Published Aug 17, 2020Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently told artists that they "can't record music once every three to four years and think that's going to be enough." Understandably, artists and genuine music fans lost what was left of their pandemic-fried minds. Who was this billionaire vampire to say so flatly what he and his service had been insinuating for years?
It's a scary thought, that one of humanity's only inherent, immovable gifts could be reduced to a numbers game, a commodity to be pumped out at rapid speed and sold, streamed and TikTok'ed into meaninglessness. But if there's one band capable of flourishing in Ek's dystopian hellscape, it's Guided By Voices.
That probably sounds like an insult, but it's not. GBV are somehow both the embodiment and antithesis of Ek's vision – art made at a breakneck pace, but for no reason beyond expression and a love of melody and sound, unfit for padding chill vibe playlists or topping charts. Mirrored Aztec, the band's fifth(!) album since 2019, is further proof that Pollard and co. are beyond anyone's artistic standard but their own.
From the energetic riff that opens "I Think I Had It. I Think I Have It," the album is a nonstop ride of Pollard's classic pop melodies and simply innovative compositions. There are some small detours – "Math Rock" is exactly what the title implies, until a children's choir wanders in and takes it somewhere else – and the immense corrosion of GBV classics like Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes has been polished away. Mirrored Aztec is also more tight and clean than February's Surrender Your Poppy Field – that Pollard still has this many hooks in him is mystifying.
Still, there's an inevitable case of diminishing returns – GBV's latter-day records are so reliable and frequent that they're easy to take for granted. It's best to take them on their own terms and momentarily ignore the dozens of records that precede them, lest you feel overwhelmed – there's always something worthwhile waiting in the mix. It's no small comfort that Pollard is still out there in the world, creating music because he feels it, because it means something, even if that meaning is inscrutable to us. People like Daniel Ek may well praise Pollard for the pace of his output, but they will never understand him. (Rockathon)