100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #10

Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand

1993: six albums, no recognition, even less hope.
1994: in a last roll of the dice, ‘Bee Thousand’ is released.
2004: Nine American cities proclaim a day on their calendar to be a citywide official Guided By Voices day.
They’ll never be famous, but apparently this troupe of day-job drones banging out songs on a tape recorder in a laundry room really made an impact with some people. It clatters and rattles along on its rickety sound quality and 30-minute rehearsal times, but once you get past that, these will not leave you alone. There’ll come a time where the penny drops in your brain and you’ll either be listening to it or thinking about listening to it. The songs themselves recall The Who and The Beatles in a low-rent leaky basement; lyrically it’s halfway between lucid intellectual and stoned cross-word maker. Even though fidelity is low – that’s why they call it “lo-fi”, children! – ‘Bee Thousand’ is lovingly put together; these guys really care about their records. Strange half-song snippets fade into proper songs that themselves don’t often pass the 2-minute mark, making it weirdly psychedelic. But the songs – oh the songs! ‘Tractor Rape Chain’ is a wounded cryptic rejection anthem; ‘Echoes Myron’ is a nonsensical mini-anthem meets campfire singalong; ‘Kicker of Elves’ has one of the most singable choruses ever (“Do do do do do do do kicker of elves”) and ‘Smothered In Hugs’ is a distorted portrait of a doomed love in a dangerous cult with a heart-stopping chorus. Pretty much every track is great in its own way. It’s not the most accessible album in the world; to get past the static, hisses and fuzz takes a fair bit of tolerance, but that tolerance is rewarded tenfold and if you’re anything like me, you’ll know that this is something to treasure.
Listen to: Echoes Myron


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