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Book Review: Guided By Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock-and-Roll

by tonydoug wright

The Dayton, Ohio-based band Guided by Voices (GBV) rose to fame during the mid-'90s due to their original brand of lo-fi indie rock that earned them praise from critics and created a following of dedicated fans. Led by frontman and former 4 th grade school teacher Robert Pollard, GBV rose though the indie-rock ranks becoming the scene's torch bearers by blazing an impressive path thanks to their amazing live shows and numerous but wonderful LPs, EPs, singles and 7"s that rarely disappointed. GBV was an ever-changing cast of musicians with Pollard being the sole regular who led his indie rock brigade for over twenty years. As all great bands come and go, GBV played their final show at The Metro in Chicago on December 31, 2004 to a packed house of family, friends and longtime fans.

Although GBV called it quits, there are plenty of re-releases, side projects, literary magazines, DVDs and box sets to appease the faithful. And GBV fans now have the opportunity to own the written history of their beloved band in Guided By Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock-and-Roll written by James Greer, former GBV bass player and writer for Spin, which includes a foreword written by film director/producer Steven Soderbergh.

Guided By Voices: A Brief History chronicles the life of Pollard, who was born and raised in Northridge, a tough blue-collar Dayton suburb where he made a name for himself as a high-school athlete. Pollard's father had aspirations of his son being a star athlete but the young Pollard had dreams of becoming a rock star. Pollard decided that rock and roll was his true love so he assembled a group of musicians from the Northridge area, including his brother Jimmy, to form GBV in the early 80's where they experienced little success in Dayton. Fortunately, Pollard had a group of supporters from his high school days (known as The Monument Club) who encouraged and inspired Pollard. The band achieved success in the early 90s and soon became the darlings of the indie rock scene where very few (if any) bands could touch GBV's energized three hour live sets and Pollard's profusion for writing great songs.

The twenty-one year journey of Pollard and GBV is full of humorous tales, drunken mishaps, falling outs, brushes with the law, contract disputes and other triumphs and disasters that all rock bands face. Pollard, former band mates, label reps, friends and members of The Monument Club give candid interviews about the early days, the rise and the end of GBV. Included with these stories are three well-written stories by Bryan Pollard, Robert's son, along with some insights by Richard Meltzer and Dennis Cooper.

Guided By Voices: A Brief History is by no means a complete history of the band. Writer James Greer delivers a somewhat unsatisfactory work that is disjointed and full of his own personal commentaries. The book seems to suffer from a lack of cohesion where the reader is thrown into an off-topic story that comes off as unnecessary filler rather than something insightful. Greer, a former band member, does not provide adequate backgrounds for certain GBV standout members such as Tobin Sprout, Doug Gillard, Mitch Mitchell, Nate Farley and Greg Demos. Did Greer fell that backgrounds for these members were not important? Sure there are plenty of stories about the band but at times it seems that Greer treats band members as secondary characters who have no important significance to the history of GBV. Guided By Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock-and-Roll is a starting reference for a history of the band but by no means should it be the measuring stick for future GBV biographies.

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