Guided By Voices at Metro | Photos and review
Guided by Voices chose the Kinks’ “Picture Book” for their walk-on music: a short, mostly overlooked, yet perfect pop song by one of rock's most underrated groups. Remind you of anyone you know? The band proceeded to play for at least ninety minutes, which meant something like forty little masterpieces for our hearing pleasure—and, of course, plenty of rock n’ roll histrionics.
First, the party: A case of Miller Lite, a handle of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Crown Royal were all shared with an already buzzing audience. A drunk girl repeatedly kissed me and about five other people as she floated about the front row. Mitchell and Pollard chain smoked, an action that, while telling and possibly reprehensible in most social settings, still looks undeniably badass onstage. “This guy’s had a cigarette in his mouth since the day he was born,” said a friend of mine regarding Mitchell.
"This is the first place that did the GBV chant,” said Pollard, summoning another chorus of “G B V!” from the crowd. I doubt he was lying, but regardless, Chicago is certainly the type of city to take pride in such a claim. We take our rock n’ roll (and our drinking) very seriously here. And so does Pollard. "Rock n roll, bitch!" he barked after lighting a cigarette. Pollard is that rare bird, not hindered but enhanced by his own cockiness. The arrogant alcoholic—no, let's call him a drunk—remains more "fun uncle" than "obnoxious liability." Few, if any, can do that anymore. “Hey!” he said later. “Still making a living off that rock n’ roll, yo!” On paper, it comes across as a bit desperate, like he’s pleading for our acknowledgement, but this is a man who doesn’t need our approval. He’s bragging because it’s fun. The band's set leaned heavily on newer material, and while that served to separate the die-hards from more casual fans, no one seemed upset or alienated by less-familiar tunes. With guitars like these, everything sounds like a classic. And, according to Pollard: “You have to have new songs, cause if ya don't, ya die!” He grinned after saying that, took another drag, and seemed to marinate on that crack more than most of his witty arsenal.
It's tempting to sum up a GBV set in one great image: a quip or a high kick from Pollard, a bottle of Cuervo, Mitchell's chainsmoking. But those images, however awesomely rock n' roll, only serve to bring life to weird, beautiful songs that almost sound lost to time on record. These songs, at surface value, are flukes: ninety-second throwaways with vague imagery and barely recognizable hooks. But given enough listens, nearly every GBV song has some classic quality, a charm and a character that blooms in your mind like a snapshot from childhood. There's a reason we remain so enthralled by Pollard and his crew, loving them more with age, unlike gross arena stalwarts like Jagger and Richards: These guys still write good songs.