Guided By Voices - Tigerbomb [EP] (Cover Artwork)

Guided By Voices

Tigerbomb [EP] (1995)


1995 was certainly a banner year for Robert Pollard and his band of beer swilling acolytes. Their debut album for Matador Records, Alien Lanes, was released, serving as a self assured victory lap after the triumph that was 1994's Bee Thousand. The album is 28 tracks of catchy, off kilter low-fi arena rock anthems and guitar demo squiggles. The fact that it is so remarkably consistent speaks volumes about the talent of the band and their songwriting at this time. Yet, instead of writing a piece about one of their most popular albums, I have decided to shine some light on one of their EPs: the underrated Tigerbomb, released just months after Alien Lanes.

The EP started off with two professionally recorded cuts from Alien Lanes. The clearer production and cleaner instrumentation gave you insight into an alternative universe where the band spent more money on the production of Alien Lanes than they did on beer. The version of "My Valuable Hunting Knife" was aided by a drum machine kick and well timed hand claps. It was certainly not a high grade recording, but it seemed like one compared to the original, which sounds like it was recorded somewhere between a decrepit garage and an overused dumpster (I mean that lovingly, of course). "Game of Pricks" was the other track offered a clean up job and it lost none of its catchiness or sway. How you feel about these tracks will have a lot to do with your opinion about the lo-fi recorded basement fuzz of the band's earlier records. If you find it "charming" and "warm," then you might find these new versions to be hollow imitations. Personally, I think they were complimentary to their more scuzzy counterparts, with enough unique elements to have them stand on their own.

The real meat was found in the original tracks, including "Mice Feel Nice (in My Room)," which simply consisted of acoustic guitar and Pollard's signature absurdist lyrics, lightly shouted into a four track recorder. "Not Good for the Mechanism" sounded like a mid-tempo rock tune buried knee deep in the mud and "Kiss Only the Important Ones" proves Pollard's unique ability to stir you with the sparest arrangement possible. The real highlight of the bunch here was Tobin Sprout's "Dodging Invisible Rays." Sprout has always been the Spiral Stairs to Pollard's Stephen Malkmus. Pollard will bury the listener in an avalanche of songs, but once in a while Sprout will show up with an unassuming pop gem. "Dodging Invisible Rays" was no exception, with every element of the song containing the capacity to nestle itself into your head and never leave. It sounded like a dry run for Sprout's underrated debut solo album, 1996's Carnival Boy.

On Tigerbomb, Guided By Voices delivered 13 minutes of blissed out and warm sonic inconsistency, never losing their sense of melody or ability. With its eclectic fidelity, you could make the argument that Tigerbomb acts as a microcosm for their 1990s output as a whole. Yet, I would simply say that Tigerbomb has earned its place among Archers of Loaf's Vs Greatest of All Time and The Breeders' Safari in the pantheon of all time great Indie rock EPs, a format that unjustly goes unheralded.