Seen but not heard: on not listening to the Chvrches and guided by the voices

Guided by Voices / Photo: Terri Nelles

I have pointed out many times, and as recently as May in these pages, that one of the oldest clichés in music criticism is that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. music at all. Such clichés of musical authors are so indelible spray-painted on the flying buttresses of Gothic dance halls in Uptown and stuck on the bathroom mirrors of Pilsen’s punk revival clubs, that they could lead to an explosion. small team of masked and vaxxed employees spraying antiseptics. beyond distraction. But I go, performing the three-girl rumba again marrying the brilliance of Brutalist bricks.

No, the real focus of my front stage is to share that I’m excited about the latest offerings from Scottish trio Chvrches and the pride of Dayton, Ohio, “Uncle Bob” Robert Pollard’s Guided By Voices. But I have deliberately avoided, to the best of my ability at least, listening to any of their new albums.

Before I continue I must clarify, assuming their concerts go as planned, given the uncertainties of the pandemic, the Delta variant, and whatever other horror shows October brings, I highly recommend seeing both. Chvrches on November 19 at the Uptown Aragon echo chamber (allegedly if you stand in the middle of the floor and have the right sound engineer, the sound isn’t that bad) and Guided By Voices on November 12 at Thalia Hall in Pilsen, a more reasonable sized venue for a more reasonable sized audience who have the patience to browse the band’s recorded release. Chvrches celebrated ten years as a band with four albums released, while GBV formed in 1983 and released thirty-four albums, not to mention the too-many-to-count-except-you-are. – obsessed (and many are) side projects and solo albums.

Rather than listening to “Screen Violence” that Chvrches released in September, or the new GBV record released last month, I chose to take this opportunity to further advance the technique of title review, in which I ‘asserts that just as there is an artistic relationship between the title of a piece of poetry or fiction, a painting, sculpture or photograph and the work itself, there is also a poetic relationship between the music of ‘an artist who records and what he chooses to call that recorded music.

From the title of the album “Screen Violence” I can extrapolate that while it may not be a “record concept”, Chvrches’ position as an electronic gothic trio whose singer mainstream, Lauren Mayberry has become a spokesperson for feminism and has fought against sexist trolls online, there may be a line of horror / anti-horror and anti-misogyny philosophy running through the new record. “Asking for a Friend” highlights anonymity which can both protect and offend online thoughts that should require police surveillance, while “He Said She Said” is not a Beatles parody but dialogue that permeates the struggle to prove the sexual assault allegations. “California” is the world’s fifth-largest economy on its own and home to millions of people, and very different landscapes and environments, so evaluating the song’s music without listening to it would be a wild ride, but historically it has. been home to American machinations and film machines (including the pornography depicted in “Boogie Nights” and perpetuated by such bastions of Playboy Mansion depravity), and when followed on the tracklist by “Violent Delights” , one wonders if indeed the medium evoked is that of the creators of horror films, as well as the dark and violent side of the State of the Sun which brought to life real-life monsters like the Manson family and Hillside Strangler, and fictional avengers played by Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood in “Bullitt Films” and “Dirty Harry”, respectively.


The obscurity that permeates these tracks is enough to make one wonder “How Not To Drown”, and Robert Smith’s guest vocals (and his remix of the track on the Japanese version of the album) provide an unlikely answer., given that the frontman of The Cure is known to wallow in his lullabies of self-pity and homesickness, most blatantly on the classic gothic rock masterpiece of 1989, “Disintegration.” Smith is also a co-author of the track, so his tips for keeping your head above water should be very salient, if not necessarily saline.

This song is followed by “Final Girl” and “Good Girls” and it is not hard to imagine that the word “girl” is used in an ironic way, given that it is often used as a diminutive reference to the genre. feminine. The word “final” could be the last survivor of the horror movie serial killer or the last avatar to play in a sexist video game (similar to the female version of Ryan Reynolds’ “Free Guy”). Of course, what constitutes a “good girl” is also up for debate. Is a “good girl” someone who stays silent and accepts a pat on the head after being abused? Is a good girl someone who does what her boss tells her to do, even if it’s unethical and immoral? Is a good girl someone who saves herself for her wedding night? Or are the “good girls” women who defend themselves, defend themselves and do not comply with the demands of institutionalized patriarchy? I would say these are a better representation of what “good girls” can and should be, and I know Mayberry would agree. She would also agree, I bet, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, at least in passing, that although she’s the lead singer and focal point, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty are the other two-thirds. of the trio. Chvrches, and all three share the writing credits on each of the ten cups.

“Lullabies” comes next, and I’m willing to bet it’s not your mom’s “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”, especially since the next song in the sequence is “Nightmares”. Obviously, those lullabies shouldn’t have been very calming, given the nightmares that ensued, but what do the Chvrches see in their nightmares? Is it the gothic horror of “The Omen” or the metal claw glove of Freddie Krueger? Is it the “violence” that we find on the “screen” or are we supposed to “filter” or filter this violence? One thing is for sure, just as this has no place on a submarine, this is clearly not the place for a screen door.

“Better if you don’t” might be about some horrible jokes in music reviews, but it’s more likely to be someone telling someone else that it would be better for them if they didn’t. ‘was not going, letting the sleeping dogs lie, letting the abuse of the past and the offenses of the future go unreported or stopped. Ten songs later and just under forty-three minutes, “Screen Violence” is what I think is a heartbreaking journey through what it’s like to be a 21st century feminist in the digital age. of consequences for the incel trolls who hide under the drawbridges.

Next up in the Church of Immaculate Discovery is Guided By Voices’ new album, ironically titled “It’s Not Them.” It couldn’t be them. It’s them! ”It’s ironic because this is the second album GBV is releasing this year and its eighth album in the last three years., after frontman and original only member Robert Pollard (vocals, guitar) nearly unplugged just before their 1994 breakthrough “Bee Thousand”, retired the moniker in 2004, reunited in 2010, and broke up again in 2014, then brought him back in 2016 (after which his henchmen were stable, including Doug Gillard, guitar, Kevin March, drums, Mark Shue, bass, and Bobby Bare, Jr., guitar). The title alludes to the fact that GBV is the ‘superman’ of indie rock, and although Pollard’s edition name was inspired by one of the early band names The Needmores, Needmore Songs has become a reflection of a philosophy. of fullness, which at its best has more Who-inspired hooks. than a deep sea fishing trip from Pete Townshend and which at its worst provides what critic Jim DeRogatis has dubbed songwriting diarrhea, which would be like how a bus crash Dave Matthews Band’s tour would curb a sightseeing boat trip on the Chicago River.

Because Pollard’s writing (and he’s the lyricist most of the time) can be very impressionistic, not to say seemingly absurd and unequivocal, the new record features pieces that, when using titular analysis, seem very “one-piece” with the majority of VBG output. So there are song titles like “High In The Rain”, “Dance Of The Gurus” and “Flying Without A License” towards the beginning of the record, using psychedelic frames (and the people of Dayton continue their obsession with vol), such as his infatuation with the 1960s ‘Nuggets’ collections compiled by Lenny Kaye is regularly exhibited. “Psycho House” and “Maintenance Man Of The Haunted House,” which follow, tell very different stories rooted in houses of similar construction. “Razor Bug” and “I Wanna Monkey” continue Pollard’s obsession with strange bugs and animals, though it’s unclear whether he caught a razor bug and if he “really wants one.” monkey “or if he” wants monkey “, as in a dance inspired by primates. “Black And White Eyes In A Prism”, “People Need Holes” and “The Bell Gets Out Of The Way” continue the altered states of consciousness during the parade. If a prism creates colors, what do we see when we see black and white eyes? Or what do black and white eyes see? do they see the colors? Pollard is not only a great songwriter (for the most part), but he’s also a gifted collage artist, having created numerous album covers for both real and fantasy bands, including Guided By Voices. Are these holes that he claims people need the same holes the Beatles used to fill the Albert Hall on “A Day In The Life?” If a bell goes out, doesn’t it ring? Are these the same St. Clements bells that XTC referred to in their psychedelic masterpiece “Oranges and Lemons”? Will listening to the record really answer any of these questions?

“It’s not them. It couldn’t be them. They’re them! “Concludes its fifteen tracks with” Chain Gang Island “and the debut single” My (Limited) Engagement “, which I have to admit hearing, and is the distinctively loud” rock and roll “GBV has become known for. The title hints at more irony, given that Pollard has played with “limiting” the band in the past but has apparently concluded in recent years that there are no limits to Guided By Voices.

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