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"Half Smiles Of The Decomposed"  Guided By Voices  Release date: 2004  Label: Matador/P-Vine

Reviewing what Robert Pollard informs us is the last ever Guided By Voices album is always going to be a difficult experience. Over their twenty-odd years in music (as opposed to their twenty odd years in music, which is also true) and seventeen squillion albums, they've become such legends that every possible adjective and metaphor that a writer could fling at them has already been used a thousand times. Probably by me. Describing another GBV album.

I want to imbue this album with a sense of mystery, like it's the last piece of an unfinished picture that will provide the key to open up a whole new riddle, but then every GBV album is like that. The freshness and edginess that chimes out of your speakers when you listen to songs like "Girls Of Wild Strawberries" is part of what defines the band, and it sounds as beautiful, enigmatic and melancholy as they have ever sounded. The combination of such gorgeous melodies, restrained production, cryptic lyrics and Pollard's unique vocals are one of the most potent weapons ever devised in the history of rock. They point you towards the sublime and leave you to complete the picture yourself, just at the moment where the revelation is forming. But then you knew that.

The highlights are all over. This is possibly the only GBV album you will ever own where every track is not only pure magic, but actually a great song as well. "The Closets Of Henry" is a heart-surge of epic proportions without ever seeming to try too hard, "Sons Of Apollo" is like what "Green" era REM could have still sounded like if they hadn't got rubbish, "Sing For Your Meat" is every bit as raw and bleak in its beauty as a "14 Cheerleader Coldfront", and... and... and... it goes on. I'm not going to say this is the best GBV album, because they're all the best, but this is still a glorious swansong. Oh, and Japanese bonus track "The Mind Refuser" is an eerie salute to the fading captain as this magical band makes its way into history. -Ian Martin, Sep.04.04.

Guided By Voices [Half Smiles Of The Decomposed] 2004 Half Smiles Of The Decomposed

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