"Everybody Thinks I'm a Raincloud," the first track on Guided By Voices' final record, Half Smiles of the Decomposed, says in its title what many music fanatics find in the band's songwriter Bob Pollard. Songs have fallen in a downpour since he formed the band in the mid-'80s. The Dayton, Ohio native is currently leading the band on their farewell tour, which ends in Chicago on New Year's Eve, but first they stop at familiar pogo-ing grounds, the Cat's Cradle, this Tuesday, Sept. 28.
The ties between Guided By Voices and this area stem from their relationship to Superchunk, with whom they've performed countless times, as peers in the '90s heyday of indie rock bands. The Chunk's Mac Macaughan collaborated with Pollard on a record as Go Back Snowball and drummer Jon Wurster sat in behind the kit for a GBV show in which the band opened for Weezer. Wurster later commented that many of the young Weezer fans were less than familiar with the enigmatic opening band. At one of their many Cradle appearances, Pollard belted out a couplet reply of sorts to GBV's travails with its cultish status, "Just one hit! Gimme just one hit, and I'll quit!"
For Guided By Voices' devoted fans, many of their songs have been "hits," either on college radio, on their bedroom stereo or in the kitchen at a house party kegger. It's only fitting that there is a petition (albeit started by the band's label Matador Records), to have "GBV Day" in cities around the country. The ceremonial honor is a minor success thus far, with both tour date cities like Washington, D.C. and Boston signing on, and towns that just love the band, like Tuscaloosa, Ala. There is no word, as this goes to press, whether Chapel Hill is on the list yet. Go to www.joingbv.com to check the stats.
With the sheer mass of songs under their collective belts, stage revelry and the endurance needed to maintain it, it all comes down to statistics. Doing the high numbers: A Guided By Voices concert often contains 50 songs, give or take, plus there will be the required cooler on stage with a few cases of beer both for the band and to honor the occasional front row enthusiast. Factor in the number of Pollard's scissors kicks, microphone twirls and the dual guitarists' windmill moves (divide by fan requests shouted towards stage), and it is a formula enviable by any modern rock group.
Pollard maintains that he will continue to work on solo projects in the future, but there will be no bandleader role for him anymore. The former teacher's muse still rains down precise, compact songs on him from above. He and his companions in Guided By Voices will bring the storm to Chapel Hill one last time this week.