A look at how one of the 1990s' most iconic indie bands found fame after many thankless years playing and recording for a tiny Ohio fan base, while its mercurial lead singer pursued a day job as a school teacher until he was close to 40.
Matthew Cutter's entertaining new biography of 'Uncle Bob,' Closer You Are, does an excellent job telling the story of the all-American-boy-turned-alternative-rock-god who's much more complex than his brash, boozy stage persona would indicate ... one of the strongest points of Cutter's book is his smart analysis of Pollard's music and the influence it's had on modern rock ... Guided by Voices fans, and anyone with an abiding interest in indie rock, will appreciate Cutter's deep dives into the history of each of the band's albums: He's combed through liner notes, fanzines and interviews with a surgical focus, preserving a lot of stories that might have been lost to history. But Closer You Are never gets bogged down with inside-baseball trivia; Cutter is a natural storyteller who doesn't lose sight of the overarching story of the band from Dayton ... It's clear that Cutter admires Pollard, but his book isn't a hagiography ... It's...an inspiring look at a dreamer who never gave up on his art.
Matthew Cutter's Closer You Are does a great job in making the unlikely success story of an elementary school teacher who accidentally becomes the first lo-fi icon an engaging read, even for non-devotees. It's the classic Hollywood tale of the rookie kid from the chorus (or in this case, the late 30's misfit with a penchant for Budweiser) rising from obscurity by overcoming obstacles with dogged persistency ... Cutter digs deep here and manages to make drunken high jinks by local musicians, prolonging their teenage years, sound interesting at the very least. He even unearths a revelation or two ... You don't have to be a Pollard aficionado to enjoy this book, but you certainly need stamina. Because of the enormous breadth of his output and the almost bewildering cavalcade of bands, solo projects, short lived collaborations and jokey pseudonyms, the reader will need all their wits about them. Cutter does his best to catalogue all of them, but the ever-changing roster of band members and record labels could lead to some head scratching and backtracking by the reader ... Cutter doesn't let his admiration of the subject get in the way of telling the truth. It may not be 'warts 'n all,' but it's certainly an unvarnished story ... This is an exhaustive book ... For that alone, he should be praised. The fact that he makes it less than a tiresome chore, is admirable.
Through extensive interviews with Pollard and associates, the author relates a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race narrative ... Pollard and GBV's narrative is one of prolific recording, prodigious drinking, constant touring, frequent lineup changes, and a litany of side projects. In short, it reads more like a list than 'a story.' Given Pollard's extensive recording output, a discography would have been useful ... Essential for fans of GBV, lovers of 90s indie rock, and proud Ohioans.