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Guided By Voices | Human Amusements At Hourly Rates (The Best of Guided By Voices) (Matador)
Whilst you could never accuse Robert Pollard of failing to sate the rabid appetites of his adoring Deadhead-like GBV followers, it's certainly time that passing admirers (and the uninitiated) got some digestible dues from his primary band's over abundant oeuvre.  Now having finally realised such duties can be tackled simultaneously, along comes the release of this comprehensive 32-track career overview squeezed into one low-priced CD, a matter of weeks after the enormous GBV boxset 'Hardcore UFOs' delighted militant fans.

Naturally, compressing the best of GBV into just one 77-minute CD was never going to be easy and there's certainly omissions that even non-purists might snipe at - there's no Choking Tara (Creamy Version), Skin Parade or Portable Men's Society for starters - but Pollard has done a sterling job in representing the full-flavour of his diverse and never-ending geek-rock buffet.  Moreover, although the non-chronological sequencing may be somewhat frustrating, at least Pollard has gone to the trouble of trying to compile the only GBV album you'll ever really need to play on a regular basis.  Matador has also benevolently backed-up Pollard's public archive initiative by ensuring that older material is properly represented (predominantly released on Scat Records) and that the band's more recent two-album major label sojourn (on TVT Records) hasn't been neglected, despite the contractual headaches it may have caused the label's lawyers.

Within a matter of spins 'Human Amusements...' proves itself to be a worthwhile exercise.  You really can't quibble with the three-strike punch of Everywhere With Helicopter, I Am A Tree and My Kind of Soldier from the stomping mid-fi section of the band's product range.  Echos Myron (from the much-loved lo-fi end of the group's output) might well been have recorded in an empty washing machine but it's hard to fault its authentic Kinksian swagger.  The high-gloss production values that coat Chasing Heather Crazy and Glad Girls may have caught the attention of the indie-sell-out police, but it's hard not to be pricked by the hook-sinking melodies that propel them.  Stylistically the band may be better known for bullish Britrock-indebted indie-pop, but there's a plethora of other avenues that Pollard has driven down in pursuit of the perfect, three minutes or less, pop thrill.  From the staccato punk of Shocker In Gloomtown (once brilliantly covered by The Breeders), through the demented white-funk of Hot Freaks, via the prog-psychedelia of Cut-Out Witch and on to the wistful CSYN-folk of 14 Cheerleader Coldfront (one of the few standout tracks sung by former GBV co-pilot Tobin Sprout), it's clear that Pollard's affection for record collecting extends well beyond his own multi-monikered endeavours.

This compilation is set to have a threefold effect.  It might make you want even more (in which case pick-up 'Bee Thousand,' 'Alien Lanes' and 'Universal Truths & Cycles,' until that recording-buying bank loan comes through).  It may give you enough to fill that void in your record-collection, but halt any desire to cherry-pick your way through a behemoth of a back catalogue.  It could even put you off completely.  But with a permanently low price tag and a well-rounded track selection, no one should go away feeling ripped-off or ill-informed.  Nice one, Bob.

Adrian Pannett
November-December 2003