Customer Reviews: The Bears for Lunch
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on November 13, 2012
If anyone who isn't by now cool enough to have heard or heard of GBV (oh, yeah, btw, even the Obama Administration acknowledges their greatness, as Jay Carney so hippishly leaked-out!) needs to be provided with some kind of smoothly accessible access-point to join in on the debate on why this band is the best, most versatile rock band on the planet, just direct them to tracks 4 ("Hangover Child") and 14 ("Waking Up the Stars") on their appropriately consistent 3rd album of 2012 "The Bears For Lunch". One is boisterous, chant-along, defiant, hard-charging rock led by drummer Kevin Fennell's unforgettable frontbeat and ringleader Robert Pollard's resolve to 'not back down'. The other is guitarist/co-songwriter Tobin Sprout's latest quest for the perfect immaculate lost folk-tinged pop-song, pealed away of pretentiousness and precociousness: the sort of song Paul Simon or The Shins only wish they could write. But whereas to find these two seemingly opposite (but perfect) tracks on the same album would be a near miracle for any other artist, for GBV its just another testament to an ongoing, ever expanding love affair with their own musical collaboration. Yet, I as all GBV fans know that to find their true genius, sometimes you have to wade through the occasional muck (muck as in Pollard, a pint of Cuervo, an out-of-tune guitar and five minutes with one take to knock-off a song muck), muck that sometimes might seem too hodge-podge, too throwaway, too experimental, but muck that also sometimes may embrace you in the end. Although it has less muck than their last album ("Class Clown Spots a UFO", which came out as far back as 4 months ago (!)), "Bears For Lunch", as the diehards will tell you, still has tracks that often heal and occasionally headache, but it never fails (as everything this line-up has ever done) to be interesting and worthy of the respect to listen all-the-way-through in order at least once, before skimming for favorites. Here's a track-to-track take (rated 1 to 5):

1. King Arthur the Red (4/5) Great balls-out rock song to kick-off the album. Some nice riffs and shreds by Mitch Mitchell.
2. The Corner's Are Glowing (5/5) Instantly catchy uptempo Sprout pop song.
3. Have a Jug (2/5) Title fits it correctly as it sounds like its just Robert Pollard, a junk guitar and a few boilermakers
4. Hangover Child (5/5) Maybe the most catchy, cohesive song of the re-united classic line-up. The clear single of the album.
5. Dome Rust (4/5) A swinging, swaggarish garage-pop ditty like only Pollard can do (sometimes even in his sleep)
6. Finger Gang (2.5/5) Fun, albeit pointless
7. The Challenge Is Much More (4/5) Chugging, meaningful Pollard song with some weight to it. Could easily be a standout track from one of his solo records.
8. Waving At Airplanes (4.5/5) a whimsical, almost twee Sprout song done marvelously right.
9. The Military School Dance Dismissal (4.5/5) Pollard, Sprout, a piano, on a warm day, with dogs and cars going by.
10. White Flag (5/5) A pulsing, instant classic based on Greg Demos' bassline alone!
11. Skin-to-skin Combat (5/5) If pop-rocks candy could be made for ears, it would sound like this infectious Sprout track.
12. She Lives in an Airport (4.5/5) Solid Pollard lyricism with an underlining melody that's hard to forget
13. Tree Fly Jet (2/4) Should have been replaced by a (better) b-side. Another unnecessary noodle, just like "Have a Jug"
14. Waking Up the Stars (5/5) One of the most beautiful, melodious songs I've ever heard from Tobin Sprout. A Beatlesque comparison here would be apt, if I liked The Beatles.
15. Up Instead of Running (4.5/5) A riffy Pollard rave-up. Got to love that almost post-modern 'sha-la-la' chorus!
16. Smoggy Boy (4.5/5) One of those 30 second on-the-fly mini-masterpieces in the vein of "Party" or "Hit"
17. Amorphous Surprise (2/5) Laborious-sounding track that's like a Circus Devils prog-rock demo song played by a sloppy garage band.
18. You Can Fly Anything Right (4/5) Wistful, faux-heartache acoustic ballad, done right, done the Pollard way.
19. Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere (4/5) GBV rock song with some stop-start crunch, peppered by Sprout's melodies glittering over.

All in all, I'd say its better than their last record, but maybe just a pinch below "Let's Go Eat The Factory", their must-have comeback record and first album of 2012. All in All, 2012 was a kick*** year to be a GBV fan!
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on November 21, 2012
With the release of The Bears For Lunch, Guided By Voices 3rd LP in 2012, some critics are saying Bob should have consolidated his efforts and made only one "Best of" GBV album this year.

For the sake of science and against my opinion that the above criticism is bologna, I will reluctantly make a 21 track song list (21 songs being the average length) from Bob's 2012 Guided By Voices releases. The songs are in no particular sequence, just as you would likely get in an arbitrary best of compilation. I've simply typed them down as I thought of them.

1. White Flag
2. Chocolate Boy
3. The Head
4. Spiderfighter
5. She Lives in an Airport
6. The Challenge is Much More
7. Imperial Racehorsing
8. Breathing (B Side)
9. Class Clown Spots a UFO
10. Hang Up and Try Again
11. Chain to the Moon
12. Waving at Airplanes
13. Waking up the Stars
14. Everywhere is Miles from Everywhere
15. Waves
16. Tyson's Highschool
17. Hang Over Child
18. Laundry & Lasers
19. How I Met My Mother
20. King Arthur the Red
21. Doughnut for a Snowman

All this proves is that I chose the wrong songs.

In fact I would strongly argue that there isn't any single choice or arrangement of 21 songs that would be a sufficient substitute for the 75 sequenced songs (61 LP tracks + 14 B-sides) GBV have released since January.

How could anyone who seriously gives a damn about this band and value what makes their contribution to music undeniably inventive and thrilling think that this would be a plausible solution? If Bob Pollard had only released one Guided By Voices album of 21 songs this year, then we would be only hearing 28% of his output intended for GBV.

I am thrilled that Bob, Toby, Greg, Mitch and Kevin are enjoying making music again together and at this caliber. I want to be able to explore their albums as I would have a yard sale (back before the days of Craig's List or Ebay) and sift for the treasures myself. I don't want the sequencing of Bob's story omitted. I want to hear the abrupt power chord at the end of "Keep it Motion" that leads us into "Tyson's High School" etc.

Which brings us to the review. The Bears for Lunch is my favorite album of GBV's releases this year. "Waving At Airplanes", "White Flag", "She Lives in An Airport", "Waking Up the Stars" are up to par with what the band produced back in the '92-'96 period. There are a number of instantly strong rockers, "King Arthur the Red", "Hangover Child", "The Challenge is Much More", "Everywhere is Miles from Everywhere" -- there are also many idiosyncratic gems, "Finger Gang", "The Military School Dance Dismissal", "Smoggy Boy" -- and earnest sentiments, "You Can Fly Anything Right". There's not a lemon in the bunch in my opinion, but make your own call.
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on November 14, 2015
There are a couple of easy rebuttals to the criticism that Guided by Voices albums are uneven. If you don’t like the weirdo song nuggets on Bee Thousand and Alien Lane, then all you need is to look at Under the Bushes Under the Stars, which, minus the noise track “The Perfect Life,” contains twenty-three (twenty-three!) killer songs. For me, Bears for Lunch stands as the unofficial follow up to Under the Bushes Under the Stars, because each and every song aims to embed itself in your brain and stay there. Despite the fact that Bears for Lunch was recorded decades after the band’s golden period, it actually serves as a great introduction to GbV, mostly by encapsulating their great songwriting skills and musical influences. Punk, psychedelia, Pete Townsend guitar heroics, and 90s indie rock all find a place on Bears for Lunch. The album also serves as a great showcase for Tobin Sprout whose often lighter touch nicely compliments the work of frontman Robert Pollard. Sprout’s responsible for many of the album’s highlights, including the Beatlesesque “Waking Up the Stars” and the CSNY inflected “Waving at Airplanes.” It’s Sprout’s prettier songs that really balance out the album, and it’s often true that Pollard works best when someone works as a foil. While he has written a few great solo albums (including the incredible From a Compound Eye), Pollard benefits from working closely with other creatives, which is why outside of GbV, his best work is with the band Boston Spaceships. What’s truly amazing about Bears for Lunch is that at a moment when GbV should have been tiring out (this was their third album of 2012), they sounded more energized than ever.
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on February 4, 2013
I didn't think it was possible. Honestly. I was an all time GBV fan, obsessed fan, really. I embraced every album, 12", 7" from "Forever Since Breakfast" up 'till things got a bit less interesting, less appealing. When Robert Pollard plunged into the Fading Captain Series full gear with the Moping Swans, the Takeovers, Circus Devils etc. and finished a truly mediocre album like "Fiction Man" I started to lose interest. "From A Compound Eye" and "Normal Happiness" were decent with still a few gems but then I stopped trying to follow Pollard in his deluge of solo albums and side projects.

And yes it is possible! This third GBV album of 2012 is almost, almost on a par with the '94-'96 era of "Bee Thousand" etc. It's amazing Pollard and Sprout still sound like the same band from 20 years ago, no worn out vocal deliveries or whatsoever. 'She Lives in An Airport' is my favourite, and now one of my favourite Pollard tracks EVER! 'White Flag', 'King Arthur the Red', 'The Challenge is Much More' and 'Up Instead of Running' are epic songs and give me the same thrill as those 90s albums of GBV gave me. Tobin Sprout delivers nice sweet tunes, 'Waving at Airplanes' is catchy as hell.

I'll take the other two 2012 GBV albums for another spin but they were IMO really less moving. Too bad Pollard is still a guy who is unable or unwilling to edit himself on the level he did with GBV in the 90s (remember, the 20 songs of "Bee Thousand" were selected from at least 100 songs!). And so "The Bears for Lunch" also contains real throwaways like 'Tree Fly Jet'. If only these kind of duds on the GBV 2012 output had been erased and these 3 albums had been compressed to the real killer stuff, well..., we really had ourselves a classic like "Alien Lanes"!

Final question. Please, can somebody tell me what epic Pollard songs I missed between 2006 and 2012? Are all those solo albums really that mediocre (as most reviewers have written)? Boston Spaceships? Other side projects? None of them any good? :-)
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When in 2011 Robert Pollard resurrected the Guide by Voices after a 7 year hiatus, little did we know how productive the band would become (again). GBV released not 1, not 2, but THREE albums in 2012. This was released at the tail end of the year, and I'm just now catching up with it.

"The Bears For Lunch" (19 tracks; 43 min.) starts off with a terrific "King Arthur the Red", which oozes melodies like few GBV songs before. It may be one of my all-time fave GBV tracks ever (all of 2'14''). It is followed by a 60s-reminiscent sounding "The Corners Are Glowing" After that we are on a wild roller coaster ride of songs, and bits/concepts of songs, some of which stick, others of which don't, but most of it sounds strangely GOOD, and the album flows quite nicely. Other highlights for me include the happy-go-lucky "Waving at Airplanes" (a Tobin Sprout-penned tune, one of 4 on the album), the REM-sounding "White Flag", and "Up Instead of Running", just to name those.

In all, this is quite the album, and for me the best of the 3 GBV albums released in 2012. Can you imagine if the very best of those three albums was released as a single album? It'd be a 4.5 or 5 star album! But then again this is not how Pollard works. These guys hail from nearby Dayton and I've seen them plenty of times over the years, most recently last July at the Bunbury Festival here in Cincinnati when they had just released "Class Clown Spots a UFO", and as always it was quite the show. Can't wait to see what Pollard & Co. have up their sleeve for 2013.
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on July 19, 2014
A record that, like 'Factory', has a really polished selection of songs. I mean, I don't know how you can't like some of this stuff. Much of it, at its best, is better than near anything but the top tier of the old stuff. It is consistent too. I can't really say the same for the newest releases like Motivational Jumpsuit and English Little League. They aren't near the records the two mentioned ones are.

Standouts and pop classics here are tracks like Waving at Airplanes, She Lives In An Airport, Waking Up The Stars, Up Instead Of Running, and Skin to Skin Combat. Crazy that a lot of those are Tobin Sprout additions, though, without Pollard's voice and selections the album wouldn't fit. This is really a band project and you can feel it all the way through. So good. Other decent to great songs abound. Most are very fitting and run together better than 90% of GBV's output imo.

'Factory' and 'Bears' stand the test in my opinion. I have yet to firmly listen to some of the other new releases as much but they certainly did not grab me as much. Both of these records are certainly like GBV circa mid 90s. You can hardly tell the difference quite honestly. It sounds ever so slightly better recorded.
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on March 14, 2014
Robert Pollard, under his long-running Guided By Voices band, continues to impress ... and amaze. Really, it's astonishing how prolific this man continues to be after all these years. It's like he's got a second wind this past decade with his various musical incarnations, and this recent GBV album is, I think, among the very best things he's ever done. Okay, that's a very bold statement, but the more I listen to this CD I think it ranks up there with his finest efforts.

It's almost pointless to try and disect this album and pick out highlights; there is such a plethora of great tracks that every listener will have their own favorites. Again, the quality is high, and consistenly so. You can almost make the argument that Pollard has done himself a disservice by releasing so much good music in such a short amount of time (this was his third GBV release in 2012 alone). Fans have become so used to his delightful hook-filled lo-fi gems that I think they've almost become desensitized to how truly great this music is. To put it in context; if this was the debut album by a new band, critics would be slobbering over it, hailing it as the best thing released all year. But it's GBV and so the "shiny new wow factor" has already worn off.

In any case, I think most fans of the old GBV albums will be very pleased with this new collection of tunes. LIke most of the GBV albums, the more you play it, the deeper these songs sink into your brain. Addictive stuff.
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on January 11, 2013
though many reviews claim this is the best of the three albums released this year, I disagree. It's a great GBV album but I don't think it's as good as Lets Go Eat the Factory. It's still better than a lot of the albums Bob released in the 90's though.
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on November 29, 2012
If you are a Guided By Voices fan, you should definitely download this album. I liked it a lot more than Let's Go Eat the Factory, not to say that Let's is a bad album, but this is way better.

Many reviews compare it to Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, and I fully agree. That is my favorite Guided album (along with Alien Lanes).

This album made me download Class Clown, which I didn't even know was released until about the same time I downloaded Bears.

If you don't get it, I'll replace you with machines.

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on December 9, 2012
Of the three albums released this year by GBV, The Bears for Lunch is by far the best. The other two were pretty good and had some great moments, but this record is one that I just keep hitting "play" on, every time it finishes. I can't wait to see 'em live again (it'll be my 8th GBV show) and I'm eagerly awaiting the next release.
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