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Guided By Voices

Tonics & Twisted Chasers (LP)

Label: Superior Viaduct

Format: LP

Genre: Experimental

Preorder: Releases August 2024

€27.90
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Originally released in 1996 as a limited fan-club pressing for Rockathon, Guided By Voices' Tonics And Twisted Chasers has always existed as an anomaly in Robert Pollard's vast discography. In many ways, the album serves as the tail of a creative comet that in just two years included the "classic line-up" trilogy of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Under the Bushes, Under the Stars and countless singles that crammed endless hooks in their grooves. In the intervening space, Tonics And Twisted Chasers has taken on a mythic status. It's arguably Pollard's strangest, gnarliest, most enlightened record and also the fans first chance to see the stitches that bind his galaxy of songs. It's like peering at the caliber inside a watch, responsible for making the whole enterprise tick.

This nineteen-song collaboration with guitarist Tobin Sprout could be interpreted as spontaneous sketches, late-night improvisations, ideas that blossomed later in the timeline ("Knock 'Em Flying" and "Key Losers"), but as with anything in Pollard's orbit, its intention is clear when heard as a cohesive whole. The Pollard tenet that "less is more" is on full display here. The songs rarely creep past ninety seconds and coalesce much like Pollard's collage-styled visual art. Arena anthems in miniature ("158 Years of Beautiful Sex") bash up against eerie piano laments ("Universal Nurse Finger") without any time to breathe, acoustic lullabies that sound like a Midwestern summer's twilight ("Look It's Baseball") segue into monochromatic post-rock ("Maxwell Jump"). The euphoric joy and obtuse melancholy in Pollard's voice is so palpable on the album's standout, "Dayton, Ohio - 19 Something & 5" (which has since become a live staple), that it's impossible to find a more autobiographical yarn in his catalog.

The album's closest analog is 1993's Vampire On Titus, as it contains that album's prickly, dark and shimmering obfuscation that only reveals its beauty after repeated listens. Tonics And Twisted Chasers maintains the lore because the melodies are so strong. Using a primitive drum machine, Radio Shack effects, minimal instrumentation and the DIY spirit that guided them in the first place, Pollard and Sprout construct a masterpiece of pop that could only come from a basement in north Dayton, Ohio. Anyone in that hallowed era who happened upon it, kept it as a secret.

Details
Cat. number: n/a
Year: 2024