Barely allowing fans time to digest January’s sporadically great Let’s Go Eat The Factory, Robert Pollard and his reunited band of indie vets have churned out another sprawling, uncompromised scrapbook of songs. Class Clown is generally business as usual for GBV: songs blur into each other; some just hit their stride before getting cut short; and the performances are as loose as most band’s demos. While newcomers may find the seeming under-development of the likes of Chain To The Moon frustrating, the converted will appreciate the rough edges.
Unfortunately, the hit-rate of good against merely average material is lower than on Class Clown’s predecessor. For every Keep It In Motion, a pop breeze, there are too many songs the likes of Roll Of The Dice, Kick In The Head: a sludgey, GBV-by-numbers rocker. An occasional foray into a sort of chamber-pop reminiscent of Apple Venus-period XTC is an interesting development, though, with They And Them and Starfire proving highlights.
Criticising Guided By Voices for a lack of quality control may appear to be entirely missing the point, yet if more time had been spent realising the strengths of this record and applying the care needed to make good its potential, Class Clown might have been less of a dunce.