It wouldn’t feel like the year is coming to an end without getting one more Guided By Voices record to rock out to until the calendar flips to 2022. The band’s 34th album, It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!, strikes hard with a working GBV formula that gives you a great opening song, some of the most catchy singles the band has released in years, plenty of Robert Pollard eccentrics and a short bang up closer that will have you coming back for more.
“Spanish Coin” kicks It’s Not Them… off in stellar fashion as it mariachi’s along and is supported with blaring trumpets as Pollard cuts through the dust as he closes with several “Everyone’s gone…”. That leads you into the first earworm of the album with “High In The Rain,” as you won’t be able to resist the sing along with the harmonizing chorus “High in the rain / No overhead lights / Where it’s dark / I escape to each new view.” “Dance Of Gurus” is next up with its fast foot tapping tempo and just straight driving rock from the guitars which is all balanced with Pollard’s vocal charisma. The hits keep coming throughout the album which concludes in glorious fashion with the killer just over 2 minute closer, “My (Limited) Engagement,” which matches the total rock album cover art plus you get the Mark Shue bass that pulses and another unforgettable Doug Gillard guitar solo.
The middle of It’s Not Them… does have several more Pollard side project sounding songs (e.g.: Circus Devils) that will challenge some listeners, but will also provide plenty of discussion of their greatness amongst the hard core fans. Just take one listen to the a cappella “Razor Bug” or the crawling grind of “Maintenance Man Of The Haunted House” for a good example of my reference. For me, some of these songs unnecessarily break up the excellent start and finish flow of this album. Maybe they will grow on me with more listens but probably not.
Overall, It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! is a great rock album that takes risks for this seasoned band. It is more loose than GBV’s excellently sequenced Earth Man Blues, that was released this past spring, but I would say It’s Not Them… has some great individual songs that challenge anything this new era of the band has released. Once again, Guided By Voices does not disappoint and It’s Not Them… will keep the expectations high for their 2022 releases!
Key Tracks: “High In The Rain” / “People Need Holes” / “My (Limited) Engagement,”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Who / Wire / The dB’s
Guided By Voices Review History: Cub Scout Bowling Pins: Clang Clang Ho (2021) / Earth Man Blues (2021) / Mirrored Aztec (2020) / Surrender Your Poppy Field (2020) / Sweating The Plague (2019) / Warp And Woof (2019) / Zeppelin Over China (2019) / Space Gun (2018) / Ogre’s Trumpet (2018) / How Do You Spell Heaven (2017) / August By Cake (2017) / Please Be Honest (2016) / Suitcase 4 (2015) / Cool Planet (2014) / Motivational Jumpsuit (2014) / English Little League (2013) / Down By The Racetrack EP (2013) / The Bears For Lunch (2012) / Class Clown Spots A UFO (2012) / Let’s Go Eat The Factory (2012)