Band’s freshness, energy still there
There have been a few changes recently in the Guided By Voices world. Kevin Fennell left the band and has been replaced on drums by Kevin March, who played with the band before their 2004 break. For “Cool Planet,” the band went into one proper studio and cut a whole record for the first time since reforming in 2010. This does change the fidelity here, but it doesn’t exactly change our expectations. This is another set of quick-fire pop tunes, and Pollard keeps building toward that one crystallized moment in his songs. But “Cool Planet” is another satisfying entry in that it reminds us that, despite all the expectations and known quantities that go into a Guided By Voices record, there’s still a freshness to the approach, an energy to the songs that keeps us coming back.
The nice thing is that, with every new album, we get more and more distance between this band and the nostalgia that we associate with reformed acts. We don’t even really need to call this the “classic” line-up anymore, and not just because March has stepped in. This is a current, working band, history and great past records be damned. And this, their sixth full-length in four years, celebrates that more clearly than any of its five predecessors. It’s a nicely polished continuation of the scrappier “Motivational Jumpsuit,” but it rarely loses its bite in polishing its grin.
The big surprise, though, comes in Tobin Sprout’s entries. A great starting point is the back and forth he and Pollard pull off on album highlight “Bad Love Is Easy to Do.” It’s the band’s most effortless pop song of the last four years, just pure hooks and perfect melodies, and Pollard and Sprout seem to delight in trading off through the track. But Sprout’s songs, usually calm pop gems on the fringes of Pollard’s huge presence, are not always what you’d expect.
Matthew Fiander, PopMatters.com