After a fifteen-year hiatus, the “classic lineup” of Guided By Voices (Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell) finishes off its year-long reunion tour by releasing an album of 21 new songs, deliberately choosing to return to what bandleader Pollard calls the “semi-collegial” approach of iconic GBV albums like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Let’s Go Eat the Factory is much more than a mere return, however: sprawling, variegated, heavy, melodic, and yet still recognizably and coherently Guided By Voices in both its literal and mythic senses.
“At first I said: no reunion, period,” explains Pollard about the decision to revive Guided By Voices. “And definitely no record or re-formation. But the tour went so well; the response was really unexpected. I thought at some point that a lot of people would like to hear new GBV music. The chemistry was still there.”
Eschewing the recording studio, Let’s Go Eat the Factory was instead manufactured in the living rooms, basements and garages of various longtime band members. Some tracks were recorded more-or-less live at Mitchell’s garage, where the band would often practice back in the early- and mid-90s. These sessions comprised Mitchell, Robert and Jimmy Pollard (Bob’s brother and long-time collaborator, who, though never a part of the touring ensemble, always played a crucial role on the classic-era releases). Some tracks were improvised over acoustic jam sessions at Demos’s house. Many were recorded at Sprout’s place in Wherever, Michigan, and later lovingly fucked with in order to achieve the proper level of weirdness. Band members occasionally switched instruments, and Pollard gladly accepted input from other band members. Sprout wrote or co-wrote and sings on six of the 21 songs.
The aesthetic is very much GBV, but in some unexpected ways (more prevalent use of keyboards and samples, for one thing) the 21st century can’t help but poke its nose into the resulting music. Devoted fans of Bee Thousand will not be disappointed in, for instance, the demonically tuneful “Chocolate Boy,” or the relentless chug of “We Won’t Apologize for the Human Race,” which Sprout describes as “Peter Gabriel singing ‘I Am the Walrus.’” Other standouts include “Doughnut for a Snowman,” which Pollard calls “the goofiest, twinkliest song I’ve ever written,” or “Spiderfighter,” a Sprout number that was in fact the first song title conceived for the new album, and which features a piano coda that Pollard likens to “a Pete Townshend demo for Lifehouse.”