An overlooked rather than a forgotten classic, Motivational Jumpsuit was the first of two albums by Guided by Voices that were released in quick succession in the first half of 2014, before they once again called it a day last September.
Less of a disorientating skip through Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout’s collective muse than Cool Planet was, Motivational Jumpsuit has the feeling of a well selection of tunes that could be rattled through as a generous 38 minute encore at the end of the gig. A consistently pleasing listen with a higher than average tune count, it confirms that Guided by Voices were in a rich vein of form that allowed them to pretty much assimilate whatever was influencing them at the time into their sound. “Calling Up Washington” in particular takes a sly sonic nod to the DNA of The Posies and “Some Things are Big (And Some Things Are Small)” give the impression that someone in the band enjoys giving the albums of They Might be Giants a spin from time to time.
With Motivational Jumpsuit consisting of twenty songs at under 40 minutes, you could think that it might sound a bit rushed, but it really isn’t. It’s a perfectly weighted and considered selection of tunes that just happen to be relatively short by today’s standards (just one clocks in at over three minutes, and nine of them don’t even stretch to the 90 second mark). An impressive exercise in economy and dynamics, not one song here outstays its welcome, yet nothing much could be added to improve any of them either.
The only thing that casts a pall over Motivational Jumpsuit is the knowledge that Guided by Voices would only release one more album before they split again. With songs as strong as “The Littlest League Possible”, “I Am Columbus” and “Zero Elasticity”, there’s evidence aplenty on this album of lo-fi tunes to confirm that Pollard and Sprout were on as strong form as they ever were. The guitars are sludgy, yet crunchy, the vocals gleefully knowing, the drums lollop along and the band generally sound like they enjoyed creating this album, as much as they did their first.
While it’s certainly understandable why many will mourn the passing of Guided by Voices, the band are collectively and individually so prolific, that it’s not outside the realms of possibility that some sort of reunion could be on the cards at some point in the future. Until then, they’ve released so many albums for their fans to immerse themselves in, that it verges on an embarrassment of riches and Motivational Jumpsuit proves to be as compelling and valuable as anything they ever released.