It ain't easy keeping up with Guided By Voices, who are averaging an album every nine months as they hit their stride. And that's not to mention all the EPs and 7-inch singles they toss out in between. By the time you get to the next paragraph, they'll probably have finished another one.
Their records sound like it, too, with tape hiss and questionable notes intruding on songs that often seem unfinished and almost never exceed 2 minutes. But that's the price you pay for GBV's ridiculously bountiful pop talent; bandleader Robert Pollard's head is crammed with hooks, and he's always rushing ahead as if he can't wait to get to the next one. Where BEE THOUSAND was full of instantly catchy Beatles and Hollies hooks, ALIEN LANES has more of a '70s hard-rock mood, with two-minute blasts of muscularly melodic rock crashing into one-minute (and less) bits of arena-rock balladry and miscellaneous weirdness. It'll take a few listens before it all sinks in. "Motor Away" edits the simultaneous leaving and longing of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" down to two glorious minutes. It's one of several songs here that pare anthemic rock hooks and roaring guitars down to their pop essence.
"Big Chief Chinese Restaurant," on the other hand, is one of those overture-like ballads with which hard-rock bands used to awe arena crowds, complete with a guitar lead that nods to Guns N' Roses. Being Guided By Voices, though, the lead goes as quick as it comes, the whole thing fades out before a minute is up, and another blast of Beatlesque hard-rock comes crashing in.
Rolling Stone (3/23/95, pp.119-121) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...[GBV] display a chemistry born of a near decade spent rocking the basement....On ALIEN they also reveal influences ranging from early Cheap Trick and T.Rex's psychedelic glam to Wire's deranged art punk and everything by the Beatles..."
Spin (4/95, pp.198-99) - 7 - Recommended - "...There are some classic GBV stylings here; the band's Brit fetish results in...gloriously hummable we-could-have-been-bigger-than-the-Beatles....The bands GBV sounds like start to sound like it..."
Entertainment Weekly (3/18/95, pp.88-90) - "...After nine albums accompanied by foaming-at-the-mouth critical adulation, you'd think Guided By Voices would be ripe for commercial breakout. But Robert Pollard's fragmented, hallucinatory compositions and rudimentary production serve as a kind of insurance against overexposure..." - Rating: B+
Q (7/95, p.118) - 3 Stars - Good - "...crackly, resolutely low-fi stuff, [that] delights in coursing through 28 tracks, plenty of which give new meaning to musical brevity....A touch reminiscent of a less eclectic Camper Van Beethoven, Guided By Voices are proof that resolute underdog status can pay off in the long run."
Village Voice (2/20/96) - Ranked #33 in Village Voice's 1995 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.