The insanely prolific Robert Pollard releases yet another collection of grungy niceness with his Guided By Voices crew. At thirty-two songs and seventy-five minutes, Zeppelin Over China is long even by GBV standards. Indeed, it’s remarkable that an album with this many songs can remain so consistently good throughout. Then again, Pollard is a pretty remarkable talent.
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I've tried I really have. Last night I went through a load of old Guided By Voices stuff to remind me of how much I once loved them. Back in the days when even on their Suitcase compilations you'd get the odd gem that stopped you in your tracks. Yes perhaps I'm looking at their past with a rosy glow. There were skippable moments in everything from 'Forever Since Breakfast' all the way to 'Bee Thousand' but listening back, those albums seemed to exist because Robert Pollard simply had to write songs to survive in life rather than the situation of today in that he writes a) because he has no idea what else to do or b) as a sort of continuing proof of his prolificacy.
'Zeppelin Over China' is the same as all the post classic line up break up records (the awful Please Be Honest excepted) in that it's rough and tough power pop that mainly goes over the top of one's head with the occasional shard of inspiration as a reminder of past glories. Pollard has gone back to the production style he cemented on albums like 'Universal Truths and Cycles' which is to make everything as loud as possible - the 'classic line up' may have been dishevelled and in latter years spotty in terms of quality but it had light and shade and an off kilter charm. This is just sludge.
It's probably completely unfair to compare such a great band as GBV to Oasis but there's something similar in the endless barrage of 60s inspired songs that mostly fail to have either a melodic spark or connect emotionally with the listener. It seems though that GBV fans are happy with this state of affairs. As long as Pollard is banging them out everyone is happy. See also: the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Status Quo. But I only enjoyed about a sixteenth of this. Most of it just seems like....noise.
9/10 Dean smith 1st February 2019
Initially a tough listen as a lot to digest , not quite as immediate as recent releases and guided by voices have slowly progressed into a studio rock band ditching their old lo-fi sound which could be off putting. But after a couple of listens Pollard hooks sink their teeth in and the album is a fantastic 75 minutes of slick tunes. Pollard seems to be in a great creative place with a band that understand his vision and deliver amazing music! Top tracks include you own the night, nice about you, windshield wiper rex, questions of the test, step of the wave and your lights are out.
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