In Guided By Voices circles, the suitcase has become a legendary idea. In an interview in about 1994, Head Voicer Bob Pollard boasted he had a suitcase full of old tapes, replete with fragments of just about every song he has ever written. Now of course for the Postal Blowfish—the GbV diehards, the ones who would buy recordings of Bob’s collected belches after a night with the Monument Club—this was news comparable with the finding of a lost consignment of Van Gogh Sunflowers, or that fiver you accused your brother of stealing along with your wallet when you were 13. One hundred (count ’em) mini-vignettes of Pollardian genius, an insight into what makes his brain tick, the sort of thing he invents every hour and then equally disposes of quickly (an example: Bob in Leeds last year came out with the couplet Wild Kentucky Ape / He’ll crush your head like a grape which he came up with backstage, recited on stage and then promptly forgot about).
So let’s forget, then, that a good half of these tracks have been around before—they’re either reworkings of stuff which was later released or which have been floating around on various traded rarities tapes. Up We Go, To Trigger a Synapse, Guided By Beer(s) all have a lot of these tracks already included, though granted you have to know where to look in the first place. Let’s take a look. It’s a problem knowing where to start, of course; the usual ethos of ‘start at the beginning, and carry on till you finish’ can’t really apply here because the whole scope of the project is so huge. But we have anyway, over four pages, eight hours and nineteen beers.
Here, then, is Mavis’s track by track breakdown. Exhaustive? C’mon, even Mojo wouldn’t do this quite so wordily… Italics are the ‘bands’ each song is credited to...we kept them in as they’re quite cool, some of them.
1 THE TERRIBLE TWO STYLES WE PAID FOR—Old style GbV. Sounds almost familiar, but almost not.
2 BLOODBEAST STANDARD GENERATOR—Bloodbeast is this funny little thing all about a beast made of blood entering Heaven. Quite logical, if you think about it hard enough.
3 THE KISSING LIFE HUGE ON PLUTO—This is Mandi’s favourite—chiming guitars, good old-fashioned old-school GbV which would fit in well to the first half of Mag Earwhig.
4 BOTTOMS UP! (YOU FANTASTIC BASTARD) WHITEY MUSEUM—aka Kiss The Genius, and is well catchy after about 17 listens.
5 TEAR IT OUT (THE AMAZING) BEN ZING -Same Place The Fly Got Smashed style Bob and electric-acoustic. Get used to it now, there’s lots more of this to come.
6 CINNAMON FLAVORED SKULLS MEAT KINGDOM GROUP—At this juncture we shall invent a new adjective. That adjective is Nightwalker and denotes Bob noodling about shite-ily. This, therefore, is Nightwalker.
7 BUNCO MEN ELF GOD—If there is an elf god, he sure knows how to write some goddamn FANTASTIC songs. This is one of them.
8 BAD AND RARE JUDAS & THE PILEDRIVERS—sounds like a fragment from Bee Thousand. Bob tries to get a guitar to sound like a sitar, and almost fails.
9 DOROTHY’S A PLANET ERIC PRETTY—dull, and what’s worse, sounds like an outtake from the second half of Mag Earwhig! That’s the bad half, by the way.
10 PLUTO THE SKATE GLOBAL WITCH AWAKENING—an alternate version of a song from the Plantations Of Pale Pink EP, whose exact title escapes me. And the POPP EP was never one of Bob’s finest.
11 LET’S GO VIKE MAGIC TOE—off one of the rarities, aka Find Me A Woman which is the main hook. It’s OK.
12 SABOTAGE HAZZARD HOTRODS—ah yes, the notorious Hazzard Hotrods. Their only gig was in a video shop in 1990. The show was released as an LP recently. It’s shite. This is the second best track from that LP.
13 PINK DRINK TAX REVLON—Bob goes all Status Quo on a bastard offspring of Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory and Beneath A Festering Moon. There’s a full band version floating about that rocks, but this is still top stuff.
18 BORN ON SEAWEED REX POLAROYD—Bob and a guitar. Get over it, or press skip.
19 FLESH EARS FROM JUNE MONKEY BUSINESS—Nice and jaunty mid 60s Merseybeat, sounding a little like a naďve Freddie and the Dreamers.
20 DRIVING IN THE U.S. OF A. GHETTO BLASTER—Nightwalker. Enough?
21 MY BIG DAY (3 VERSIONS) TURNED UP TURNER—The best version of this isn’t one of these. That’s on Farmer P’s Tractor Tunes vol 1., and if you ask Mavis nicely she’ll tell you how to get it.
22 HAVE IT AGAIN MAXWELL GREENFIELD—A typical EP-style track from between 93 and 95. Almost has a tune.
23 LITTLE JIMMY THE GIANT LITTLE BOBBY POP—Little, because Bob wrote this song about elder brother Jimmy when he was 19. So Mozart was a genius by 6. Bob wasn’t at 19.
24 TACO, BUFFALO, BIRDDOG AND JESUS BOZO’S OCTOPUSS—Mavis has spoken to Bob and he said this one was about four of his pupils. It’s pretty good.
25 DING DONG DADDY (IS BACK FROM THE BANK) MOOSHOO WHARF—Nightwalkery noodle. And here endeth disc one.
30 BUG HOUSE (2 VERSIONS) ARTHUR PSYCHO AND THE TRIPPY WARTS—Great band name! Heard first on Jellyfish Reflector and is quite a pretty/ugly mix of weird shit.
31 RAINBOW BILLY GROOVY LUCIFER—Even Bob has disowned this one. Before Suitcase was released, no less.
32 SHRINE TO THE DYNAMIC YEARS (ATHENS TIME CHANGE RIOTS) APPROVAL OF MICE—The second of Suitcase’s Do The Collapse demos, this is an ace riot through hard-edged psychedelia.
33 ON SHORT WAVE ERIC PRETTY—Very plaintive song about ham radio. Maybe.
34 I CAN SEE IT IN YOUR EYES ARTROCK UNICORNS—The Who go bah bah bah bah bah ba-da and Bob does his best Pete Townsend windmill and strikes...a member of the audience as microphones are not guitars.
35 TOBACCO’S LAST STAND KUDA LABRANCH—Nicked once again off Jellyfish Reflector, aka I’ll Buy You A Bird and a fairly standard Bob weird acoustic thing going on.
36 SHIFTING SWIFT IS A LIFT ELVIS CALIGULA—Did the King marry his horse? More than likely he did cos this is the sort of song only a horse could write.
37 SING IT OUT TABATHA’S FLASHPOT—More retro 60s reminiscences going on with a gorgeous melody, but needs fleshing out with a full band.
38 MESSENGER RICKED WICKY—recorded in 1985, sounds like REM circa Reckoning, derivative but a nice little song.
39 THE FOOL TICKET K.C. TURNER—The intro to this is too long and on first listen it was a little dirgey, but after due digestion it’s got a great little hook.
40 MALLARD SMOKE BROWN SMOOTHIES—Fantastic name Bob….one of those songs which make you yell “Oi Bob! Stop it” at your stereo. Bob really can’t hit those high notes very well, can he?
41 MR. McCASLIN WILL SELL NO MORE FLOWERS EDISON SHELL—Horrible horrible horrible. That doesn’t go far enough. OH BOBBBBBBB!!!!!!!
42 SHIT MIDAS CERAMIC COCK EINSTEIN—Interesting concept—a man for whom anything he touches turns to shit. Err, anyone drawing parallels to Elton John here?
43 BLUE GIL MOONCHIEF—Oh yes. You and nobody else, just for you. Hopelessly romantic, fantastic, aching hook, deserved again to be the feature track on an important album. Only it was recorded for the aborted Learning To Hunt album, all of which was outstanding, and was therefore binned by Bob in a fit of pique and self-doubt, no doubt.
44 INVEST IN BRITISH STEEL RICKED WICKY—If this were typical of the type of product British Steel produced, and you were to buy stocks in said enterprise, you would be looking at a fairly massive loss.
45 SPINNING AROUND PEARLY GATES SMOKE MACHINE—Nicely atmospheric liddle number, but actually fairly boring after the first twelve bars.
46 LET’S GO! (TO WAR) 1st JOINT—Sounds like a lo-fi Who, only with Bob on drums. He does do a good mad-sounding Keith Moon, though.
50 IN WALKED THE MOON BEN ZING—Bob, if he were not to have made it in the world of indie-rock, would have made a good Roger Daltrey in a Who tribute band. This also nicks a line or two off Starboy, Bob’s psychedelic tribute to David Bowie. Disc Two is now over, and we’re exactly halfway, folks.
51 LONG WAY TO RUN FAKE ORGANISMS—aka Each Man Who Knows You, and well known in GbV fandom as a great lost song.
52 MR. MEDIA TOM DEVIL—In which Bob attacks in a less than oblique way the methods by which the NME has ground down all competition so that we now have a monopoly on who gets to tell us what we really should be listening to if we want to be as hip as them. Or maybe he doesn’t, but he should have done.
53 SETTLEMENT DOWN URINARY TRACK STARS—La Manda’s second favourite track, or thereabouts, but it really doesn’t do all that much for Mavis, who is sitting here writing this and getting slowly more and more tanked.
54 MR. JAPAN RED HOT HELICOPTER—Time of Our Lives from Back To Saturn X. Did Mavis mention she’s drinking JD and Coke, and it’s really quite weak?
55 A KIND OF LOVE DOCTOR FORMULA—Very pleasant, like walking in wet grass in trainers when the dew’s still on it, only louder.
56 MEDDLE BEN ZING—Mmmm, heavy meddle. One word: Nightwalker. Only it has a tune this time.
57 BIG TROUBLE HAZZARD HOTRODS—The third best track on the Hazzard Hotrods album. Therefore somewhat, ah, lacking in substance.
58 A GOOD CIRCUITRY SOLDIER ERIC PRETTY—A little pretty Bob acoustic dittyette, with the man himself declaring at the outset that he doesn’t know what will happen with this. Mavis knows: during its course, she will decide she will always prefer beer.
59 DEVIL DOLL ANTLER—Guess which adjective Mavis is about to use here? Hint: it begins with the letter ‘N’.
60 PANTHERZ INDIAN ALARM CLOCK—THIS IS THE WRONG VERSION!!! We all know the version on Jellyfish Reflector is the archetypal GbV rocker, produced by Steve Albini no less. But this is a reasonable substitute, even if it doesn’t hold a candle to that definitive version.
61 COCAINE JANE FLAMING RAY—A pretty but nasty song about our “friend” Charlie and his acquaintance Jane. Well, duh.
62 EXPLODING ANTHILLS GRABBIT—I’ll exploding anthills you in a minute, matey.
63 PERCH WARBLE 8th DWARF—Fishing is not a worthwhile pastime. Nor is warbling. So, therefore..?
64 MEDLEY: THIS VIEW/TRUE SENSATION/ON THE WALL COWARD OF THE HOUR—Bob and a guitar. For the record, Mavis is starting to sober up a little and needs to pee.
65 WHAT ARE WE COMING UP TO? OIL CAN HARRY—Quite a good little Bee Thousand outtake, and would fit in well with the album, only presumably this was intended for the original double LP version.
66 SCISSORS AND THE CLAY OX (IN) TOO PROUD TO PRACTICE—Look, right, Mavis has just acquired a guitar, and knows already that in order to be any good you have to practice. Hard hard hard hard. Otherwise you end up, like this, sounding like Status Quo again.
67 CODY’S ANTLER ZEPPELIN COMMANDER—Just absolutely no bloody good at all.
68 ONCE IN A WHILE GOD’S BROTHER—Was Satan, right? Well, if they say the Devil has all the best tunes, they’re right, cos he’s produced a right little corker here which Bob lifted wholesale for a track later on, which Mavis can hear in her head, but couldn’t possibly name. Damn you to hell, Lucifer!
69 BUZZARDS AND DREADFUL CROWS ANTLER—An extra nasty version of the Bee Thousand track. Makes you have nightmares about those horrid crows coming at night to peck your eyes out, just like in that Hitchcock film.
72 GAYLE STINGY QUEENS—In which Mitch Mitchell sings AGAIN, and they nick the guitar sound from the Smiths’ How Soon Is Now? Therefore doubly unnecessary.
73 GIFT HOMOSEXUAL FLYPAPER—Dare one mention the ‘n’ word again?
74 THE FLYING PARTY FAST FORWARD LIFE—Bob used this somewhere later on. Mavis is buggered if she can remember where though, but it’s very pretty nonetheless.
75 TRASHED AIRCRAFT BUS OF TROJAN HOPE—Sounds like Bloodbeast on Disc One. And now Disc Three is finished, and we’re on the final stretch.
76 TRYING TO MAKE IT WORK AGAIN PETE EASTWOOD—This was recorded in 1981. In some respects, therefore, it was better off being left in a wardrobe and never put in the damn Suitcase in the first place.
77 TURBO BOY PANZEE—From the long lost Learning To Hunt again. Features a bit from Pantherz, so therefore ace by proxy.
78 CHAIN WALLET BITCH THE UNFRIENDLY—Mercifully short.
79 LITTLE HEAD KING OF CINCINNATI—Sounds like a Tobin Sprout track. Has a nice guitar sound and the sort of vocals that Bob used to do that don’t sound a thing like him. Ooops. Mavis is on Brugse Tripel Bier (9%) and is getting increasingly soused once more.
80 WHY DID YOU LAND? MATTED PELT—Aaah yes, like we haven’t heard this song a hundred times before. Only this time it’s done in a Nightwalker club style. Come on! Yeah! This is an oldie, you might want to sing along or even dance, ladies and gentlemen.
81 TIME MACHINES BEN ZING—I like this Ben Zing chap. This is nothing like the Lexo and the Leapers track of the same name, but instead is somewhat Mag Earwhig-y (2nd half).
82 A FAREWELL TO ARMS HAZZARD HOTRODS—Finally, the best track on the Hazzard Hotrods album. Pretty darn good, but ultra lo-fi, so be warned.
83 BEST THINGS GOIN’ ROUND JUMPED OR PUSHED? - Yet another Bob and guitar strumathon which this time has the nicely edgy chord changes that Bob does so well and which have a nice air of familiarity about them. No melody to speak of, though.
84 SICKLY SWEET GOOD PARTS ONLY CORPORATION—Bob was drunk when he recorded this. So were Toby and Jimmy who also helped. So is Mavis. Cheersh!
85 UNITED BEN ZING—This is so fantastic Mavis had it played at her wedding, the photos of which you can find on the web if you look hard enough. Aaaaaaaaaaah.
86 UNSHAVEN BIRD JOHN THE CROC—Do birds really have to shave? And is John really a Croc? Or should that be crook? Bob, you need to let us know.
87 BLACK GHOST PIE GO BACK SNOWBALL—Sounds just like a song called Black Ghost Pie should. There is no higher recommendation (or warning).
88 GO FOR THE ANSWERS BROWN STAR JAM—No, don’t go for the answers. They’re not here.
89 ROCKING NOW FACTORY RAT—This is Wrecking Now off Do The Collapse, only better as it’s just Bob and a loud guitar sounding kind of new-wave-y and being generally fab.
90 EXCELLENT THINGS GOD’S BROTHER—Satan again, and as usual Beelzebub has the best pretty tunes. Though I can’t see him sitting round a campfire with Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan gently strumming away on this.
91 STATIC AIRPLANE JIVE ANTLER—Isn’t Antler just the crappest name for a band? This is a little like Hot Freaks, only not.
92 WHERE I COME FROM FAKE ORGANISMS—Darned pretty, actually, and really rather tops. Mavis has now finished her bottle of Staropramen, and is back on the Brugse Tripel. Three cheers for the Belgians and their strong beer!
93 TRY TO FIND YOU FAT CHANCE—This track is characterised by a conversation between two screechy American women midway through. “How are your kids?” “Oh my God, that’s so great”. Why chat when GbV are playing live in front of you? Live it, you halfwits.
94 DEAF EARS ANTLER—It’s still a crap name. Deaf Ears was a B side of The Official Ironman Rally Song. This is another take. Huzzah!
95 GOOD FOR A FEW LAUGHS ACADEMY OF CROWSFEET—Like a long-lost song fragment that we heard at the introduction to a song on an album like Vampire On Titus (which is a great album, if you didn’t know, maybe even better than Propeller) which was enough to tell us that that was all we needed to hear was the 8 seconds on that album and that the full version is superfluous.
96 RAPHAEL NELLY AND THE DIRTFLOOR—Brand new and shows what Bob should be doing, ie this sort of thing.
97 MY FEET’S TRUSTWORTHY EXISTANCE MAXWELL GREENFIELD—Pretty, but see everything else we’ve reviewed with Bob and a guitar for more details, cos it’s all pretty much the same. Mavis is well pissed now, by the way, so the reviews of the next three tracks may be, ah, a little, um, wayward.
100 OH, BLINKY STYLES WE PAID FOR—Oh Blinky, why must you end so? It’s on the rarities, this, aka The Day Is Done. Not too bad, in actual fact.
And there you have it. One hundred tracks reviewed in just under eight hours. Mavis would at this stage like to thank her agent, her chauffeur, and not least her gorgeous wife Mandi Apple who has brought her beer, whisky and Coke all evening and sat here all the while giving her good ideas...