Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO

The maddeningly prolific Guided By Voices continue to stun on their 17th full-length and the second of three planned 2012 LPs (!!!), Class Clown Spots a UFO. Emerging from a six-year hiatus in 2010, the fact that the “classic lineup” of GBV has returned with another 21-track album a mere six months after January’s Let’s Go Eat the Factory rivals only their prodigious on-stage beer intake as far as remarkability goes.

There is a singular richness to this collection of medium fidelity pop gems that can be mainly attributed to chief songwriter Robert Pollard, in fine form as he wrings a surprising amount of whimsicality and pathos from lyrics that belie their seemingly nonsensical underpinnings. However, it’s guitarist Tobin Sprout’s contributions (whose own songs make up approximately 10 of the record’s 40 minutes) that really make Class Clown shine.

As Sprout’s British Invasion-inflected harmonies support Pollard’s weathered plea to “Keep It In Motion”, strings swell idly in the background of the mix before a gorgeous crescendo builds to a point that even the drums’ infrequent off-beat can’t derail. It’s difficult not to feel your heartstrings plucked as these five middle-aged vets encourage each other to “keep it in time”, sounding as vital as a band half their age; Guided By Voices, same as it ever was.