The reunited “classic” line-up of famously prolific ’90s indie-rock institution Guided By Voices already issued one album in 2012, the very good Let’s Go Eat The Factory. But it wasn’t going to be a true GBV comeback until Robert Pollard corralled the old gang into putting out two reunion records in the same year. By virtue of coming out second, Class Clown Spots A UFO seems destined to be overlooked by all but the most devoted of the GBV faithful. But for those still inclined to care about Pollard’s endless re-iterations of ’60s pop, ’70s prog, ’80s post-punk, and ’90s indie, UFO narrowly edges out Factory, in terms of its hits-to-misses ratio.
While Factory played (in a mostly good way) like a warm-up of old friends and bandmates shaking off the rust and rattling the rafters, resulting in a record that showed off GBV’s noisy side, UFO—which was recorded during the same sessions—hoards Pollard’s sharpest batch of new hooks. Even the toss-offs are memorable, like the rampaging 46-second riff-rocker “Roll Of The Dice, Kick In The Head” and the perfectly imperfect one-minute psych-folk ode “Chain To The Moon.” Even when GBV is working in drunk ’n’ sloppy arena-rock mode, the melodies are sturdy enough to withstand all the caterwauling: “Billy Wire” is a hellacious barn-stormer in the tradition of “Game Of Pricks,” and the hand-clap clomp of the title track builds to a rousing conclusion that recalls Spoon’s “The Underdog.”
As with Factory, the strength of UFO is that it sounds like a true GBV record, rather than simply a clandestine avenue for Pollard’s solo material. If anything, Pollard’s sidekick and sounding board Tobin Sprout is even more prominent this time around, lending his instantly recognizable reedy vocals and mosquito-buzz guitar to sparkling midtempo pop-rockers like “Forever Until It Breaks” and “All Of This Will Go.” Best of all, he joins Pollard in the chorus of the album’s purest pop song, the bouncy “Keep It In Motion,” with an ease that belies the time they’ve spent apart. Let’s hope they keep this reunion in motion.