“My Kind of Soldier” – Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices, a quirky Ohio garage band led by the disconcertingly prolific Robert Pollard, has put out at least 15 CDs over the last 15 years, not counting live recordings and re-releases. This has seriously confused me. Even as the band appears to specialize in the sorts of melodic but offbeat guitar rock I tend to like, I’ve never been able to jump in and follow them because they always seem to have a new CD out before I’ve checked out the last one. But maybe not this time. To be sure, a band with a tendency to record this much is definitely not to be judged on the merits of one song. But something about “My Kind of Soldier” sticks with me and makes me want to hear more. There are plenty of ringing guitars for us ringing guitar fans; there are pleasingly elusive lyrics; it’s catchy in a rumpled sort of way; and, on top of all that, the thing is blessedly short: just two minutes, thirty-seven seconds. There are not enough short songs out there anymore.
“That Great Love Sound” – The Raveonettes
Dumb but cool. This is the kind of song that, it seems, the British music press just loves every few years (or is that weeks?). This young Danish band does the neo-garage thing with an almost Spector-like “Wall of Sound” and the simplest of choruses but hey, why mess with a winning chord progression? At worst, “That Great Love Sound” will be forgotten in another month; at best, the Raveonettes themselves will be forgotten over time but the song will forevermore call up something ineffably profound yet fleeting about the Summer of ’03.
“California Style” – Steve Wynn
Wynn is somebody I like more in theory than in reality, but he’s so well-regarded by people who know what they’re talking about that I’m assuming I’m just missing something, so I’m going to keep listening. (He is also, I should add, well-regarded by people who don’t, necessarily, know what they’re talking about: a rave review on AllMusic.com praises this song’s “killer chorus,” and yet, as you’ll hear, it doesn’t even have a chorus! If you really want a killer chorus, try “That Great Love Sound” [see above].) In any case, this song strikes me as reasonably good summery fun, so tune in yourself and see what you make of his deadpan voice and offbeat sense of rhyme. This one is from his new CD, Static Transmission.