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5.0 out of 5 stars The Third, and Best, GBV Album of 2012, December 10, 2012
This review is from: The Bears for Lunch (Audio CD)
As each December approaches I task myself to revisit all the albums I've bought throughout the year. It's a duty I enjoy; a ritual, really. This year, as the days of heavy listening passed, I realized that Robert Pollard had released six new records - three Guided by Voices studio albums, two solo records and a Boston Spaceships collection. And while it's the Spaceships release that I like the most from my hero in 2012, the still-new The Bears for Lunch seems to have already become my favorite of the three great GBV records released this year.

You can count on anywhere from one to five tremendous offerings on any Pollard release. Back in the early-to-mid 90s there were more, but these days, unless he's in Boston, there are typically only a handful, at most. Not the case with this incredible trilogy of new Guided by Voices albums. The key to these records' brilliance is, of course, the return of the classic-era GBV lineup. This means, maybe most importantly, that you get a handful of new Tobin Sprout songs on each record. It also means that you'll get a few weird, messy, tossed-off cuts that, with familiarity, tend to end up charming the pants off GBV loyalists more than Pollard's the big doozies. Songs like the piano-driven "The Military School Dance Dismissal," the very-demo-sounding "You Can Fly Anything Right," the Bee Thousand-like "Have a Jug" and the minimalist beauty "Dome Rust." Tasty sides that nearly overwhelm the entree.

The meat of Bears is a mix of new Pollard classics and new Sprout offerings. The Pollard standouts - "Hangover Child," "The Challenge Is Much More," "White Flag," "She Lives In An Airport," "King Arthur The Red" and "Everywhere Is Miles from Everywhere" - make up about 15-minutes of Pollard perfection. Fifteen minutes his loyal legion of fans live for, dig for and subscribe to. The Sprout tracks, all four of them, are hands-down great. The best stuff he's put on record since his signature solo record, Moonflower Plastic, was released 15 years ago. His works here are all very melodic, very hook-y, very sweet, and cleanly produced. That candy-coated voice of his, really, is the key on all Sprout's post-Carnival Boy work. His "Waving at Airplance," in particular, feels like a new GBV classic.

But no, Bears isn't a perfect record. There's only one of those, and it's called Bee Thousand. Outside the above-mentioned new Pollard classics, the Sprout offerings and the tossed-off moments of brilliance, we still have five tracks that don't make a huge impact. A couple help hold the album together with their charm and quick weirdness, but, mostly, these five tracks simply help bulk up the tracklist to the standard 40-minute LP length. Still, 14 great new Guided by Voices tracks is nothing to scoff at. The result, I think, is the cherry on top of the band's amazing year. Bears is one of the best albums in the legendary GBV canon and easily their best release since 2002's underrated Universal Truths and Cycles. A new anglophile classic.

Read more of my music and film writing at ZeCatalist.com.
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