Whichever way you choose to slice it, releasing 100 albums is a feat of mammoth proportions, and that’s what Robert Pollard, the main creative force behind indie band Guided By Voices, will accomplish on Friday. That stated, it’s unfortunate that “August By Cake,” that upcoming double-LP (out on GBV Inc Records), isn’t better than a standard quality release.

Pollard deserves a heap of credit for his prolific output. All it takes is a couple listens to his mid-1990s work with Guided By Voices — namely “Bee Thousand” and “Alien Lanes” — to recognize him as a genuine talent capable of genius work. “August By Cake,” however, does not fall into that category.

If lo-fi indie rock had a Mount Rushmore, Pollard’s face would probably be on it. The micro-song home recordings assembled for the above-mentioned “Bee Thousand” album made for one of the biggest surprise hits of 1994, eventually helping the band to land a spot on Matador Records.

And in terms of quantity at least, Pollard’s output really hasn’t waned over the years.

So, what’s good about this latest collection, “August By Cake,” in particular? Well, like most Guided By Voices releases, there are at least a few songs to really latch onto. In this writer’s case, those tracks are “5° On The Inside,” “Goodbye Note” and “Overloaded.”

But for the better part, the songs feel of the run-of-the-mill variety — like an assortment of sounds you’ve heard from Pollard and company all too many times before. It’s almost certainly not going to change your life.

Instead, “August By Cake” accomplishes the peculiar feat of covering a good bit of ground in rock (it’s got 32 songs, for goodness’ sake) without leaving the listener with any of the satisfaction that comes from an album of full-bodied dynamic range.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

(4) comments


What @nweditor said.


I love that my Google Alerts brought me to the Cecil Whig to read a Guided by Voices review. I work at a big paper, and we don't have anyone cool enough to review GBV albums.

I happily disagree with your assessment on this one and hope you'll give it maybe eight more listens. I was underwhelmed by all the reunion albums other than Let's Go Eat the Factory, as well as Please Be Honest. But this one's one of my five favorite GBV albums and continues a great run Bob has been on with the last Circus Devils album and first ESP Ohio album.

Much of his work reminds me of the White Album in both good and bad ways. There are killer tracks, but George Martin wouldn't approve of all the experimental tributaries. This one, though, reminds me of the second half of Abbey Road. Many of the songs flow together, and multiple songwriters are showcased.

If I had to play one album in full in an attempt to convert a non-GBV fan, it'd be this one. I'm surprised to be heaping that kind of praise on a Bob album in 2017.


Could not have said it better! Cheers!


Mr Antoshak, go wash your mouth with soap and start over... It seems like you only skip-reviewed it in about ten minutes time, as no sane person would come up with this nonsense after listening to an album of such grandeur.
August By Cake definitely ranks among Pollard's finest. It's a terrific group effort with hardly any filler, which is an astonishing feat for a 32-track album, and even more for a GBV album.

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