Guided By Voices Half Smiles Of The Decomposed

A Guided By Voices swansong seems like a hard thing to believe, but according to Bob Pollard, Half Smiles Of The Decomposed is the final chapter in one of rock’n’roll’s greatest success stories. While Pollard and company haven’t always hit the nail on the head, the 15th studio album in their 20 years of existence is a strong record to bid farewell with. Right from the get go, they pull out the big guns with "Everybody Thinks I’m A Raincloud (When I’m Not Looking),” a steady opener that hits all of the band’s strengths and will go down as one of their finest songs in recent memory. In fact, Half Smiles has a few tracks that see GBV at the top of their game. "Girls Of Wild Strawberries” has a funny, parting sentiment, courtesy of a slow, drumming tempo and whimsy, nostalgic lyrics. "The Closets Of Henry” and "Asphyxiated Circle” each come across as meaningful lessons taught by Pollard, in his role as the majestic narrator. Naturally, there are some minor flaws, such as the unnecessary sample of a political speech in "Sons Of Apollo” and the cheesy psychedelic guitar effects in "Sleep Over Jack,” but the album ends on a real high note with the uplifting "Huffman Prairie Flying Field.” While they may be absent from Matador’s new release schedule next year (we’ll see about that), GBV will easily go down in books as one of the most prolific and influential rock bands ever. (Matador)