One of the books I am currently reading is Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers. Not to slam the guy, because I am enjoying the book, but it basically reads like a second-rate Chuck Klosterman book who just so happens to be a colleague of his at Spin. And if you don't have a pretty serious relationship with the material (i.e. the music he gushes over) then the book is almost unreadable. That being said, I kinda like it. The book originally caught my eye only because of the title which is lifted from Built To Spill's third album -- I have an ongoing debate with a friend who feels that Perfect From Now On is the band's masterpiece while I contend that the follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret, is even better. These arguments involve a lot of incredulity and "Can you believe this fucking guy?" glances to bystanding friends who shrink away and treat us like lepers during these often public moments.
Anyway, I see the title on the spine and guffaw rather loudly in the middle of the store because I think that someone has actually bothered to write a biography on Built To Spill. To be sure, they are one of my favorite bands and I revere Doug Martsch's quirky guitar genius but if I had to guess, I would say that they would make for one of the least interesting biography subjects ever published. Although it turns out that the book is really about one man's obsession with a certain broadly define genre and specifically New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, Pavement, and the band to whom he devotes the most ink, Guided By Voices. I have now been inspired to offer my own meditation on why I too think that GBV is the greatest band in the world (a band that I have flown across the continent to see on their final tour and who forced me to buy two copies of the same "greatest hits" compilations because one was track-sequenced chronologically and the other was sequenced by GBV mastermind Bob Pollard for maximum effect) but for now, I devote an entire Friday 8-Track to them.
"Bulldog Skin" - Mag Earwhig
The song that started it all for me and the reason I fell in love. I got on the GBV bandwagon late in the game and in retrospect, this album marks a departure from the homemade lo-fi sound of their "classic" era. But I don't think I would have been ready for that if I hadn't first been exposed to the big sound on this album, particularly the playing of then-new guitarist Doug Gillard. The unconventional yet seemingly perfect guitar solo of this tune had me at hello.
"Echos Myron" - Bee Thousand
If someone asked me to describe GBV in about two minutes, I would simply play "Echos Myron" and grin. The songwriting is absolute Bob Pollard and contains a fantastic lyrical juxtaposition between the somewhat poetic line "Man of wisdom and man of compromise. Man of weak flesh in armoured disguise," followed shortly thereafter with one of my all-time favorite Pollard moments, "And shit yeah it's cool!"
"Glad Girls" - Isolation Drills
Want to see 1200 people all jump in unison? The song opens with Bob yelling the intro "Hey-ey Glad..." and the band comes crashing in on "Girls!" and everyone goes insane and it takes you a moment to realize that you are pumping your fist and screaming every word. But when you do it is sublime. I dare anyone to listen to this song (cranked up) and not bob his head.
"Game of Pricks" - Alien Lanes
If you can write a good hook with a great lyric or great hook with a good lyric, you can rule the world. Bob is king. "I climb up on the house, weep to water the trees."
"Cut-Out Witch" - Under the Bushes Under the Stars
I like to think that this song is about a magical witch made of construction paper that sort of "comes to life." Although it sounds a lot spookier than that and rocks way harder than anything I ever made with safety scissors and edible paste.
"Exit Flagger" - Propeller
I am running out of different ways to say, "GBV is the singular exemplar of indie rock and here is another reason why." (And yes, I am aware of how prone I am to making hyperbolic declarations.)
"I Am A Scientist" - Bee Thousand
Now I am getting way too worked up and need to drop everything and rock out in my apartment for at least an hour. (Best New Year's Ever: '01-'02 NYE spent in my basement shit-faced on Iron City with nothing but my stereo and every GBV album I owned. There may still be a collection of voicemail messages documenting that night's descent into madness.) The main reason I flew to San Diego to see their farewell tour was because of one line in this song.
"Motor Away" - Alien Lanes
That's it, time to rock. Enjoy!