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Class Clown Spots a UFO

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The new Guided by Voices album is the best thing the band has recorded since the last album by the legendary Dayton, Ohio, rockers. That s not meant facetiously: the last thing Guided by Voices did was the rapturously received Let s Go Eat the Factory, and Class Clown Spots a UFO ups the ante raised by that stellar effort, both in terms of recording fidelity (boring!) and songcraft (not boring!) One could argue there s more depth and variety here than on Alien Lanes, that there are better songs here than on Bee Thousand, but that s an argument no one s ever going to win, at least definitively. And this album is a win, by any definition. Class Clown is classic GBV, starting with the head-body-head combination of He Rises (Our Union Bellboy), Blue Babbleship Bay, and Forever Until It Breaks before finishing you off with the title track, a ridiculously catchy, melodically complex, shot-through-with-melancholia song that serves as a sadder and wiser riposte to XTC s Making Plans for Nigel as performed by The Hollies. And that s just the first four songs of a 21-track album clocking in at just under 40 minutes. We ve yet to get to Keep It in Motion, a propulsive, drum-machine-driven pop song which features acoustic guitars, strings, and Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout singing together in a way not heard since 14 Cheerleader Coldfront on 1992 s Propeller. Possibly. Nor have we discussed galvanic rocker Jon the Croc, a clear single candidate, or Chain to the Moon, one of the saddest and (why not?) prettiest songs Pollard has ever written. In between, you get wah-wah guitar solos, a wide range of unusual recording techniques of varying fidelity and a generous helping of Alien Lanes-style snippets. In fact, the sequencing of Class Clown hearkens back to that landmark LP as on Alien Lanes, songs bleed into each other, fade-outs segue into fade-ins, short bursts of melodic rock ( Billy Wire, Roll of the Dice, Kick in the Head ) jut against somber chamber pop ( They and Them, Starfire ). The last song, the anthemic No Transmission, if played at the proper volume, will in fact blow your mind (and your windows). Class Clown Spots a UFO arrives in June, and we might as well tell you the band is about to finish their third record since reuniting, because you ll find out sooner or later. Bears for Lunch is due in late November. But for now, enjoy the best thing since the last thing and until the next thing after that.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 12, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Guided By Voices
  • ASIN: B007XUMGSO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,509 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Wow. Yes. Definitely.

I confess, I was a skeptic. Let's Go Eat the Factory never really impressed me, and I was worried that Class Clown would simply follow suit. Not the case at all. This one truly feels like a proper GBV release, and dare I say, it wouldn't be out of place in their 90's era works. I'm not yet sure I'd lump it with the golden three (Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, or Under the Bushes), but I'd easily lump it with Vampire and/or Propeller, and that's no small statement. This is the first GBV album in a long time that I found myself truly excited about during listening; it builds momentum and makes one eager to see where it goes next.

With Factory, Sprout's offerings carried and ultimately saved the album. Outside of three or four tracks, Pollard didn't have much of value to give. With Class Clown, Pollard is definitely back, and Sprout has a stunning six songs on the album, all of which are again very solid. There isn't a track on the whole thing that bogs the album down and that you'd like to skip but know you shouldn't. Admittedly, Class Clown might eventually deserve an extra star with more listens, but it's an easy four right now.

The title track is astounding. Again, to contrast to their previous effort, my biggest complaint about Factory was that it lacked a true single. This album is more like an Alien Lanes in that it has a few true singles, a number of very solid songs to bookend them, and excellent sequencing to make it feel balanced as an album, something that Factory also lacked. This album is such a clear step forward that I'm now honestly looking forward to the next album, not because I'm at all dissatisfied with the offering I have in my hands now, but because this album is proof that the boys still have it, even if I wasn't initially a believer. Call me a convert.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
For those looking for the highs of Robert Pollard’s best pop songs, Class Clown Spots a UFO absolutely delivers. The title track, “Class Clown Spots a UFO,” and “Keep It in Motion” eschew the group’s usual lo-fi antics for a fuller sound, and either could have been radio staples two decades ago. There are also a handful of acidic, guitar meltdowns that draw on the band’s psychedelic side. “Tyson’s High School” combines Pollard’s typical lyrics about grade school with a wall of guitar fuzz. Class Clown is arguably more uneven than Let’s Go Eat the Factory, because there is a larger gulf between the catchy songs and the weird ones. But any album that provides space for “Lost in Spaces,” a sub-one-minute piano ballad by Tobin Sprout is a winner in my book.
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Format: Audio CD
It has been reported inaccurately in a number of reviews I've recently read about this latest offering from Guided By Voices that theses tracks were recorded at the same sessions as it's predecessor, Let's Go Eat the Factory. One might assume that a band set with the challenge of releasing three albums in a single year would take the approach of having a single set of sessions and then dividing the spoils between the three releases. Photographs, recording dates and interviews have been posted via Rockathon Records and Robert Pollard's Facebook page since last autumn fleshing out the details of the individual sessions. I think it's important to set the record straight here because Class Clown Spots a UFO is an album constructed by musicians in response to their previous efforts and in reflection of where they are at the precise moment of recording.

Given that the three 2012 releases (Bears for Lunch is scheduled to arrive in November) stem from what many rightfully consider the "Classic" lineup of Guided By Voices, one is compelled to make comparisons with benchmarks from the 90's, such as Propeller, Vampire of Titus, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Under the Bushes... It is important to remember that these albums carry with them nostalgia and benefit from the perspective that time can only give.

Class Clown Spots A UFO was made to be listened to as an album, not as a collection of singles. It is an audible collage from a band (not one individual) that consists of brief, ambiguous, clear, distorted, fragile and pure rock Valhalla moments. Its track sequence, like all memorable Guided By Voices albums, is vital to the composition.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you are familiar with Guided By Voices and Robert Pollard, you know what to expect even if you have given up trying to keep up with all the many many records. The "classic" GBV lineup does seem to be the best vehicle for Pollard after all and for whatever intangable reasons this new album hits the sweet spots. Class Clown finds the right balance in production, and is one of the most listenable albums in Bob Pollard's career, with an excellent flow and sequencing from start to finish.

I'm sure with with Let's Go Eat the Factory many wondered if this was just a novelty. With Class Clown Spots a UFO, GBV has come full circle, thou probably wiser for the journey. Makes me look forward to the next record, and hopefully the one after that.
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