35 albums in and Dayton, Ohio indie rock legends Guided By Voices are still crafting pure odd-pop nuggets. Just four months on from their previous LP It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! (rapturously reviewed by our own Andrew Wood here) new LP Crystal Nuns Cathedral further proof that their incredible endurance and speed of output is the least remarkable thing about them, dwarfed by their ability to create vital new music that twists classic guitar pop moulds ever more intriguing shapes.
With the new album released at the end of last week, we asked guitarist Doug Gillard and bassist Mark Shue to talk us through the record, track by track.
1. Eye City
Doug: An epic song that slowly builds. Kevin has some great drum fills in this. I arranged some cello parts expertly played by Christopher George of NYC. Went for some slidey parts reminiscent of Donovan’s Cosmic Wheels LP or Paul Leka arrangements.
Mark: I love this one as the opening track. It slowly sizzles and smolders in a haze of tension, ultimately building up into a huge explosive chorus, which sets the tone for the rest of the record.
Doug: ‘Re-Develop’ is a super catchy, majestic 6/8-time song with melodic insistent vocals. Bob hits some nice harmonies.
Mark: A great one. The guitars stab along in a powerfully authoritative fashion, the drums pound with command, while the droning bass holds the tension steadily beneath. Bob’s powerful lyrics seem to be almost foreshadowing the rest of the album’s journey: “Re-Develop – out from nexus to plexus – the next phase to come…”
3. Climbing A Ramp
Doug: Really love this song. Cinematic, frantic hi-hat beat, staccato cellos. A different flavor for Guided By Voices, sounds like a movie theme and/or a radio smash(ed) single.
Mark: A striking and cinematic song, and a bit of a departure for us. A cello line rides the wave front and center, anchoring the song as the band weaves around it, ultimately building into a powerful outro headed up by Doug’s searing guitar lead. Bob’s vocals are very beautiful and understated. I love this one.
4. Never Mind The List
Doug: Chimey chords & strong bass-lines propel this one. Bob’s melody and superb lyrics make this top notch.
Mark: This song flows with a simple elegance that keeps you coming back. I love Bob’s fantastic vocal melody and delivery here. “Nothing moves me like this”
5. Birds In The Pipe
Doug: A meditation on having birds in the pipe. Half-Spectoreque drums and an incredible vocal harmony stack from Bob near the end. Our producer Travis Harrison is Roy Thomas Baker on this one.
Mark: This one is really fun. I love Bob’s vocals-in-the-round, and the lyrics are very colorful.
6. Come North Together
Doug: Rocks straight ahead with a bit of psychedelia.
Mark: A banger of a closer to side one. The lyrics beckon us all to Come North Together. We’re all in!
7. Forced To Sea
Doug: I recorded a couple guitars to simulate horns from a distant barge for the intro. Great bass and vocal effects on this one. “Sleepwalking on the legs of my bed” is a favorite lyric!
Mark: A very cool exploratory journey into side two of the album. It appears as if in a dream state. Really cool guitar sounds and understated production on this one.
Doug: Such a great song. This easily could have been on Tommy. Band is firing on all cylinders.
Mark: A blazing full band rocker.
9. Excited Ones
Doug: A classic power pop-type single. So catchy it stays in your head. Nice melodic bass touches from Mark.
Mark: The anthem. The ear worm. Hooks galore. Such a great one. “Excited Ones, they crush it every day”
10. The Eyes Of Your Doctor
Doug: We do a strong live version of this, involving an “imposter at his numberless address”. Kicks off a rocking home stretch of the last 3 songs on the record.
Mark: Some really cool dynamics on this one, as Bob sings “all is riding on the chance you take”. A real tough rocker.
11. Mad River Man
Doug: A tremendous, sprawling & moody rock song, very effectively mixing minor & major chords with a very anthemic chorus. Such a great one.
Mark: This song has a beautifully brooding almost underwater-like quality to it, with a nice catchy payoff when the choruses come crashing in, as Bob sings “Mad River Man, pull your ceiling down – Mad River Man, shake your demons out.” I played some subtle Jaws-inspired piano to add to the haunting feel of this track.
12. Crystal Nuns Cathedral
Doug: This short title track is classic pop-rock and conjures images of palace walls and mother goose. A perfect album ender.
Mark: The closing title track and quite the banger. Clocking in at under two minutes, it’s got all the hooks and more. An anthem to proudly and enthusiastically pump one’s fists in the air to.
Crystal Nuns Cathedral is out now – order/stream from all of the usual places here
Find out more on GBV’s official website