If you are going into this band completely blind then it is important to know that Cub Scout Bowling Pins is a new secret identity for the current lineup of Guided By Voices. Like so many other Robert Pollard related “side” projects, Cub Scout Bowling Pins has a unique sound that is much wider on their debut Clang Clang Ho compared to their incredibly tight Headphone Approved EP, Heaven Beats Iowa, which was released earlier this year. Clang Clang Ho works to separate itself from the GBV recent catalog by turning down the guitars of Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr., losing some overall muscular drumming of Kevin March and refocusing the bass of Mark Shue. This twist offers Pollard a new palate to create as the 20 tracks here dabble in 60’s psych, classic 70’s West Coast sounds and sometimes a more intricate chamber pop.
The biggest takeaway I had from Clang Clang Ho is that this talented group really does transform into a band that could have been featured on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the day. The whimsical opener “Magic Taxi” is one song I would pick to highlight the groups sound with its floating half speed Pollard vocals and vintage foot tapping instrument work. The sinister “Ride My Earthmobile” has its title repeated multiple times that settles in your head as the background mirrored vocals surround it as Pollard doesn’t force any of its vocals. The song has a 60’s garage rock to it that I could hear the The Standells cranking out back in their prime. Other songs on the record shine because of the classic Pollard hooks. It is a component that always grabs me and Club Scout Bowling Pins is no different. “© 1-2-3” hits the sweet spot as the band harmonizes the line “this is the place to be” as the track just hums along. “Eggs, Mother?” is another track that brings all the new CSBP pieces together in a catchy 1:31 and some vocal effects on Pollard’s delivery that is incredibly easy to sing along with.
With all the free flowing ideas on this album there are some that didn’t connect for me. Many of those tracks are songs that Pollard really altered his vocal delivery on and I just did not find them memorable. I would have preferred a shorter album than pushing Clang Clang Ho out to 40 minutes with some of the these tracks that I felt broke the vibe. That part is hard for me because I am a big fan and there are some fantastic songs here which if they had a little more overall tweaking with the track list, Clang Clang Ho would have been one of my favorites so far this year.
Overall, any Guided By Voices fan will enjoy this album. It once again highlights that Robert Pollard is never out of ideas and Club Scout Bowling Pins thrives on his love and understanding of classic rock. Many of these arrangements, melodies and hooks could have easily been from a different era but with the talented musicianship that is GBV, every tune still has a modern indie flare to it that keeps this one fresh around every corner. I hope they give this identity at least one more album because it really could be a classic!
Key Tracks: “© 1-2-3” / “Ride My Earthmobile” / “Eggs, Mother?”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Turtles / Mortimer / The Standells
Cub Scout Bowling Pins Review History: Heaven Beats Iowa (2021)
-Reviewed by Thomas Wilde