Guided By Voices - King Shit and the Golden Boys 12 Inch
Although the 19 songs that make up King Shit and the Golden Boys all hover around the two-minute mark, they manage to feel like full songs rather than simply incomplete snippets. It is this knack for pumping out basement pop gems in the space of only a minute or two that has become Robert Pollard's trademark. The fact that even his incomplete musical thoughts easily surpass the best work of many groups makes it all the more impressive. Though it has a bit of everything, the record favors springy Brit-pop, with prime tracks like "Crutch Came Slinking" even featuring layers of background "ooohs" and "aaaahs," a fairly elaborate bit of production for such a lo-fi outfit. The album's acoustic tracks are among the most stirring bits, as their straightforward execution makes it feel like you're catching bits of a secret tape you weren't meant to hear -- like eavesdropping on a show the musicians were playing just for themselves. Re-recorded for 1996's Under the Bushes Under the Stars, the now classic "Don't Stop Now" (starring Big Daddy the rooster) appears here in an early, bare-bones incarnation that may actually be more stunning than its cleaned-up redux. In fact, this disc's title is pulled from the track's lyrics: "We pulled into economy island/King Sh*t and the Golden Boys/Plenty more where we came from/Top of the line/Don't stop now." Stripped-down and truly minimalist, the beauty of "Don't Stop Now" (and the album as a whole) is that it proves that while many artists have bought into the fallacy that it is big studios or expensive guitars that make albums great, the truth of the matter is that a great song is a great song, and that will show through even if it's recorded on a cheapo tape deck with an open-air microphone on a guitar with a buzzing string. While there are several striking acoustic tracks (Pollard's "Please Freeze Me" and Tobin Sprout's "Crunch Pillow" shine through), there are some truly rocking numbers as well. The spastic live staple "Postal Blowfish" and chunky static riff of "Greenface" spring most readily to mind, though "Squirmish Frontal Room" ranks high as well -- not to mention the delightfully odd "Deathtrot and Warlock Riding a Rooster." Another highlight, the bliss pop of "We've Got Airplanes," sounds a bit like it may have been an early relative of "I Am a Scientist" and "Teenage F.B.I." King Shit is as engaging as most of GBV's proper albums, and that it is merely a collection of mismatched rarities and outtakes is truly astounding. Made up of material culled from Bee Thousand outtakes (worth the price of admission on their own) and chunks of the unreleased LPs Back to Saturn X and Learning to Hunt, this is an album that should go over especially well with those fans in love with the Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes incarnation of GBV and the makeshift sonic-collage approach of those records.