English Little League—the fourth album from the reunited “classic” Guided By Voices lineup of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell—hums like angry birds along the full spectrum of rock’s highways and byways (especially the byways), from rock to roll and back again. Pollard’s rebus system of songwriting (sounds made visible, abstract concepts symbolized) strung like fairy lights from the opening song “Xeno Pariah” to the galvanic closer “With Glass in Foot,” kettles along at full steam throughout, punctuated by the airier constructs of Sprout (“The Sudden Death of Epstein’s Ways,” with its sweet / creepy emphatic refrain of “Jesus,” is a particular standout).
The Guided By Voices project, as any fan knows, both requires and rewards effortful listening, and lazybones who dismiss the volume of Pollard’s output as (basically) impossible misunderstand the care with which he assembles his dreamscapes. Whiny types will thus be dismayed to learn that Pollard has recently installed a studio in his house (first fruits can be found on “A Burning Glass,” among others here), the better to transform his oneiric musings to immediate art, but converts to the clubhouse will be overcome—some will, in fact, faint—at the news. The plan at present is to release three Guided By Voices albums per year until the end of time, but in the world according to Robert Pollard, “plans” does not mean what it means to you and me. “Plans” to him are moving ideas caught momentarily in stasis, and subject as often to revision as to fruition. Which is to say only that you never know what the future will bring, only what the past has brought, and the past has now brought you the fourth Guided By Voices album in little more than a year. You should probably buy someone a drink to celebrate. You should definitely celebrate.