I know I’m about 20 years late to the hipster indie party – this band and its impresario Robert Pollard have been indie gods since the 80s. I remember hearing my vegetarian, feminist girlfriends in college play GBV’s “low-fi” stuff for me in college in the early 90s. Just didn’t grab me – seemed douchey. Well, the good thing about GBV is that they’ve got about 75 albums and 1000+ songs to choose from, so you’re bound to find something enjoyable.
Their 2003 album Earthquake Glue is my favorite so far. I fantasize that this is the album The Who would make if Pete Townshend could actually still write music, vs. touring the hits one last time again.
She Goes Off at Night
Short and sweet – like all Pollard gems. There are two simple sections. The verse (and instrumental intro/interlude – which is the verse structure just without vocals) is straight off of Who’s Next. The drummer here (Kevin March) is admittedly no Keith Moon, but its still close.
Two other arresting details of the verse/intro are
- The lead-in chord. I’d have to poke around my guitar to confirm this, but it sounds like a complex suspended chord of some kind.
- The little mordent played in the guitar at 0:05. Its a tiny little bluesy/exotic ornament that adds a little melodic interest to this otherwise power-chord-based intro/verse
Robert Pollard has always sounded like an american Roger Daltry, but this song takes the cake. Daltry has two modes – one is that belting, full-voiced and piercing sound. The other is that soft, almost whining sustained tone heard most in the early albums. Pollard sounds like Daltry circa I Can See For Miles in this song.
The middle section (there really is no chorus here), is also a classic Who transition. I love how Pete Townshend would mix and mingle soft and hard sections. Pollard’s transition here is a bit abrupt compared to Townshend, but its fantastic.
The harmony lurches into extended territory at the same time that the guitars switch from distorted to clean. The rhythm moves from Keith Moon-ish “bash-boom-bash” syncopation, to almost a 3-beat waltz pattern.
Really nothing more to say about this one. Pollard is just a great song writer. That he would churn out a gem like this, leave it alone at ~2 minutes long without belaboring or milking it further shows how confident an artist he is.