Highlights: Islands (She Talks In Rainbows), Send To Celeste (And The Cosmic Athletes), Noble Insect
The facts: last year we had three new Guided By Voices releases, this year it’s just one. Which, if you care to think about it, actually sounds like a good idea. Granted, I ended up enjoying all three 2012 albums (last one in particular), but I also thought a little restraint could do them good: Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout are good songwriters, they are on a roll, they will drop the filler, and we will have something like a seedless indie-pop watermelon on our hands…
Nothing, it seems, will induce Pollard to go for consistency. Which maybe has a point: inconsistent greatness, patchy flashes of brilliance are the very essence of Guided By Voices. However, English Little League does sound like a mild disappointment. You get the usual: catchy garage-rockers (“w/Glass In Foot” is a quality Who outtake), gorgeous folk-pop masterpieces (my favourite songs here), half-baked curios and oddities (some of which are particularly expendable this time). But, and I fully realise the oddness of the notion and the obviousness of the pun, this is too much of a Guided By Numbers thing. Prepare to get your loyalty tested.
I did pretty well, even though I would still argue that even their weakest 2012 album, Let’s Go Eat The Factory, has a slight edge over this one. Yes, Factory was erratic to the extreme, but there was a songwriting spark I’m missing here. It had killer hooks, which are in relatively short supply on English Little League. Make no mistake, it is still classic Guided By Voices: it’s just that the songs could be a little more inspired. So maybe they should take a break after all. Inconceivable though it may sound.