Robert Pollard, the nucleus of Guided By Voices, has released over 100 albums since the ‘80s. Depending on what you appreciate about music, that figure may be entirely too excessive and diluting or it’s a fascinating feat of work ethic and creativity.
But what’s really amazing about Pollard’s discography—-no matter how you view his work-—is the execution. He’s managed to create one of the most prolific careers in indie rock by releasing the same, say, 20 songs in 200 different ways each. Here’s a game: Put the Guided By Voices discography on shuffle and set a timer for half an hour. Boom. You have your new, second-favorite Guided By Voices album. Psst. #1 will always be Bee Thousand.
But we’re here to talk Mirrored Aztec. It’s the first whopping, 40-minute record they’ve released since…February? As of late, GBV has honed in on two and a half minute pieces of guitar driven pop balladry. Mirrored Aztec is more of that, with some flourish. Essentially, it’s empty calories for people who grew up on R.E.M. The music doesn’t know if it’s going to be played out of arena speakers or a college dorm room.
However, the listen, as with most GBV listens, never gets boring. Pollard knows how to turn even his most formulaic tracks into something that’s able to keep your attention for 3 minutes, if not pique your music nerves. “Bunco Men” strangely sounds like Ween if Ween were ironed out and on a guitar bender. “Bunco Men” was first released on their 2000 release Suitcase, but here, it’s high fidelity, and it’s treated right.
Ribbons fly in the breakdowns of “Please Don’t Be Honest” and “Show Of Hands,” the former also containing an Is This It-style riff. Other tracks like “Lip Curlers” contain that “let go” style of indie rock that only needs your brain for moving your limbs. “Math Rock” adds a splash of experimentation, where off-kilter drumming (although not actually math rock) and a children’s choir add those nuances that really keep the tracklist distinguished. Wink.
GBV doesn’t need to stop the Earth’s orbit with every release, or really even need to yank it out of themselves. They create for the sake of creating and being creative, and, though people like me may not deem it as impressive as whatever Panda Bear is up to, it’s damn cool. Oh, and feel free to use this review as a madlib-like template for when GBV releases their next album in a few weeks.