lou Barlow hosted episode of 120 Minutes. On a side note, Superchunk and Guided By Voices played at the Crowbar the year before, back when it was called the Tattoo. I wanted to go but didn't have any friends yet in town who were interested. Many friends who I'd eventually make were there)

A sentimental favorite, probably, but I can't agree with Robert Christgau's claim that Bee Thousand is "pop for perverts--pomo smarty-pants too prudish and/or alienated to take their pleasure without a touch of pain to remind them that they're still alive." From the day I bought it, only one song, "A Big Fan Of The Pig Pen," ever struck me as genuinely hurtful (I actually enjoy it now). The stray melodic bits, toss-off thrashers and bonafide pop songs found here mesh masterfully, a feat the group never achieved before or since. Aside from the occasional smash single, Pollard hasn't gotten over losing his original band and in-house competitor Tobin Sprout, whose sweet melodies kept Pollard from indulging his more oppressive art-rock ambitions until 1997 and ever since. While I'll admit that much of the album gets over on amateurish enthusiasm (which isn't to say there isn't a relatively strong amount of craft for its genre), the list of "actual songs" that ground the album is pretty long - "Smothered In Hugs," "Echos Myron," "The Queen Of Cans And Jars" and "I Am A Scientist" all qualify as out-of-context classics. Pink Flag meets Sgt. Peppers on a 4-track in what could be anybody's garage, Bee Thousand is the kind of inexplicable, l smash that, sadly, tends to inspire more by what it gets away with then by what it achieved (I've got hours of 4-track recordings to prove it). That Bee Thousand is still enjoyable a decade later makes the aftermath forgivable.

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