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Half Smiles of the Decomposed

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
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 ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
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."
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: 8/24/2004
  • Label: Matador Records
  • UPC: 744861061229
  • Catalog Number: 10612
  • Sales rank: 92,417

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    We say farewell to GbV

    Ex-fourth grade teacher turns lead singer of a Dayton, Ohio indie lo-fi rock band, and the world is a better place. Well folks the song writing machine, aka Robert Pollard says this will be the last Guided By Voices album. It is a really good album, not great by very good. I have a vinyl copy, and side one, which are the songs from Raincloud to Asia Minor, are little better than side two. Any GbV fan will be pleased with the album. If you are new to GbV, I wouldn't suggest it for a place to start your GbV collection. One of the standout tracks is Sleep Over Jack. My five year old son really likes Bob sreaming "I know" at the end on the song. Some of the other standout cuts are Raincloud, Girls Of Wild Strawberries, and Sons Of Appolo. If you are interested in GbV start out with Earthquake Glue or Universal Truths And Cycles. My all time favorites are Alien Lanes and Mag Earwhig. Once you get hooked on GbV you can spend a small fortune buying all of GbV's proper albums, and all of Robert Pollards side projects. It seens like he releases at least seven albums a year.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great Swan Song

    Have to disagree with AMG guy here, this album is a perfect culmination of everything Bob and the boys have been working toward for the last decade. This is one of GBV's most sonically beautiful albums and its consistency can hold it's own with Do Collapse or Isolation Drills. There may not be any standout gems like on Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes, but give it some time to breath - those albums gained legs as the years went by. It's a perfect way for this band to ride off into the sunset.

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