Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Guided By Voices
Suitcase


Released 2000 on Luna
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 06/07/2001ce


I live in a town called Fairfield, Connecticut, which is about 50 miles or so east of New York City. I'm now in my 40's and well Fairfield has been transformed over the years into the yuppie-dry wank capitol of the east coast. It was a pretty normal place in the 60's and 70's, most folks in my area worked in factories and the like, my father was a worker on a golf course grounds crew. It really was a pretty cool place to grow up, we had numerous hot dog stands and hamburger joints and lots of baseball fields. There was a cool fast food place called The Rocket where local Hell's Angels used to hang out, and we had plenty of dive bars where you could get a pitcher of Schaeffer or Rheingold for 2 bucks.
Well all that has changed, now the place has been taken over by the dreaded yuppies, who have infested the place like roaches. Now the streets are littered with wankers driving Land Rovers (aka personal school buses) with cell phones strapped to the belts of their bermuda shorts. The baseball fields have grown over with grass only to be replaced by the truly offensive soccer fields (or whatever the fuck they call them.) It like a giant Sting album come to life.
About a year ago I was looking at a map of Connecticut and I realized that I have never really been to the Northeastern part of the state called Windham County. It is often called "The Quiet Corner" because you never hear much about it. So I decided to get in my car and take a trip up there. I was rewarded with a gift from heaven. By and large the place has been untouched by time, it's full of small towns and cities that look like the set of The Andy Griffith Show.
This area is so fucking cool that I make a regular pilgrimage there just investigating all the nooks and crannies of towns such as Plainfield, Jewett City, Baltic, Killingly, Putnam, Thompson and the utterly boss North Grosvenordale. These towns are so inspiring that I can't believe it. They are filled with such cool places like "Nippy's Driving Range", "Butch's Lunch Counter" and "Kart Way" (which is a combination Hot Dog Stand, Baseball Batting Cage and Go Kart Track!) how fucking cool is that!!!! It is if I've found a lost civilization where cool still reigns supreme, and yuppies are just an ugly rumor.
Back in November of 2000, I bought a copy of the then newly released Guided By Voices 4 CD box-set "Suitcase" which contains 100 songs, all of which are out-takes recorded throughout the band's career. A guy at the record store warned me against buying it, telling me there were only a few good tracks on it. I bought it anyway and immediately put the entire contents on three 90 minute cassettes. I have been listening to these three tapes constantly since November and I take them with me always on my trips to Northeastern, Connecticut. I don't know how Robert Pollard and company did it, but he somehow captured the faded spirit and eeriness of Windham County on 100 brilliant songs. Although I'm quite certain Pollard has never been to the area. The guy at the record store was all wet because "Suitcase" is sheer genius and it has become one of my favorite collections of music of all time in a few short months.
There are so many gems on these 4 CD's that i don't know where to begin, so I guess I'll start at the top. Disc one is loaded to the brim with strangely beautiful ballads such as "Have It Again", "The Kissing Life", "Tear It Out" and the completely oddball "Little Jimmy The Giant." There are also powerful rockers like "Spring Tigers", "Let's Go Vike" and "James Riot", and I can't leave out the truly demented "Bloodbeast."
Disc two picks up the pace perfectly, it also has some haunting ballads in "Supermarket The Moon", "Sing Out" and the truly chilling "I'm Cold" (which is one of the most heartbreaking ballads this side of Big Star #3.)
Disc three may be the best of the bunch, this one contains too many great songs to list them all, so let's just say that "Long Way To Run", "A Kind Of Love", "Meddle" and "Carnival At The Morning Star School" are the absolute standouts. But I would never forgive myself if I didn't mention the completely deranged "Devil Doll."
Disc four begins with one of my favorite pieces in the set "Trying To Make It Work Again" which sounds like an out-take from Skip Spence's "Oar" album. Also worthy of high praise is "Excellent Things", this song is one of the greatest songs Robert Pollard has ever written.
I love almost everything on these four discs, this collection has virtually become the soundtrack for my life for the year 2001. Much has been written about the new Guided By Voices studio album "Isolation Drills" and with good reason as it's a flawless album. I saw them in person in Albany, New York in April and it was the best rock and roll show I've ever seen.
Yet I still keep returning to "Suitcase", this box-set is like looking in an antique store and finding a bunch of lost recordings made by Syd Barrett, John Fahey or Skip James that you never knew existed. I haven't taken LSD since 1978 but I still have a psychedelic experience everytime I head up to Windham County armed with my Guided By Voices "Suitcase" collection, and believe me I get everthing acid never could give me (and there are no side effects.) I think it's the best collection the group has ever issued.


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