With the delivery of two new albums and a slew of tie-in singles so far this year, the reunification of the classic Guided By Voices line-up has already proved itself as far more than just a cash-grab from sentimental indie-rock fans of a certain vintage. Thus, with reunion record number three the modest objective is just to keep up the momentum without any majorly embarrassing slip-ups. Reassuringly, The Bears For Lunch fulfils such an aim as well as offering a more distinctive character. So whereas Let’s Go Eat The Factory and Class Clown Spots A UFO felt more or less covered in the same sprawling multi-coloured quilt, with communally sewn-together melodic glee and rampant eclecticism ruling over songwriting finesse and sonic fidelity, The Bears For Lunch is a leaner, tidier and more focused affair.
Whilst The Bears For Lunch occasionally lacks the charming sloppiness and the odd nooks of its recent prequels, thankfully it hasn’t polished-out innate GBV gifts and eccentricities. The main manifestation of the subtly refined overall approach comes with rockers that are beefier and less sprawling than on the two preceding LPs. Hence, command-in-chief Robert Pollard assuredly projects his Who-meets-Mott The Hoople affectations with significant might and chunky choruses on the rambunctious “King Arthur The Red,” the chugging “Hangover Child,” the multi-suited “Finger Gang,” the dirty “Smoggy Boy,” the swaggering “She Lives In An Airport” and the soaring “Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere.” Elsewhere, Pollard’s more minimalistic moments also feature extra purpose rather just acting as bridging interludes. Therefore, we’re treated to the acid-folk of “Have A Jug,” the unplugged musings of “You Can Fly Anything Right” and the warped piano-led meditation of “The Military School Dance Dismissal.”
Although it is a shame that Pollard’s re-recruited co-pilot Tobin Sprout has only contributed three of his own songs to this new 19-track set (compared to the half-dozen or so he delivered apiece on Let’s Go Eat The Factory and Class Clown Spots A UFO) at least they are highlights once again. Consequently, the balmy psyche-pop of “The Corners Are Glowing,” the joyous Byrdsian “Waving At Airplanes” and the infectious fuzz-rocking “Skin To Skin Combat” all add to his healthy cache of refreshing post-reunion GBV nuggets as well as suggesting that a new solo album might also be worth considering in the near future.
Whether there’s enough energy, fraternity and songs left in the GBV tank to warrant more new material on top of this year’s LP trilogy remains to be heard but this solidly-built long-player successfully marks the end of an unquestionably enjoyable and productive year in the band’s admirably contrarian career.
Listen to “She Lives In An Airport” at Soundcloud