Fire Note Says: Class Clown Spots A UFO respectfully captures past GBV glories while making “the classic lineup” a force on the current indie rock scene!
Album Review: Ready for round two? You better be as Class Clown Spots A UFO is the second full length this year from the classic lineup Guided By Voices. The record once again accomplishes successfully blending the past, present and future GBV that showed up on Let’s Go Eat The Factory  but ups the ante a bit with bigger singles, a louder rock vibe and an increase of memorable shorter tracks.
Let’s start with the singles off Class Clown as the title track is easily the catchiest song this new era GBV has released complete with hand clapping moments that will instantly get stuck in your head. For longtime fans it will even be a larger treat hearing this big rock radio version as it is a re-working of the acoustic number “Crocker’s Favorite Song” from the King Shit And The Golden Boys LP and then with its current title and more expanded (although lo-fi) on Suitcase 3. Next on the single list is the drum machine pumping “Keep It In Motion” which features a superb layered blending of Pollard and Sprout’s vocals that is truly “classic” sounding and makes the 2 minute track one of the most effortless and memorable tracks on the record. Lastly, “Jon The Croc” is a much more in your face type of rock song that spirals out of control in the best way with a strong guitar and pounding drum presence.
Class Clown Spots A UFO not only uses its singles to go bigger but overall the record feels heavier right from the opening track “He Rises! Our Union Bellboy” with the booming of Pollard’s voice combined with the grinding guitar undertone that then leads you right into the stand up tall, just over a minute “Blue Babbleships Bay” that once again brings back a thunderous Pollard vocal, pounding skins and a dirty guitar riff. Throughout Class Clown there are plenty of other moments that increase the volume knob here such as the distorted playing during “Tyson’s High School”, the air guitar worthy intro on “Hang Up And Try Again” that repeats itself and the soaring “Billy Wire” which could have easily been a single even with its momentary psychedelic pause right at its midpoint.
What really makes Class Clown such a solid record and just a notch above Let’s Go Eat The Factory is its memorable shorter songs that pop up everywhere on the record and still includes that one hook or layered vocal that sticks. This is the component that typically is indescribable to a non-GBV fan on why a record like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are so great. These little pieces that can keep a 1 minute song alive in your head well after the track has passed has always been a GBV strength and it shows up in full force on Class Clown. The simple 1 minute acoustic “Chain To The Moon” is masterful while the Tobin Sprout penned “Starfire” and “All Of This Will Go” continue the pattern. The 47 second lo-fi rocker “Roll The Dice, Kick In The Head” will have you repeating the title just as the track ends which will just make you smile to yourself and probably quickly hit repeat.
This record definitely takes more than one listen to really get into but if you have been a long time fan of Guided By Voices I believe that Class Clown Spots A UFO will be the album that gets you to acknowledge that Pollard and crew still have “it”. If you are new to the group, I think this is the album which showcases how different GBV’s sound really is and then should guide those individuals back into the classics. Is this the record of the year? Will Class Clown be better than the groups 3rd album, The Bears For Lunch, which is due out in the fall? Time will certainly tell but for now it is definitely one of our favorites as it just simply hits on all cylinders for all 21 tracks and will just keep you coming back for more!
Key Tracks: “Class Clown Spots A UFO”, “Billy Wire”, “Keep It In Motion”, “Chain To The Moon”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Who / Chavez / Big Star
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-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony
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