Half Smiles of the Decomposed

Half Smiles of the Decomposed

4.5 2
by Guided by Voices
     
 

Robert Pollard, ringmaster of the long-lived traveling circus known as Guided by Voices, once said that he'd consider hanging it up if the band ever recorded an album that he thought couldn't be improved upon. After 16 full-lengths and scores of smaller-scale releases, Pollard has deemed Half Smiles of the Decomposed to be justSee more details below

Overview

Robert Pollard, ringmaster of the long-lived traveling circus known as Guided by Voices, once said that he'd consider hanging it up if the band ever recorded an album that he thought couldn't be improved upon. After 16 full-lengths and scores of smaller-scale releases, Pollard has deemed Half Smiles of the Decomposed to be just that, and it's mighty hard to argue with his judgment. The disc touches on all the GBV musts -- from the Who-styled raving of "Gonna Never Have to Die" to the inscrutable grandeur of "The Tour Guide at the Winston Churchill Memorial" -- while kicking each up a notch or two. To that end, guitarist Doug Gillard retrofits "Girls of Wild Strawberries" with a bit more psychedelic shimmer than usual. Likewise, the eerie "Sleepover Jack" bursts with a few extra layers of sonic trickery, making for a heckuva headphone listen. Half Smiles of the Decomposed may be GBV's swan song, but there's enough passion in its grooves to indicate that Pollard isn't saying goodbye, he's just saying "see you later."

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Ever since they first burst into the consciousness of indie rock fans across our great nation in 1994 with Bee Thousand, Guided by Voices seemed like one of those bands that was always going to be there for us, letting loose with a steady stream of albums, singles, EPs, live shows, and side projects that even devoted fans had trouble keeping up with. But in April of 2004, GBV commandant Robert Pollard announced that the band would be calling it quits at the end of that year, and that Half Smiles of the Decomposed would be their last album. Given its status as GBV's sort-of-official recorded farewell, Half Smiles of the Decomposed carries significantly more psychic weight than previous albums from the group, so it's a bit surprising that the results hardly equal a "typical" Guided by Voices CD. Comprised of a mere 14 songs in 42 minutes, half of which are over three minutes in length, Half Smiles of the Decomposed is a final departure from GBV's tradition of compact pop masterpieces, and while the production (by occasional keyboard player Todd Tobias) doesn't approach the slickness of Do the Collapse or Isolation Drills, this may be the polished and attentive "indie" album Pollard and GBV have ever made. And the songs appear to be reaching for an epic quality that goes beyond their length; Pollard's way with a melody is very much in evidence, but rather than going for simple blissful hookiness, this set approximates a homegrown version of the big-screen sweep of, say, The Who on Who's Next or Mott the Hoople on Mott. But even though Half Smiles of the Decomposed sounds great, the band plays with impressive skill, and it represents one of Pollard's most successful attempts to balance his lo-fi musical impulses against the demands of proper record production, it lacks the ineffable fire and energy that has always set their best work apart. In short, Half Smiles takes Guided by Voices to the edge of their musical possibilities, but instead of leading them to a final glorious victory, it just seems to stop at the end of the road. But then again, maybe this is really just where Robert Pollard picks up a ride to his next destination.

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Product Details

Release Date:
08/24/2004
Label:
Matador Records
UPC:
0744861061229
catalogNumber:
10612

Tracks

  1. Everybody Thinks I'm a Raincloud (When I'm Not Looking)  -  Guided by Voices
  2. Sleep Over Jack  -  Guided by Voices
  3. Girls of Wild Strawberries  -  Guided by Voices
  4. Gonna Never Have to Die  -  Guided by Voices
  5. Window of My World  -  Guided by Voices
  6. The Closets of Henry  -  Guided by Voices
  7. Tour Guide at the Winston Churchill Memorial  -  Guided by Voices
  8. Asia Minor  -  Guided by Voices
  9. Sons of Apollo  -  Guided by Voices
  10. Sing for Your Meat  -  Guided by Voices
  11. Asphyxiated Circle  -  Guided by Voices
  12. A Second Spurt of Growth  -  Guided by Voices
  13. (S)mothering and Coaching  -  Guided by Voices
  14. Huffman Prairie Flying Field  -  Guided by Voices

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Guided by Voices   Primary Artist
Chris Slusarenko   Group Member
Tobin Sprout   Guitar
Robert Pollard   Group Member
Kevin March   Group Member
Doug Gillard   Group Member
Nate Farley   Group Member
Todd Tobias   Noise

Technical Credits

Guided by Voices   Producer
Greg Calbi   Mastering
Robert Pollard   Composer,Collage
Jim Pollard   Amplifiers
Rob Phillips   Contributor
Tony Conley   Contributor
Todd Tobias   Sound Effects,Producer,Engineer,Atmosphere,Audio Production

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