Bee Thousand

Guided By Voices

A Scat Record, 1994

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


20 songs. 36 minutes. Sounds like an album straight from the Ramones or the Minutemen. In the mid-1990s, Guided By Voices added their names to the list of bands that could churn out two-minute pop masterstrokes with Bee Thousand.

Recorded on a ridiculously low-fi approach (much of the album was recorded on four-tracks in basements and garages of band members), Bee Thousand was supposed to be the farewell album from the band. The band, led by Robert Pollard, had been kicking around since 1983 and had yet to make an impact outside of their Dayton, Ohio homeland. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Listening to Bee Thousand, you can tell that the band was in love with the British invasion of the ‘60s as well as the garage sound of some American bands in the ‘70s. “A Big Fan Of The Pigpen” is a total valentine to White Album-era Beatles, while “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory”’s sound is very much rooted in The Velvet Underground.

Not everything on Bee Thousand is rooted in the past. “Hardcore UFO’s” and “Queen Of Cans And Jars” have the type of fuzzed-out sound that has dominated much of indie rock in the past decade. And “Her Psychology Today,” despite its length, seems like it’s three songs rolled into one.

Fans used to the meticulously-layered rock like Yo La Tengo or Sonic Youth may not be able to put up with Guided by Voice’s deceptively sloppy songwriting. While most of the tracks on Bee Thousand do sound like they were recorded in one take, it only takes a song like “Kicker of Elves” to prove the band was capable of producing a memorable pop song even with a limited time window. Besides, if you didn’t like one Guided by Voices song, just wait…it’ll be over before you know it.

Bee Thousand was supposed to be the end of Guided By Voices and, to a certain extent, it does sound like a final album. The band sounds like it was throwing in every last good idea it could  for one last statement. However, the critical acclaim the band received from Bee Thousand kept the band going for another 10 years.

I caught Guided By Voices on the farewell tour in Iowa City. The band played what seemed to be a three-hour plus show, rife with downed beer bottles and playful crowd banter. It was at times tedious, at other times exhilarating. The same thing could be said with Bee Thousand, but far more often than not, the experience is far more exhilarating than tedious.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B-


© 2007 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A Scat Record, and is used for informational purposes only.