Guided By Voices August by Cake Rockathon
August by Cake is the 100th original studio record of Robert Pollard’s career, which began in 1986 with Forever Since Breakfast. That staggering figure apparently “emphatically excludes” live recordings and compilations in order to avoid comparison with The Who, because Pete Townshend “hasn’t written or recorded a decent song since 1978”.
Even by their own standards, it’s a work of sprawling ambition, a 32-track double album on which Pollard has encouraged his collaborators more or less free rein to bring in their own ideas. His instructions to new guitarist Bobby Bare Jr., for instance, were simply, “don’t write any country shit.” Pollard, for his own part, worked on ideas for a single LP that then extended to him extrapolating to a longer format by revisiting old, discarded ideas. That August by Cake still has a sonic cohesion to it is nothing short, therefore, of a minor miracle.
We get plenty of classic GBV in the form of opener 5° on the Inside and We Liken the Sun, those reliable lo-fi guitars and Pollard’s freewheeling vocal delivery that casual fans know from the group’s glory days. Elsewhere, the more off-kilter highlights include the spiky proto-punk of Deflect Project, gentle acoustic stylings of Sentimental Wars and the languid pop of The Possible Edge. It’s arguably the finest GBV album since the initial reunion in 2010. Here’s to the next hundred!