Twenty-one tracks, all but three of them less than three minutes long. No expense spent on the recording. Surly guitar and forward momentum. Punky doodles, paranoid song sketches.
I'm a little wary of writing/listening about GBV as I never really listened to them much back in the Nineties or since - the occasional bit of Matador compilation action like "Teenage FBI". I don't know about the classic 1996 line-up that has reassembled here either.
First impression lyrically is that I don't understand what's going on. As per usual. I was hoping my ears might have sharpened up by now. "Doughnut for a Snowman" appears to be a song about a girl who has a doughnut and runs home to a snowman. I'm not sure what to make of that. Most of the songs are short, lyrical glimpses into some complicated, opaque vignettes. "Hang Mr Kite" starts with an ominous Michael-Stipe-like booming vocal; but again, no idea what that might represent. A dislike of Sgt Pepper's perhaps? "Imperial Racehorsing" has a neat, grungey strut. "Waves" has a mystical groove to it. A bit worrying that he doesn't know where "My Europa" is though. Does Robert Pollard not tour much? Geriatric love song "Old Bones" has a Tom Waits feel, as if recorded onto a wax cylinder sometime back in the Twenties. Heart-warming stuff in an off-kilter kind of way.
I've just read that Pollard's lyrics are meant to be cut-up and nonsensical and perhaps inspired by fourth grade stories he encountered as a teacher. That would make sense. I'd love to get an idea of what the symbolism beneath them is; but I don't have the brain wattage. Even if he has taken the characters like "Chocolate Boy" from the mouths of babes, so to speak, he will have picked them or picked out details for a reason of his own. Textuality - young and warm and wild and free!
Enjoyed the album, but perhaps because of the short length of the tracks, nothing quite leapt out as a keeper.
Rating: Psychedelic Horsemen out of Ohio