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Guided By Voices

Do The Collapse
(TVT Records, 1999)

****

REMEMBER THAT BEER commercial with the group of duck-hunting pals? Between sips and shots they chuckled and made small talk, ending with a buddy toast: It just doesn't get any better than this.

Which always left me thinking, well, what next? What happens when their beer runs dry? Ritual beer buddy suicide? I hope not.

Fortunately for me, Robert Pollard's beer has never run dry. At least not during the Guided By Voices documentary Watch Me Jumpstart -- which is a good thing, since so many rumors were going around that this new album was it. If Pollard couldn't achieve commercial success with this, then it just wasn't meant to be. That's too bad for Bob or TVT, or even Matador Records (the label that GBV finally escaped), but Pollard's material was never meant for mass appeal; it was just music he liked.

So where does that leave the average fan? Well, Do The Collapse has a lot in common with beer and duck hunting: it just doesn't get any better than this -- for the moment. Pollard still has more music to make, and it just keeps getting better. The current line-up of GBV, which includes Gem's Doug Gillard and the Breeders' Jim MacPherson, is as solid as any of the previous outfits. Coupled with the producing/recording/mixing/keyboard talents of Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, the result is 100-percent power pop...heavy on the power. The guitars have never sounded so full. For purists, Pollard's lyrical quirks are intact with lines like, "I'm a born again boot-stomping witch humper," proving that the man who wrote "Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox" still has it.

You really should get this now.

-- Michael Brooks


Paul Bollenback

Soul Grooves
(Challenge)

***

THOSE LUCKY ENOUGH to catch Joey DeFrancesco's spring appearance in Tucson had the chance to witness Paul Bollenback transcend the guitar. When command of the instrument allows for total freedom of expression, you have jazz in its purest sense. On his latest CD, Bollenback also displays an ability to compose and arrange with inventiveness. Soul Grooves features reinterpretations of Motown-era hits like Otis Redding's "Dock Of The Bay," Smokey Robinson's "My Girl," the Four Tops' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," a beautiful solo, nylon-string treatment of Stevie Wonder's "Visions," as well as several original tunes. Bollenback enjoys taking pop songs and doing them up his way; his 1997 release Double Gemini (Challenge) has him covering Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, even...(gasp!) Hootie. To his credit, the songs are rendered faithfully enough to be recognized, but with enough substance to satisfy the jazz ear. Also featured are B-3 monster Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, both masterful players well versed in the organ combo tradition.

-- Ed Friedland


Scared of Chaka

Tired Of You
(Sub City)

****

IF YOU'VE NEVER heard this Albuquerque-based rock 'n' roll trio, you're as sorry as an altar boy without a jar of Vaseline. When I first saw these guys play down in Sierra Vista a few years back, I realized that they were the band I'd been waiting for, after a decade of wading through wimpy, post-Descendents pop and tuneless, jock-fueled hardcore. Singer Yanul Hernandez spat out perfect vocal melodies that could have leveled the Brill Building, and bassist Dameon Waggoner and drummer Ron Skrasek wailed with as much testicular fury as a stunt cock after a two-day vacation. Their first three albums fulfilled the promise of that night well, serving up near-flawless speedballs of high-grade songwriting and pure, uncut energy. For those of you with poor reading comprehension, let me clarify my position: Scared of Chaka is the best band in this or any parallel world.

On their latest release, they've strayed from the path a bit, but it's barely worth mentioning since this is one of the best punk records you'll hear this year. There aren't as many catchy tunes as expected, but when the boys get down to it (as they do on the achingly pretty "Schoolboy"), nobody can touch their gingerbread asses. Nit-picking aside, this is an all-winners squad of rave-ups and rockers (including a great cover of the MC5's "Teenage Lust") that will remain in your record collection for as long as you like rock and/or roll.

-- Greg Petix

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