Thursday, October 21, 2004

Guided by Voices will fall silent

Lo-fi legend calling it quits
with Southgate performance

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer staff writer

Guided by Voices.
(Jeremy Balderson photo)

What: Guided by Voices with Tobin Sprout

When: 10 p.m. Friday

Where: The Southgate House, 24 E. Third St., Newport

Admission: Sold out

Information: (859) 431-2201;

From the final lines of "Sons of Apollo," a track on the new Guided by Voices record, tumbles a message of deliverance: "I go free today." When Robert Pollard wrote those words, he didn't know that the album, Half Smiles of the Decomposed, would be the Dayton band's last.

After almost 20 years of making recordings in his basement that have transfixed fans around the world, Pollard is ending the group's run with a farewell tour that stops Friday at the Southgate House.

Although that might not mean much to the average MTV junkie, a legion of fervent supporters are mourning the loss of a band that exemplified the alternative to slick, overproduced rock music.

Starting with the first Guided by Voices release in 1986, Pollard, 46, has cranked out a prodigious number of songs marked by his unfailing ear for British Invasion-inflected hooks and his Dayton-centric worldview.

(Guided by Voices tracks are steeped with references to Pollard's hometown, from the recurring aviation images to the frequent name of local landmarks and streets.).

Fame began in 1994

In 1994, the album Bee Thousand planted Guided by Voices at the forefront of the burgeoning lo-fi movement, which championed home recordings over polished studio albums.

Pollard soon quit his day job as an elementary school teacher to devote himself full-time to music.

In all, Guided by Voices has released more than a dozen albums and EPs, several box sets, a greatest hits record and a staggering number of singles and B-sides.

Once the bittersweet, melancholy new album was finished, Pollard says, he realized it just felt like the last record.

The band has simply run its course, he says.

"I want to be able to step back and look at Guided by Voices and see what it was historically, how it stands in the big picture of rock," he says. "As long as it's a work in progress, I can't do that."

For local fans such as Billy Carter of Erlanger, the band's lore exerts as strong a pull as its tenacious melodies.

"They are the great American rock 'n' roll story. Pollard never gave up, even when he passed the big 3-0, when most people would have just stayed a school teacher," says Carter, 34, who works at Shake It Records and got his first Guided By Voices record in the early '90s.

Like the Velvet Underground and other influential yet under-the-radar bands, Guided by Voices has inspired countless fellow musicians, who can't imagine a musical universe without new Pollard-penned songs.

They won't have to. The ever-prolific musician will continue to release a torrent of solo material, and is plotting new collaborations.

Left with collection of songs

When the Electrifying Conclusion tour ends, fans will be left with indelible memories of Guided by Voices' epic, beer-fueled performances.

They'll also have a cache of songs that Pollard says are as faithful to the music he hears in his head as he could make them.

Since Half Smiles of the Decomposed hit record stores in late August, fans have been debating which track serves as Guided by Voices' parting shot.

But Pollard says he'd select a line from "Game of Pricks," a song on 1995's Alien Lanes, to stand as the band's epitaph: "I never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me."


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