Guided by Voices

Earthquake Glue (Matador)

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Guided by Voices frontman Bob Pollard spits out records with about the same nonchalance (and frequency) of ballclubbers heaving chaw. But if you believe his fans and adoring critics, every single release gleams with the fairy dust of his melodic genius -- and the more unpolished the surrounding arrangements and production, the better to marvel at its twinkle. C'mon. Even geniuses have off days -- particularly when they stray from what they do best.

So, at the risk of coming off like the kid at spring break who complains about the beer, the Pollard party may be running out of steam. Although last year's Universal Truths and Cycles was a welcome return to sprightly GBV form, Earthquake Glue is darker and weightier. The songwriting is Cheap Trick -- if Cheap Trick had decided to become a prog-rock band. Thing is, you can't toss off a Dark Side of the Moon or an O.K. Computer -- that shit takes time.

And that's not Pollard's bag. Thus, it's hard to say whether Earthquake Glue required more perspiration or less: The songs seem overdetermined yet underdeveloped. Transitions are awkward. There's too much lyrical enjambment. Yes, of course, the melodies are there; they always are. But where you want the songs to take amplified flight, they sag instead. It's like watching a ballet dancer with a beer gut.

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