Guided By Voices have built a well-deserved reputation as the busiest band in rock music. After an especially busy 2019, releasing three albums throughout the year, the band wasted no time jumping right into 2020 with a new crop of songs, under the name Surrender Your Poppy Field. Rock music is far from dead, but in this brand new decade, GBV prove that they could singlehandedly keep the genre afloat with their amazing knack for energy and songwriting.
Containing 15 tracks, all penned by frontman and singer Robert Pollard, Poppy Field feels like the band’s most wide ranged and exploratory album yet, appropriate for a band entering its 5th decade of existence. Opening with the grand “Year of the Hard Hitter”, GBV harken back to their lo-fi, four track recordings while maintaining the arena rock appeal of the current lineup. Doug Gillard’s solo on this track may be his most blistering yet. The next track, “Volcano”, is one of Pollard’s most triumphant slices of power pop to date, with a chorus that could bring any one to tears. The band’s lo-fi heyday continues to prevail in full glory on tracks like “Queen Parking Lot”, “Stone Cold Moron”, and “Next Sea Level”.
“Man Called Blunder” and “Windjammer” further demonstrate Pollard’s excellent knack for pop songwriting. The band could fill an entire album with songs like these, and fans everywhere would be satisfied all the same. However, Guided By Voices are, naturally, more multifaceted than that. Along with the opening track, “Cul-De-Sac Kids” represent the prog of what Pollard calls the ‘Four P’s’ of rock music (also including pop, punk, and psychedelic).
A new Guided By Voices album is never without its surprises, though. “Arthur Has Business Elsewhere”, perhaps more than any other GBV song, sounds like a mod tune straight from 1967, and “Woah Nelly” is pure orchestral pop perfection.
All in all, Guided By Voices’ 30th studio effort further cements the band as rock’s greatest band, representing the most important motivation for making music: a pure, undying love for music itself. Surrender Your Poppy Field is 2020’s first true ‘must listen’.