Fingertips Explores the Archives: Guided By Voices - Gonna Never Have to Die
Jeremy from Fingertips joins us every Friday as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
This week we bring you "Gonna Never Have to Die" from Guided By Voices.
Dayton, Ohio-based Guided By Voices accumulated one of the most daunting catalogs of music in the history of independent rock'n'roll, recording some 15 full-length CDs along with 16 EPs during a career that began in 1983 and ended in 2004. The band experienced numerous personnel changes over the years; the lone constant all those years was front man and principal songwriter Robert Pollard (whose capacity to churn out music has continued unabated since he disbanded GbV four years ago). And it's not just sheer volume that makes the GbV catalog so intimidating; there's also the obliqueness factor. Critics love to extol Pollard's songwriting skills but forget to warn you that you will rarely if ever know what the hell he's singing about. The saving grace--and it's a big one--is the music itself, which is often hearty and heartening. Listen, for instance, to the air of timeless rock'n'roll that suffuses "Gonna Never Have to Die," from Pollard's Pete Townshend-like vocals to the old-fashioned drive of its big, snare-less beat to something at once larger and less definable in its deep and well-crafted ambiance. After a simple, itchy bit of acoustic guitar, the song grabs me instantly with the way each line in the first verse begins with one syllable drawn out over five distinct notes, complete with a wonderful, syncopated sort of hestiation in the middle. Okay, so it's kind of harder to describe in words than to listen to, but it creates an almost transcendent sort of wonder right smack in the middle of the action. There's even a counter-balancing resolution at the end of each line in the chorus, when, again, one syllable is stretched over five distinct notes, this time a simple back-and-forth between two tones. Yeah, like I said, harder to describe than to listen to. Don't miss, as well, the long and seriously cool guitar break that begins in the middle and takes us the rest of the way home--you don't often hear a lead acoustic guitar solo in rave-up like this. The song comes from the last official GbV album of all, 2004's Half Smiles of the Decomposed.
- Jeremy Schlosberg