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Suitcase 2: American Superdream Wow Box set

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, November 8, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is the second four-disc box set of unreleased recordings by Guided by Voices, led by Robert Pollard. It also marks the first use of the Guided by Voices name in the marketplace since their principal member dissolved the unit at the end of 2004. Like the initial Suitcase, it spans nearly 30 years' worth of previously unheard demos, outtakes, jams, live excerpts, and spur-of-the-moment musical ideas from Pollard's vast vault. While the former collection didn't favor one period over another, it's notable that here there is very little attention paid to the band's peak years, 1992-1996 (not much more than a few aborted concept album tracks and a handful of songs that didn't make it on to Pollard's first solo album). Instead, there is a focus on their earliest beginnings, including songs that would've fit nicely on their debut, Forever Since Breakfast, had the decision been made to turn that 1986 EP into a full-length. And it's not like the man has stopped writing since the last box, so there's a wealth of material from 2000 and beyond (including songs written the year this compilation was released, 2005). It's a treat for fans to get this kind of access to Pollard's development as a songwriter and to find melodies that would show up in later works: "Sacred Space" would soon become "Office of Hearts," "Daughter of the Gold Rush" begat "Volcano Divers," and there's a bit of the Bee Thousand castoff "Deathrot and Warlock Riding a Rooster" in "Beach Towers" (as well as the influence of Blue yster Cult). But it's the 1988 recording of the song "Rocket Head" that provides the greatest thrill, as many years later it would turn into "Teenage FBI," one of GBV's finest numbers. There are also glimpses of early cracks at writing and recording, one result being a little tune from 1980 called "Metro XVI" that sounds like excited kids attempting to play new wave. It's fascinating to observe Pollard's progression and evolution over the years, and to discover the origins of future approaches such as the riff-rock method taken up for 2001's Isolation Drills dating way back to 1987 ("A Proud and Booming Industry") and resurfacing fully formed as early as 1996 ("Madroom Assistance"). These examples aren't just fragments, either (though that aspect of his process is present elsewhere on this anthology), and most of the songs on Suitcase 2 are more fleshed-out than one might imagine. While it's often an absorbing listen, it's hard to fathom this appealing to anyone but the terminally obsessed; neophytes who have read this far probably realize this is not the one for them. There is a pared-down single LP, Briefcase 2 -- The Return of Milko Waif; Suitcase 2 Abridged, which is only available on vinyl and frustratingly includes two songs not found here. ~ Bart Bealmear, Rovi

Amazon.com

Eleven months after his band Guided By Voices' final show, Robert Pollard releases four more discs of outtakes, one-offs, live tunes and ephemera, to complement the original Suitcase box set. The format's the same as the first one: four discs in a box with a booklet, each CD containing twenty five tunes. The songs are even numbered beginning with 101, leading the listener to believe there might be a third volume in another five years. The amazing thing is not that there are still so many unreleased tunes in the solo Pollard/ GBV vaults, but how engaging this stuff is despite fidelity that at times is atrocious. Pollard seems to be equally reviled and admired for his ability to write dozens of catchy and surreal pop ditties in one day, but it's clear he knows which tunes are the best. There is much here for fans, such as the late ‘80s tune "Rocket Head," which later evolved into "Teenage FBI," but this unbelievably strong box is worth it for the meticulous fake band ephemera included in the booklet alone. –Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 8, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Recordhead Records
  • ASIN: B000AYEIPY
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,976 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James B. Nipe on January 13, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Look...I really love Robert Pollard! I REALLY do! I have dozens of GBV/Pollard discs. They're/He's easily my favorite artist of the past twelve years or so. And I truly enjoyed the first Suitcase. I still listen to it on a fairly regular basis. But this new collection truly seems (to me at least) to lend credence to some critics' belief that Pollard is in serious need of an editor. I know...as even Bob says, if ya don't want it then don't buy it. But I did want it and I did trust Bob that my $45 would buy lots of good stuff. For the first time ever, I feel more than a little let down with a GBV/Robert Pollard release. Very few of the songs on Suitcase 2 have caught my interest, even after repeated listens. It's not a matter of atrocious sound...I love lo-fi and in fact, would rather listen to 'old-skool' GBV, Pavement, Book of Kills, Rob Christensen, Daniel Johnston, et al...but this four disc set comes perilously close to scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. That said, there are still some really good songs scattered throughout, but nothing as good as the best stuff on Suitcase 1. The most interesting thing about Suitcase 2 are the several tracks which are clearly early blueprints for later GBV classics, most notable being "Rocket Head" which later morphed into "Teenage FBI". In the end, though I don't think this is a very good collection, I'd still buy it if you're a big GBV fan. While it won't set your world on fire, there's probably a few tracks on it that will make you smile and the package is pretty cool as well.
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Format: Audio CD
That's *almost* an exact quote from Bob Pollard about the Suitcase series. I thought it was just a joke at the time, but there's definitely some truth there! It could be argued that each Suitcase will be more *amusing* than the previous one, but we'll have to wait for #3 to make that distinction. Personally, I really like about 50% of the first Suitcase, and closer to about 20% of what's here. I don't regret the purchase though- "I am Decided", "Your Charming Proposal", "Invisible Train to Earth" and the versions of "Perch Warble" and "Dusty Bushworms" here are all really, really good. Plus there seems to be a good recording of a very early (Forever Since Breakfast early) live show spread throughout, with songs that haven't appeared elsewhere. But the large majority of "songs" here are just complete throw-aways: weird (sometimes cool) tape collages, solo (sometimes interesting) guitar instrumentals, noisy and inebriated jam sessions with Bob improvising lyrics, etc etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these people who says Pollard "needs an editor"; a talent like his should not be censored or compromised in any way, imo. But with this, the whole point is that it's scraping the bottom of the barrel as it were, so it shouldn't be too surprising that much of this falls into the "somewhat amusing" category rather than the "simply amazing."
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
In some ways, this is a tough item to review. Admittedly, it's not among GBV's best in terms of the songs offered here (and not really even close), but to judge this collection on that argument is, in many ways, unfair. This was never meant as a proper GBV release--it's a collection of 100 outtakes and experiments--and the second installation of such, at that. Of course there are going to be some throwaways--shoot, nearly every proper GBV album has at least one; I would think we can accept a handful in a collection of 100 songs that never saw the light of day before now. There's a handful of really good songs that make me wonder why they never were released before now, and the majority of the songs are generally decent, but not necessarily astounding. Still, each disc is essentially very listenable. I rarely feel the need to actually skip a song, which, again, for the second set of 100 outtakes and other previously unreleased songs, that's pretty impressive.

As other reviewers have mentioned, you have some early and/or alternate versions of some noteworthy songs here (Teenage FBI, Office of Hearts, Dusty Bushworms, etc--though not necessarily all named the same as their better-known counterparts). You also get some material that Pollard later used is some capacity on/for his solo work. Most of the songs, especially the better ones, are older (think Box-era). As a big fan of their first few records, I really enjoy returning to those years of the band. Fans of only their middle or later work may likely be less impressed by this collection. I actually find myself returning to Suitcases 1 and 2 more than I do much of their other works (and I have nearly everything).
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