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Guided By Voices’ majestic 1994 release Bee Thousand perfectly embodied the DIY fantasy that a nobody from nowhere could make a completely satisfying record without having to sell out—even to the extent of recording in a studio. Since then, Robert Pollard and his ever-shifting cast of collaborators have been inching toward more conventional production values, and on Mag Earwhig! they have arrived at an unforeseeable juncture—they sound like R.E.M. Admittedly, songs like “I Am a Tree” are pure GBV (even though Pollard, surprisingly, didn’t write it), but several of the anthemic midtempo numbers, like “Not Behind the Fighter Jet” (apart from its title—also pure Pollard) and “Little Lines,” would be right at home on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, or even Life’s Rich Pageant. There are, of course, worse bands to sound like, and the mainstreaming of GBV has not ironed out all of Pollard’s established quirks: The disc features the usual twentysomething songs and fragments. But Pollard displays an awareness of the loss of the dimension that made Bee Thousand transcendent on the giveaway-titled “I Am Produced”: “I am pressed, printed, stomped/And strategically removed/I am


—James Lochart