Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard.

Shotgun 60 Guided By Voices songs in just 60 minutes

Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard.
Photo: Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella. Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio.
Power HourPower HourPower Hour creates one tight 60-minute set from a musician’s discography or a genre, picking both big hits and deeper cuts.

Guided By Voices packs more musical ideas into a single album than most bands do into their entire careers, and it does it the old-fashioned way: by keeping them short. Led by the compulsively prolific Robert Pollard, the Dayton, Ohio-bred group rarely breaks the two-minute mark—three minutes would be edging toward proggy self-indulgence—in its sharp, jagged nuggets of British Invasion-indebted power pop and shambolic garage rock. Most of these feel like the bursts of late-night inspiration that they are. Kicking off with the clunk of a four-track hitting record, buried under tape hiss and lo-fi reverb effects, Pollard’s tunes stride in, bang out their bright and shiny hooks, then get out while the gettin’ is good, leaving room for two dozen tracks on a single record and a catalog of songs that numbers in the thousands.

To honor the release of the new Space Gun, Guided By Voices’ 26th album, in true GBV fashion, we crammed as many of its songs as we could possibly fit into 60 minutes. As Pollard would tell you, it’s actually pretty easy if you don’t make a big fuss about it. (And because we’re not internet sadists, we’re going to eschew our usual practice of loading you up with YouTube embeds. Check out the full playlist on Spotify instead.)

1. “A Visit To The Creep Doctor,” Sandbox (1987)

Guided By Voices’ signature sound had yet to come together by the time of the group’s debut full-length, Sandbox, and the 90-second “A Visit To The Creep Doctor” could have appeared on any number of alternative albums of the era. It’s still a frenzied eruption of rock ’n’ roll, though. [Katie Rife]

2. “How Loft I Am?” Same Place The Fly Got Smashed (1990)

Although it’s much more evident on later GBV recordings, Robert Pollard’s love of the British Invasion sound goes deep, as demonstrated by this 66-second bit of sunny Beatles worship from early EP Same Place The Fly Got Smashed. [Katie Rife]

3. “Lethargy,” Propeller (1992)

Pollard’s Dylan-influenced vocal style and bizarre, stream-of-consciousness lyrics were starting to calcify by the time of Propeller’s release in 1992, here backed by an 80-second Melvins-esque wall of sludge. [Katie Rife]

4. “14 Cheerleader Coldfront,” Propeller (1992)

Just a few tracks down from “Lethargy’s” furious punk-rock blast comes the 91-second “14 Cheerleader Cold Front,” a simple, catchy, sweetly eccentric acoustic melody with vocal harmonies from Pollard and longtime GBV guitarist/co-songwriter Tobin Sprout. [Katie Rife]

5. “I’ll Get Over It,” The Grand Hour (1993)

Coming off like it was improvised and hastily recorded during soundcheck—right down to the dubious rhyme “insensity”—this 39-second dirge is a defiantly nonsensical drunken rant. Still, it does contain the classically Pollardian barroom directive “Leave your opinions at home / Put your cigarettes out.” [Sean O’Neal]

6. “Shocker In Gloomtown,” The Grand Hour (1993)

Surprisingly enduring for its short length, this 85-second cut from 1993’s The Grand Hour EP remains a staple of GBV’s live sets and even got covered by fellow Dayton band The Breeders. “Shocker In Gloomtown” is a galvanizing little rave-up that finds Pollard rhyming “promotional trash” with “emotional bash” before an anthemic coda that ends on “Bared his ass for all to see / And no one got to kiss it.” It’s an absurdist little sketch of your local music scene (or at least, that’s how it feels). [Sean O’Neal]

7. “Marchers In Orange,” Vampire On Titus (1993)

Abandoning guitars, drums, and rock ’n’ roll completely, this 84-second version of “Marchers In Orange” (not to be confused with the revamped redux on 1994’s Fast Japanese Spin Cycle) finds Pollard recording over a wheezing harmonium for a real Punch-Drunk Love kind of vibe. The processional rhythm matches his lyrics about a “still circus for the children in disguise / Throwing bones to the drug-sniffing dogs.” [Sean O’Neal]

8. “World Of Fun,” Vampire On Titus (1993)

Sarcastic and a tad self-loathing, the 55-second “World Of Fun” finds Pollard luring you down to his titular planet “for a chance to break your heart.” It’s a trap! [Sean O’Neal]

9. “Wondering Boy Poet,” Vampire On Titus (1993)

Guided By Voices often balances out its wry, backwashed-beer cynicism with some stoned dreaminess, and the 59-second “Wondering Boy Poet” ranks among its most starry-eyed. A line like “Dream on, child of change / Throw your javelin through the sun” could have come spilling out of some hippie-dippie ’60s English folk singer, but the lo-fi hiss and harmonies on the chorus keep it grounded. [Sean O’Neal]

10. “Non-Absorbing,” Vampire On Titus (1993)

The best of Guided By Voices’ short songs feel like teases, and “Non-Absorbing” is a perfect example: The instantly catchy “doo-doo-doo” refrains and insistent snare cracks build you up for something bigger that never quite arrives in its 97 seconds, leaving you wanting more—and rewinding to the beginning just to get it. [Sean O’Neal]

11. “Snowman,” Fast Japanese Spin Cycle (1994)

Over some frantic Pete Townshend guitar, Pollard throws out at least one classic sleaze-poet line: “A bump is like a friendly letter / We are likely to enjoy a night together.” Meanwhile, the audible tape crackles spotlight what a fast-jab (but funny!) 47-second throwaway this is. [Sean O’Neal]

12. “Indian Fables,” Fast Japanese Spin Cycle (1994)

Pollard’s in full-on troubadour mode—you can imagine him leaping atop a park fountain and belting this one out to surprised passersby—the 42-second “Indian Fables” is a bit of wistful traveler’s poetry delivered over acoustic guitar in an unusually clear and lovely voice. “To worship the perfect and sometimes cruel / Impartiality of the sun” is downright Keats-ian. [Sean O’Neal]

13. “Matter Eater Lad,” Clown Prince Of The Menthol Trailer (1994)

An empathetic theme song for a similarly marginalized hero with niche appeal, the classic “Matter Eater Lad” commemorates the DC Comics also-ran with a loose and sloppy 72-second garage basher about all the incredible things he can eat. Pollard rhymes “Ansonia” with “Andromeda.” [Sean O’Neal]

14. “Pink Gun,” Clown Prince Of The Menthol Trailer (1994)

If you think GBV is just a bunch of drunks playing out of tune, well, “Pink Gun” isn’t likely to dissuade you: Pollard sounds at least a fifth deep here as he shouts hoarsely over dissonant guitar and drums, both of them struggling to find the same start-stop rhythm for 36 seconds. Still, there’s something cathartic about music this brazenly “that’ll do,” and it coalesces the more you listen to it, really. [Sean O’Neal]

15. “Gold Star For Robot Boy,” Bee Thousand (1994)

Infectious Tilt-A-Whirl pop melody? Check. Enigmatic lyrics? Check. Messy, churning guitars? Check. Production that redefines “lo-fi” as “shouted from across a cavernous bathroom”? Check. Behold, the classic Guided By Voices sound in its most perfect, 99-second form. [Katie Rife]

16. “Kicker Of Elves,” Bee Thousand (1994)

The difficulty of explaining the appeal of GBV to the uninitiated is perhaps epitomized by “Kicker Of Elves,” a 64-second trip through Pollard’s imagination with a rhythm that sounds like it was pounded out on the side of a Rubbermaid container. One listen though, and you’ll never get it out of your head. “Do do do do do do do, kicker of elves, do do do do do do do, kicker of elves…” [Katie Rife]

17. “Demons Are Real,” Bee Thousand (1994)

Some Guided By Voices songs are mini-master classes in pop songwriting, and others are the squalling rantings of a madman with guitars that will set your teeth on edge. Both are essential elements of the GBV canon. The 48-second “Demons Are Real” is one of the latter. [Katie Rife]

18. “Peep-Hole,” Bee Thousand (1994)

The rough edges of GBV’s recording style and deliberate opaqueness of its lyrics conceal a wounded romanticism, and Pollard’s sensitive side pokes its head out on this stripped-down 85-second ballad. Its softness is tempered by shouted vocals and aggressive acoustic strumming, of course; can’t let anyone get too close. [Katie Rife]

19. “You’re Not An Airplane,” Bee Thousand (1994)

The stripped-down vulnerability of penultimate track “Peep-Hole” carries through to album closer “You’re Not An Airplane,” a 33-second complete thought in vocals and piano that looks toward the future with a jaundiced yet hopeful eye. [Katie Rife]

20. “Planet’s Own Brand,” I Am A Scientist (1994)

Part of a collection of leftovers from GBV’s peak performance Bee Thousand sessions, the 75-second “Planet’s Own Brand” has a somewhat more generic jangle than the classics on that album, but it’s notable for containing the lyric “under the bushes, under the stars,” which Pollard would later use as the title of his 1996 album. [Sean O’Neal]

21. “Deathtrot And Warlock Riding A Rooster,” King Shit & The Golden Boys (1995)

Even the piano sounds drunk on this 74-second barroom shout-along track—or is it talent night at the asylum?—from the rarities album King Shit & The Golden Boys, largely composed of songs recorded during the Bee Thousand sessions. What key is it supposed to be in? Does it really matter? [Katie Rife]

22. “A Salty Salute,” Alien Lanes (1995)

This is the unofficial GBV theme song, an uplifting 89-second expression of the beer-soaked camaraderie that defines the group’s fandom, and the source of the magic words that indicate that the debaucherous festivities are about to begin: “The club is open.” [Katie Rife]

23. “Game Of Pricks,” Alien Lanes (1995)

The second in GBV’s run of critically acclaimed, widely beloved mid-’90s albums, Alien Lanes cleans up the broken-speakers production of Bee Thousand, but only incrementally—and that’s how the fans like it. This is just one of the stone-cold classics from the album, a cryptic but universally relatable song about betrayal backed by a tight full band and clocking in at just over a minute and 30 seconds. [Katie Rife]

24. “A Good Flying Bird,” Alien Lanes (1995)

With Tobin Sprout taking lead vocals in full, British-accented good cheer, the 67-second “A Good Flying Bird” offers a rousing anthem of self-acceptance that doubles as an appraisal of GBV’s proudly plastered resilience (“We were not so fond of reason / Everyone could tell / Even times we’d start to stumble / But never ever fell”). The silly, catchy “Yeah!” chorus leaves you waiting for a downbeat that never arrives, but that’s just part of what makes it so addictive. [Sean O’Neal]

25. “Cigarette Tricks,” Alien Lanes (1995)

Dropping you in media res into what sounds like the bridge to a truly epic Who song, Pollard is already blazing past you over big, rolling drum fills in this 18-second blast, singing about a girl who’s actually a boy, before spelling out “Billy-I Billy-L Billy-L Billy-Y.” Wait, is she named “Billy” or is he talking about someone else? Who’s doing these cigarette tricks? Too late! [Sean O’Neal]

26. “Pimple Zoo,” Alien Lanes (1995)

It’s an impressive feat to squeeze two variations on the same musical theme into 42 seconds, but if anyone can do it, it’s GBV. Pollard’s anxious angst over a fading relationship is expressed first as a wall of fuzzed-out guitar and a shouted “Sometimes I get the feeling / That you don’t want me around.” Then an abrupt acoustic bridge announces a shift to the same thing, this time buried under layers of distortion and fuzz. [Katie Rife]

27. “Hit,” Alien Lanes (1995)

With Pollard’s mind flitting from thought to thought with the speed of an indie-pop hummingbird, some songs that feel more like discarded snippets of longer compositions—like the 22-second “Hit”—are inevitable. [Katie Rife]

28. “As We Go Up, We Go Down,” Alien Lanes (1995)

Arguably the catchiest song Guided By Voices ever wrote. A sunny, acoustic-driven stunner in Beatles mode that boasts some of Pollard’s cleverest couplets (“I can’t terrorize / I see terror in your eyes” and “I speak in monotone: ‘Leave my fucking life alone’”), plus a huge chorus you’ll be singing along to before it’s halfway over. “The truth is just a lie” may not be the most profound of rock ’n’ roll statements, but this 97-second song makes it into an anthem for the maladjusted. [Sean O’Neal]

29. “Gold Hick,” Alien Lanes (1995)

Alien Lanes feels bloated with genius ideas, so a track like “Gold Hick” comes off like a 30-second pinprick to keep it from getting too full of itself. A quick, ear-bleeding punk screed that ends in a sarcastic, half-assed guitar solo, it still finds Pollard memorably declaring, “I’m Baron Von Richthofen!” (a.k.a. the Red Baron) before blasting off. [Sean O’Neal]

30. “Canteen Plums,” Sunfish Holy Breakfast (1996)

The Sunfish Holy Breakfast EP is often unfairly overlooked amid GBV’s hyper-prolific mid-’90s run, but it’s full of some of the group’s prettiest compositions, including this 75-second track. Captivatingly echoing guitar, a lovely little minor-key shift, and some of Pollard’s most inscrutably impressionistic lyrics. [Sean O’Neal]

31. “A Contest Featuring Human Beings,” Sunfish Holy Breakfast (1996)

Perhaps more memorable for its excellent title than the rather standard power-shouts within, this 67-second Sunfish Holy Breakfast track nevertheless has some unusually poetic detail from Pollard (“Rats and snakes on whiskey ships,” “An overworked dreamer and his cronies / On minitracks and motorbikes”). And in the line “and other less sprouts,” a possible wry dig at guitarist Tobin Sprout. [Sean O’Neal]

32. “The Worryin’ Song,” Plantations Of Pale Pink (1996)

The vinyl-only Plantations Of Pale Pink was for serious collectors who hoovered up every crackling four-track scrap, and there’s plenty of that lo-fi joy to be found in this 62-second grandstand, from its opening tape-warp sound, to the auditorium echo on the vocals, to the way those huge, windmill guitar chords kick in halfway through. It’s an amateur sound pitched at imaginary arenas, just like GBV’s best. [Sean O’Neal]

33. “Knock ’Em Flying,” Tonics And Twisted Chasers (1996)

Originally released as a fan club-only vinyl LP, Tonics And Twisted Chasers came toward the end of the classic GBV cycle, just before Pollard took the leap into slicker production—and a new backing band—on Mag Earwhig! As such, it’s a beloved document of the band’s shaggiest era, full of musical experiments and half-finished compositions like this 64-second track. [Katie Rife]

34. “Ha Ha Man,” Tonics And Twisted Chasers (1996)

Another throwaway track rescued from the home-recording dustbin, the 39-second “Ha Ha Man” is a fuzzed-out lark of a song from a band that never, ever takes itself too seriously. [Katie Rife]

35. “Look, It’s Baseball,” Tonics And Twisted Chasers (1996)

Even the elusive acoustic GBV ballad makes it onto Tonics And Twisted Chasers, a wistful recollection of a perfect day driving around the Midwest. The beautiful melody is tempered, of course, by a high feedback whine that comes and goes throughout the 81 seconds of this simple, heartfelt home recording. [Katie Rife]

36. “Hollow Cheek,” Mag Earwhig! (1997)

After recruiting Cobra Verde to be his new backing band, Pollard went slickly pro (relatively speaking), decamping to an actual studio and working up songs that could match the new ambitions that his Bee Thousand-spawned popularity had stirred. The 32-second “Hollow Cheek” doesn’t have anything to do with that, really—it sounds like the kind of outtake John Lennon might have made while fucking around on a piano—but in the context of Mag Earwhig!, it’s a nice reminder of Pollard’s more humble origins. [Sean O’Neal]

37. “Mag Earwhig!” Mag Earwhig! (1997)

Leave it to Pollard to name the whole album after its weirdest song—just 40 seconds of eighth-note guitar strums, a distant, reverbed bleat of backing vocals, and some LSD rambles about “the bastard on ex-warhorse” and how he “smiled like an electric child.” [Sean O’Neal]

38. “Mute Superstar,” Mag Earwhig! (1997)

One of the heaviest songs in GBV’s entire catalog, the 84-second “Mute Superstar” sounds like a targeted stab at alt-rock stardom, marrying a huge grunge riff to some Bono-in-sunglasses nitrous vocal effects. It would feel like pure pandering if it weren’t for the sudden Technicolor explosion of its psychedelic bridge, which elevates it to something more beautifully strange than the sum of its parts. [Sean O’Neal]

39. “An Unmarked Product,” Do The Collapse (1999)

Ric Ocasek’s production on Do The Collapse really brought GBV’s power-pop tendencies to the fore, and 68-second “An Unmarked Product” is slicker than a toboggan coated in Pam, picking up speed as it goes. [Katie Rife]

40. “Let’s Go (To War),” Suitcase (2000)

GBV does the Dead Kennedys on this blazing 47-second punk number from the first Suitcase collection. But don’t expect straightforward political messaging in the lyrics—the ones that are decipherable, anyway. This is Robert Pollard we’re talking about. [Katie Rife]

41. “Tropical Robots,” Hold On Hope (2000)

Dayton, Ohio is about as far from a tropical paradise as you can get, but this beachy pop trifle, with nonsensical lyrics seemingly chosen for how pleasant they sound with the cadence of the song, is best enjoyed in a hammock with a cold drink in hand—for the 51 seconds it lasts. [Katie Rife]

42. “Frostman,” Isolation Drills (2001)

Buried amid the otherwise slick power pop of Isolation Drills, GBV’s second album for TVT, “Frostman” breaks up the studio wizardry with this 55-second lo-fi throwback, a chiming little ren-faire ditty that conjures Marc Bolan sitting in a forest, drinking mushroom tea. [Sean O’Neal]

43. “Wire Greyhounds,” Universal Truths And Cycles (2002)

Guided By Voices returned to Matador for Universal Truths And Cycles, an album that ended up being its highest-charting while also bringing its newer, fuller studio sound back to its old lo-fi home. Opener “Wire Greyhounds” typifies that bombast, packing a powerful punch in its 35 seconds that announces the band still intends to play on a larger stage. [Sean O’Neal]

44. “Love 1,” Universal Truths And Cycles (2002)

A truly monster riff drives this 54-second barnburner from Universal Truths, with Pollard coming on strong with louche pickup lines like “I dig the way you skim / Light and fried, like crème brulèe.” Try that one out at the club. [Sean O’Neal]

45. “Stronger Lizards,” The Pipe Dream Of Instant Prince Whippet (2002)

A companion to the Universal Truths sessions, The Pipe Dream Of Instant Prince Whippet EP definitely feels like a direct offshoot rather than a more experimental aside, with songs like the 55-second “Stronger Lizards” retaining that album’s swagger and heft. This track is one of those songs that feels like it’s just getting started, building to a huge power-pop verse that follows Pollard’s warning, “Unless we get out / Now” and quickly absconds. [Sean O’Neal]

46. “Leprechaun Catfish Fighter,” Suitcase 2 (2005)

If the sound of Pollard sitting down and jamming out a couple of whimsical couplets (“Bad apple cider / Leprechaun catfish fighter”) over the simplest of guitar parts for 29 seconds in front of a four-track recorder doesn’t put a smile on your face, it’s safe to say Guided By Voices may not be for you. [Katie Rife]

47. “Building A Castle,” Suitcase 3 (2009)

The aural equivalent of a note written on the back of a cocktail napkin, this simple, 32-second exercise in melody backed by what sounds like a Casio preset is nevertheless lovely. [Katie Rife]

48. “Go Rolling Home,” Let’s Go Eat The Factory (2012)

The classic mid-’90s lineup of GBV reconvened after 16 years apart for Let’s Go Eat The Factory (a nod to “Matter Eater Lad,” perhaps), balancing its old four-track ways with Pollard’s more recent studio sheen. “Go Rolling Home” falls under the former, a sketchy, 30-second demo that’s so lo-fi that you can hear a dog barking in the background. Welcome home, guys. [Sean O’Neal]

49. “The Room Taking Shape,” Let’s Go Eat The Factory (2012)

As with “Go Rolling Home,” the similarly ragged, 43-second “The Room Taking Shape” sounds like the product of a particularly beery afternoon, with Pollard and Greg Demos not quite harmonizing about “loveless chairs” and “burned-out lamps.” Befitting the lyrics, it feels very much like two rusty collaborators fumbling their way toward being in sync again. [Sean O’Neal]

50. “Roll Of The Dice, Kick In The Head,” Class Clown Spots A UFO (2012)

The rousing, devil-may-care attitude of GBV classics like “A Salty Salute” comes on strong in this 46-second ragged rock ’n’ roll number on the otherwise chamber-pop heavy 2012 album Class Clown Spots A UFO. [Katie Rife]

51. “Starfire,” Class Clown Spots A UFO (2012)

The 86-second “Starfire,” meanwhile, is more typical of the “ELO goes Midwest” vibe of the album as a whole, with a simple, straightforward falling melody with layers of vocals backed by layers of strings for that extra decorative touch. [Katie Rife]

52. “Smoggy Boy,” The Bears For Lunch (2012)

Over before you really know what happened, the classic punk sound of the 34-second “Smoggy Boy” is best described as being akin to sticking your head out of a moving vehicle and feeling a blast of cool air on your face. [Katie Rife]

53. “Amanda Gray,” Down By The Racetrack (2013)

Just 43 seconds of voices blending together in heavenly harmony over a baroque orchestral arrangement, “Amanda Gray” is Revolver-era Beatles as reinterpreted by Dayton’s finest. [Katie Rife]

54. “Planet Score,” Motivational Jumpsuit (2014)

GBV hit album number 20 with 2014’s Motivational Jumpsuit, released amid another flurry of productivity with its reunited classic lineup. The 101-second lead single “Planet Score” retains the limber kick of those mid-’90s high points (if not exactly adding anything new to them), with Pollard sounding both wistful and accusatory as he sings of “the ghosts of Motown” that now go ignored. Also, the video has Rob Corddry and Badger from Breaking Bad playing basketball! [Sean O’Neal]

55. “Hat Of Flames,” Cool Planet (2014)

By its sixth “reunion” album, Cool Planet, the old GBV had finally had enough of each other again, splitting up once more. “Hat Of Flames” feels most like it could have hailed from their heyday, 92 seconds of simple, razor-hewn pop about some mysterious, magical interloper coming through town in that titular hat. Guy Fieri, maybe? [Sean O’Neal]

56. “Pan Swimmer,” Cool Planet (2014)

The band may have been exhausted again, but the 61-second “Pan Swimmer” shows how much that ’90s lineup still had left to give—a bright and shiny rocker full of big guitar chords that builds to a lovely coda of over-the-shoulders farewell. [Sean O’Neal]

57. “Busy Bee,” Suitcase 4 (2015)

By the time the fourth incarnation of B-sides and rarities collection Suitcase—truly, the GBV back catalog is bottomless—came out in 2015, the group had long since embraced more professional production and poppier songwriting, making a 33-second lo-fi snippet like “Busy Bee” a nostalgic pleasure to be savored. [Katie Rife]

58. “Sad Baby Eyes,” Please Be Honest (2016)

Uncle Robert’s been hitting the whiskey jug again on this hammy, carnivalesque, 34-second track from 2016’s Please Be Honest, as Pollard embraces his role as ringleader of indie rock’s most raucous sideshow. [Katie Rife]

59. “Absent The Man,” August By Cake (2017)

Current GBV bassist Mark Shue provides lead vocals on the 96-second “Absent The Man,” part of an experiment in divvying up songwriting duties on the band’s first-ever double album, 2017’s August By Cake. The swirl of guitars and echoing vocals of classic GBV are still here, but applied more deliberately than before for a slicker sound. [Katie Rife]

60. “They Fall Silent,” How Do You Spell Heaven (2017)

Regardless of whether the production is bargain basement lo-fi or slick studio power pop, in the end Guided By Voices is about Bob Pollard beating the shit out of a guitar and just letting the words flow out of him, which is exactly what he does on this 54-second track from the group’s most recent album, How Do You Spell Heaven. [Katie Rife]

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