Of the six and a half albums released since the resurrection of Guided By Voices in 2011, The Bears for Lunch is arguably the strongest (with 2014’s Cool Planet a close second). There is an energy and playfulness in a lot of these tunes that's lacking in the other albums. "Dome Rust" and "Finger Gang" are prime examples of the kind of oddball hookiness Robert Pollard, GBV’s lead songwriter, has mastered for decades. “Amorphous Surprise” continues in this giddy, surrealist vein. This is Pollard in an especially exuberant mood, throwing fragments of lyric and melody your way until something sticks, and fortunately for listeners the majority of material here does. Pollard is in top form: "Hangover Child" and "The Challenge is Much More" are easy standouts, combining a pop-rock crunch and melodicism with Pollard’s trademark rough-hewn strangeness. The rest of band sound in top form as well, with Tobin Sprout's contributions on the whole strong, especially "Waking up the Stars."
This is the sound of a band on a never-ending quest for the perfect song, which has been the group’s mission since their inception in the early 1980s. It’s no secret that Pollard’s affinity for The Beatles, Wire and The Who (among other classic rock heroes) informs a lot of his songwriting. What I love most about his work is his reluctance to merely imitate. He injects whatever he does with spontaneous energy and a willingness to fail utterly (witness “Military School Dance Dismissal”) and then move on. Could he use an editor? Sure. But if that means sacrificing the dizzyingly short masterpiece “Smoggy Boy” for the sake of consistency, I’ll take the unedited version, musical warts and all.