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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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