Guided By Voices: Alien Lanes (Matador) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Guided by Voices

Alien Lanes


Oct 14, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Bee Thousand was Guided By Voices’ first masterpiece. Alien Lanes, released a year later in 1995, was its second. Now the album is being reissued on beautiful green and purple vinyl for Matador Records’ Revisionist History project, which has seen equally seminal albums from the label’s history reissued on vinyl.    

Twenty-five years and about a bajillion albums later, Guided By Voices’ modus operandi seems universally understood, but in 1995 this all seemed fairly new. Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, and the gang had just been signed to Madator, Alien Lanes being the first album of their tenure there. And for the uninitiated, their musical vision may have seemed bizarre. A few “proper” songs interspersed among dozens of snippets, which sounded to the untrained ear to be almost like unfinished symphonies. The briefest brilliant melodic ditties that seemed to end just as they were getting going. The bizarre nonsensical lyrics whose absurdity seemed to bounce off the sometimes abstract instrumental backdrop to create the auditory version of a question mark.     

Yet with time, the genius of Alien Lanes has become ever apparent. Taken as a whole, these 28 songs in a little over 41 minutes translate into audio art. Perhaps it’s because Guided By Voices has become something of an indie-cultural phenomenon over the years, but listening to Alien Lanes now, one can better take in the short shots of melody and occasional noise and accept them for what they are. For this reviewer, back in 1995, Alien Lanes caused a sort of cognitive dissonance. The song ended at 90 seconds? Where was the rest of it? It was such a spectacular melody, why not finish it? The brain tried to force these songs to conform to the traditional, especially when more “proper” songs like “Game of Pricks” or “Motor Away” almost seemed to. The rest messed with the brain. But now, now we see. I can see Alien Lanes for what I could not at the time. Ahead of its time, and pure genius. (  

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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