Showbox, 628-3151, Fri March 30.
Guided by Voices is not content with its small but slavishly devoted core of fans. For over 15 years, Robert Pollard and Co. have created great mounds of consistently engaging (and often stunning) recorded material. GBV deserves to be BIG, and its trend toward glossier production values underscores Pollard's desires. The new record, Isolation Drills, is a return to form after the overly polished Do the Collapse. Still, the use of another "super producer" will not expose the band to the larger demographic that it so justifiably deserves.
Let's look at the mass market: What's selling? Who's buying? Youth. With acts like 'N Sync and Britney Spears topping the charts, GBV needs more than studio wizardry to appeal to powerful pre-adolescent consumers. In an effort to help this deserving band, The Stranger has assembled a focus group (10- and 11-year-olds from the Valley School) to investigate various aspects of GBV and help the band work its way into the youth market.
Subject: The Band's Look
Margot: "They look too normal."
Zoe C.: "They look dirty in all the pictures."
Margot: "Dirty and sweaty."
Annie: "Don't look like a bum."
Morrow: "They're smoking in all the pictures. That's vulgar!"
Grant: "Smoking will crack your voice, and that's bad for the band."
Soleil: "They don't set a good example at all. Is that a beer bottle in that picture?"
Eli: "Ugggh. No wonder. Drinking in public sets a bad example!"
Annie: "They need to spike their hair or something."
Cody: "Longer hair and better stances. And look younger!"
Grant: "Why does that guy smoke so much?"
Zoe S.: "They need more style: rings, earrings, and colorful clothes."
Annie: "More rings and they should pierce their tongues. The teenagers like that."
Tony: "Colorful clothes, baggy pants maybe, and matching outfits."
All: "Yeah, matching outfits!"
Zoe S.: "They need to look more like superstars."
Eli: "Hawaiian shirts, like the one I have."
All: "Hawaiian shirts, yeah, Hawaiian shirts!"
Recommendation: Bathe more, vary hairdos, stop smoking and drinking, tropical shirts.
Subject: Band Name
Zoe S.: "There are tons of boy bands out there, so you need a name that will really stand out."
Annie: "'Guided by Voices'--it sounds like a group that would be for ancestors."
Morrow: "Monk sounds or something."
Lena: "It needs to be more rock-sounding."
Cody: "They need a name that catches your attention. How about the Shining Stars? Now that's catchy!"
Some suggestions: the Hidden Tower, the Sound of Rock, and the Hot Rods.
Eli: "How about the Wild Cats?"
Tony: "The Alley Cats!"
All: "Yeah, yeah, the Alley Cats!"
Recommendation: Change name to something more "rock." Perhaps the Alley Cats.
Subject: Music and Lyrics
Lena: "This sounds like something Zoe's dad would listen to."
Zoe C.: "All the songs have medium beats. They need to do faster songs."
Eli: "I think it is all in the same scale."
Annie: "The guy sounds bored. He needs to sing with more excitement."
Lena: "He needs more expression. You know, raising and lowering his voice."
Cody: "The songs can't get stuck in your head because you can't hear the words."
Soleil: "I know. You could never say, 'I know this song.'"
Annie: "You can't memorize these songs."
Tony: "Turn the band down! I can't understand the singer."
Cody: "Too much sound."
Eli: "What the heck?"
Margot: "The lyrics make no sense!"
Grant: "Grownups might understand this."
Soleil: "Good songs tell a story."
Lena: "The songs are mysterious, but definitely too weird."
Cody: "I could make this up just as good by making up three words."
Morrow: "This song ["How's My Drinking"] is a bit crude. It is definitely not kid-friendly."
Grant: "No, it's not kid-friendly. That song encourages drinking and could be a bad influence. Not good."
Recommendation: Sing lyrics that make sense, show enthusiasm, avoid references to alcohol.