Those who call themselves Guided by Voices completists are either the most slavishly devoted or the most singularly myopic music fans in the world. To others, Guided by Voices' prolific oeuvre is a testament to their remarkable imperfection. Now, after years of retirement, the reunited GBV "classic" lineup (1993-1996) has, in typical fashion, cranked out its second new album of ragged and exultant music in 2012.
However, Class Clown Spots a UFO does not feel like warmed-up leftovers. From the soaring peaks of opener "He Rises! Our Union Bellboy," to the marching pop of "Class Clown Spots a UFO," to the skuzzy blasts of closer "No Transmission," this is the meatier, more-raucous reunion album.
It's also more desultory. The ringing strut of "Blue Babbleships Bay" grows tiresome; the aimless oddity of "Fighter Pilot" is maddening; the clangorous "Worm With Seven Broken Hearts" grates; the glam "Lost in Spaces" edits itself short of greatness.
Still, there are plenty of moments that remind listeners of the ample charms, joys and strengths of GBV. "Chain to the Moon" is infinitely sad and lovely at just one minute; "Keep It in Motion" brilliantly balances propulsive jangles and melancholy electronics; "Starfire" nicely weds the pastoral and the cosmic; "They and Them" is exhilaratingly unhinged; "Billy Wire" is a fun, chunky anthem; "Tyson's High School" makes a strong case for the band's dirty psychedelic side.
Ultimately, given the choice of surfeit or silence with GBV, always root for the surfeit.