Guided by Voices
Do the Collapse (TVT 1980)
What happens when quirky '90s underground-pop icon Robert Pollard hooks up with quirky '80s commercial-pop icon Ric Ocasek? You get "Do the Collapse," the latest -- and slickest-ever -- release from Pollard, who works with a changing guard of other musicians under the name Guided by Voices. Ocasek (angular front man for the band the Cars) serves as producer, and the marriage has all the hook-laden weirdness and electric snap you might expect. Current single "Teenage FBI" gets things off to a bubbly start, though Pollard detours into a sticky power ballad with "Hold on Hope." From there the disc begins to sound like a man in a really nice suit raving to himself on a street corner. The halting rhythm of "In Stitches" is bombastic but somehow charming, while "Liquid Indian" is generally incomprehensible but has a lovely chorus. And all the songs are very short. ** 1/2 -- Greg Schneider
Fountains of Wayne
Utopia Parkway (Atlantic 83177)
Once upon a time, if a rock band could write a great mainstream pop song, it could reach a mass audience and make a lot of money. The Steve Miller Band had a decent career doing that, and even acts like Andrew Gold and the Atlanta Rhythm Section deserve no shame for their handful of ridiculously catchy, well-produced hits. Fountains of Wayne are about 20 years too late for that kind of broad success, but many of the 14 tracks on new release "Utopia Parkway" stand with the best of that era.
The single "Red Dragon Tattoo" is getting some airplay, but it's not the strongest selection. Starting with the soft and clever "Hat and Feet," a streak of six songs on mid-disc are just about perfect, climaxing in the glorious chorus of "Troubled Times." These guys are major-league songwriters who deserve a major audience. *** 1/2