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Guided by Voices Bee Thousand
Marc Woodworth's book covers the album's long and unorthodox period of writing, recording, sequencing, and editing. It includes interviews with members of the band, manager Pete Jamison, web-master and GBV historian Rich Turiel and Robert Griffin of Scat Records. At least sixty-five songs were recorded and considered for the album and five distinct concepts were rejected before the band hit upon the records final form. One late version, very nearly released, contained only a few of Bee Thousand's definitive songs. The rest were left out and nearly ended up in the boxes of cassette out-takes cluttering up Robert Pollard's basement. The story of Guided By Voices transformation from an occasional and revolving group of complete unknowns to indie-rock heroes is very much part of the story behind the making of "Bee Thousand". In addition to providing a central account of how the record was made, Woodworth devotes another substantial chapter to the album's lyrics. Robert Pollard's lyrics are described by critics, when they're described at all, as a brand of tossed-off surrealism, as if his verbal sensibility is somehow incidental to the songs themselves.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to offer a sustained discussion of Pollard's work as a writer of often sublime, beautiful, and very human lyrics. I won't miss the chance to consider the pleasures of the absurd in this context and, of course, the contributions to "Bee Thousand" of Tobin Sprout. The third key section of the book covers aesthetics. Woodworth considers the great appeal of the do-it-yourself nature of "Bee Thousand" and reflects on the larger importance of the strain of alternative rock for which this record is a touchstone. The focus is on "Bee Thousand", of course, but also includes discussion on the rise of a lo-fi aesthetic and its continuing influence. This chapter would also provide the context for an account of rock that exists because of passion, love, and compulsive need rather than formula, money, and marketing.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Bee Thousand" makes perfect sense for Continuum's famous 331/3 series. The breakthrough album for Guided by Voices undoubtedly has an appropriate stature, as it exemplified a certain style of lo-fi, DIY aesthetic that's still influential. Moreover, Robert Pollard's elliptical lyrics and layered, yet quasi-improvisational melodies would seem to profit from a handy introduction. Everyone I know who listens to Guided by Voices was introduced to their music by some knowledgeable friend, a role which Marc Woodworth ably takes up in his short book. What's more interesting about Bee Thousand, though, is the way it both embraces and complicates the nostalgia permeating the entire 331/3 series. Simultaneously a mythologizing and d demythologizing book, Bee Thousand" demonstrates yet again the power of Faulkner's claim that 'the past isn't even past.' ...Woodworth's book should help listeners of any age find joy in such oddities as "Hardcore UFOs," "a dairy creamer explicitly laid out as a fruitcake," and the "kicker of elves." More generally, anyone interested in DIY-type bands should find the bands narratives relevant."--Sanford Lakoff