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October 31, 2014

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CD review: Guided By Voices’ ‘Let’s Go Eat the Factory’

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Guided By Voices 'Let's Go Eat the Factory'
Four stars

I’ve woken up wondering if Matador at 21 was just a crazy dream, but now I know it really happened. I’m holding the evidence in my hand: Let’s Go Eat the Factory. The first Guided By Voices album since 2004 and the first since the mid-’90s to feature the band’s “classic” lineup, almost certainly wouldn’t exist had Matador Records not requested a reunion for its 2010 Vegas weekend, a celebration I’m happily reminded of every time I visit the Factory.

Of course, GBV fans want to know whether it will remind them of its forebears, specifically Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, the two records that vaulted frontman Robert Pollard and his crew to greater indie consciousness. The answer, in many ways that matter, is yes, though it’s no carbon copy. Like those classics, Factory has a powerhouse opener and an epic closer. It’s sprinkled with primo pop hooks (“Doughnut for a Snowman,” “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” “Chocolate Boy”). And it’s got loads of the odd connective tissue that feels off-putting to some at first, until it becomes the very reason they keep coming back for more. Also contributing to Factory’s throwback feel: impeccably imperfect production (see: the guitar-level jump in “Cyclone Utilities”) and the songwriting contributions of No. 2 Tobin Sprout, whose five tunes ally neatly with Pollard’s 16—just as they did back in the day.

Factory really only comes up short (and this isn’t insignificant) in its lack of perfect tens, songs like “I Am a Scientist,” “Motor Away” and “Tractor Rape Chain” that stay fresh after 200 spins. But then, with another album due in May and a third reportedly in the works, maybe it’s not so bad that GBV still has some work left to do.

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