Guided by Voices
Nowhere to Go but Up
Guided by Voices’ 39th album Nowhere to Go but Up is a high-fidelity production for the typically lo-fi rock group fronted by Robert Pollard. The prolific band celebrated its 40th anniversary this fall and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon: Nowhere to Go But Up is Guided by Voices’ third album this year following January’s La La Land and July’s Welshpool Frillies. Pollard is again joined by his second reboot lineup of bandmates Doug Gillard, Bobby Bare Jr., Mark Shue, and Kevin March—one of the more reliable units for GBV, as the group has broken up and reunited two times since its inception in the late ’80s.
Energetic rock opener “The Race Is on, the King is Dead” blasts along while being held together with classic Pollard lyricism: “The show must go on / The spoilers lose the day / The spotlight on / The girls who died away.” It’s one of the best tracks on the album alongside “Stabbing at Fractions,” “Cruel Rats,” “How Did He Get Up There?,” and “We’re Going the Wrong Way In,” which all possess a reliable and energetic pace. Another strong effort is the lead single “For the Home,” which runs in the red for four and a half minutes. It’s an incredibly catchy jangly rock song and shows Guided by Voices again working as a band instead of just as a Robert Pollard song factory.
Nowhere to Go but Up ultimately shows Guided by Voices holding a torch for no-frills indie rock with no punches pulled. Pollard still showcases an innate ability to melt down elements of adjacent genres aligned with rock and attach those disparate parts to any band he works with so that every infectious melody and swinging riff they can manage still works even after 40 years of changing the very DNA of indie rock music.