01 Xeno Pariah 02 Know Me As Heavy 03 Island (She Talks In Rainbows) 04 Trash Can Full Of Nails 05 Send To Celeste (And The Cosmic Athletes) 06 Quiet Game 07 Noble Insect 08 Sir Garlic Breath 09 Crybaby 4-Star Hotel 10 Biographer Seahorse 11 Flunky Minnows 12 Birds 13 The Sudden Death Of Epstein's Ways 14 Reflections In A Metal Whistle 15 Tacitum Caves 16 A Burning Glass 17 W/ Glass In Foot
English Little League—the fourth album from the reunited "classic" line-up of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell—hums like angry birds along the full spectrum of rock's highways and byways (especially the byways), from rock to roll and back again. Pollard's rebus system of songwriting (sounds made visible, abstract concepts symbolized) strung like fairy lights from the opening song "Xeno Pariah" to the galvanic closer "With Glass In Foot," kettles along at full steam throughout, punctuated by the airier constructs of Tobin Sprout ("The Sudden Death of Epstein's Ways," with it's sweet/creepy emphatic refrain of "Jesus," is a particular standout). Deeper and less immediately accessible than last year's Class Clown Spots a UFO (for instance), but no less richly striated with layers of musical goo, this album is the work as much of a guild of master craftsmen as of a singular visionary genius. ELL (fookin' 'ell!) travels from hierogylphic to hieratic smoother than a pharaoh's cartouche, and if the quadratic equation that runs through the middle of the record from "Crybaby Four Star Hotel" to "Birds" doesn't solve every problem in your life then you've got actual problems.
The Guided By Voices project, as any fan knows, both requires and rewards effortful listening, and lazybones who dismiss the volume of Pollard's output as (basically) impossible misunderstand the care with which he assembles his dreamscapes. Whiny types will thus be dismayed to learn that Pollard has recently installed a studio in his house (first fruits can be found on "A Burning Glass," among others here), the better to transform his oneiric musings to immediate art, but converts to the clubhouse will be overcome—some will in fact faint—at the news. The plan at present is to release three Guided By Voices albums per year until the end of time, but in the world according to Robert Pollard, "plans" does not mean what it means to you and me. "Plans" to him are moving ideas caught momentarily in stasis, and subject as often to revision as to fruition. Which is to say only that you never know what the future will bring, only what the past has brought, and the past has now brought you the fourth Guided By Voices album in little more than a year. You should probably buy someone a drink to celebrate. You should definitely celebrate.