It’s difficult to truly calculate how many songs have been recorded by indie veterans Guided By Voices and its frontman Robert Pollard. Certainly hundreds. Maybe thousands? But it’s safe to say that with such a giant output over the years, it’s hard for fans to know where to start, what records to listen to, or which songs to focus in on with way-too-prolific band. Sometimes it just takes a single song as an entry point. This is the case for me and GBV.
Like many, one of my favorites that’s stuck with me over the years from Guided By Voices is “Game Of Pricks” from the band’s album Alien Lanes.
The main draw for me is the way this feels completely realized with excellent hooks, despite being under two minutes. Much of Pollard’s work is concise, but his last five to ten records have more “unfinished” sketches in need of a second verse than lean pop bangers like “Game Of Pricks.”
But another reason why “Game Of Pricks” has become one of my favorite songs is two cover versions recorded in the last few years. Both do an excellent job of keeping it straightforward and simple in their approach, but still maintain the lax, grunged-out feel and relatable point of view. Sometimes a cover song need not completely reinvent, strip down or rethink, but just be a kick ass interpretation that makes you remember how great the song is. These two covers do that and then some.
Here’s Telekinesis’ version, from the EP, Parallel Seismic Conspiracies:
and here’s a decent live version from Telekinesis:
And then there’s this cover version from fellow longtime indie rocker, Lou Barlow (best known for his work with Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr.), from a GBV compilation, Sing For Your Meat: A Tribute To Guided By Voices.
Also be sure to check out a cool performance of the song by violinist extraordinaire Owen Pallett, as part of The A.V. Club’s Undercover series.