2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 5 on the list:
5. Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (1994)
Even though this album came out in 1994, I didn’t hear it until 2006 and for that I have to blame/thank Mary Lucia (DJ 89.3-The Current) for turning me on to Guided by Voices. Sometime last summer Mary Lucia played the song Motor Away and made some quip that GbV was her one of her favorites. Now of course I’ve probably heard Motor Away and I Am A Scientist over 100 times but I thought to myself now there’s a band that I really don’t know very well. So I downloaded a couple of songs, liked them, started reading up on the band, and pretty much decided that Bee Thousand was the album to take the plunge. Six months later I am a total GbV geek with hundreds of songs on my I-pod and GbV-related CD's, DVD’s and books scattered around my house like a tossed-aside Robert Pollard lyric.
Call it lo-fi, indy rock, DIY, or just plain weird, Bee Thousand (rhymes with Pete Townsend?) is all that but so much more. Guitars drop in and out in the middle of solos, songs break off after one chorus, and the album sounds like it was recorded in someone’s basement on a four-track machine – which it was. Arcane lyrics, fuzzy guitars, and off-key harmonies predominate. Even though there are 20 songs…with the longest song only 3:09, and many more under 2:30... it clocks in at a lean and sublime 37 minutes.
But oh what a glorious 37 minutes! If you can imagine infectious little songs with a Midwest twist on British Invasion-era pop you kind of get the idea of what you’re in for with Bee Thousand. If there was any justice in the pop music world, songs like Hardcore UFO’s, Tractor Rape Chain, Echos Myron, Queen of Cans and Jars, and I Am a Scientist would be as familiar as any song by the 60's-era Kinks, Raspberries, Bad Finger, or Hermann’s Hermits. Alas, Bee Thousand will have to conquer the world one unsuspecting listener at a time. The good thing is that it is doing just that. A virtual cult has grown up around this album with books, blogs, listening parties, and groupies all dedicated to any and everything Bee Thousand.
Now I’m part of the cult and proselytizing on its behalf. If you want your music so slickly-produced it can sell accounting services on TV with lyrics that are poll-tested and easily deciphered, well then Bee Thousand is probably not for you. However if you want to hear something that was written and sung for the love of music, that is both quirky and familiar, momentous yet fun, I implore you to check out Bee Thousand. Careful though, you might end up like me. I'll give the last word to Robert Pollard (from Echos Myron):
Most of us are quite pleased
With the same old song
And all of a sudden I’m relatively sane
With everything to lose and nothing to gain
Or something like that
Place on the Definitive 200: Right, like the compilers have even heard of the album.