Published Aug 11, 2017Guided By Voices maintain their knack for bright, chaotic pop movements on new album How Do You Spell Heaven, complete with angular chord patchworks, abrupt melodic transitions and deliriously honest storytelling all held together with glue, but unfortunately, it also suffers from a lack of consistency.
The cut-and-paste bursts here are beautiful, but they're few and far between. "The Birthday Democrats" is a straightforward riff-rocker intro to the 15-track album, but around the two-minute mark, it leaves under a wave of dreamy guitar rumbling and Robert Pollard's wailing. The first five seconds of "Boy W" similarly feed a lo-fi impulse with a drum machine in tow, before delving into another outgoing (and danceable) progression as he sings, "Climbing the trees quite free of disease" in a nostalgic and hilarious look back at childhood. Pollard plays with time throughout the album, turning to the corpses of rock'n'roll in "Steppenwolf Mausoleum," an interesting meandering for a band whose seminal album came out in 1994 and is thus likewise eligible for canonization.
And yet, there isn't enough here to make How Do You Spell Heaven stand out from Guided By Voices' deep catalogue. GBV rookies would do well to start by looking back; seasoned listeners are probably already here. (Guided By Voices Inc.)