Note: In this regular section, we invite people to review their best friend’s favourite album. In this instalment, Bill Brooks reviews his mate Joseph Earp’s most loved collection of tunes: Guided By Voice’s 1990 EP The Same Place The Fly Got Smashed.
Joe’s one of those people who loves an argument. Don’t get me wrong: I do too. But the difference is, whereas I like to argue because, well, it feels good, Joe likes to argue so he can be proven wrong. He’s one of those weird people who loves having his mind changed. He won’t ever try to shout you down, or ignore you: he wants you to convince him. I guess he just likes seeing things from a different point of view, which can actually be pretty intimidating when (like me) you’re more used to just saying ‘yeah, but like, you’re wrong’ than actually providing the interesting argument that he expects of you.
All that said though, there are four things that I have never, ever heard Joe back down on, in all the years I’ve known him. I guess they’re like, his guiding principles, and I doubt he’s ever going to withdraw from them. These Disciplines of Joe read as follows:
1. Instant coffee is better than the real thing (yeah. I know. He’s odd.)
2. Friends is as close to rock bottom as humanity has ever come.
3. King Joffrey isn’t actually as bad as everyone makes him out to be
4. The Same Place the Fly Got Smashed is the best album ever. Bar none.
Although I can kinda agree with him on point two, the other three have always baffled me. I mean, instant coffee tastes like shit; Joffrey’s an asshole; and The Same Place the Fly Got Smashed is pretty good, but not exactly great.
At least that’s what I thought until I sat down and listened to the album in preparation for writing this. Of course, I’d heard it before; all the bloody time, in fact. If you walk into Joe’s room, there’s an eighty per cent chance that the album will be playing. I can testify to the fact that he sleeps with it in the background at night. In fact, he started rambling about it the first time I ever met him, four years ago now, at a party. I thought he was pretty shy initially; he does a lot of listening, and not much talking when you first get to know him, but as soon as he got onto the subject of Guided By Voices, he just did not stop. I knew the band, but I hadn’t heard the album that he was so fixated on, so that night, I went home and youtubed it. And yeah, I could see it was pretty good, but it wasn’t amazing, and it definitely didn’t seem to deserve all the praise he was heaping on it.
When Joe first started this zine, and started posting on it, I was always surprised that he didn’t have a special corner dedicated to his Guided By Voices fandom. In fact, I’m still kinda amazed that he hasn’t really written about it here at all. But I guess I can understand why. For him, it’s a weirdly personal thing, this album. It’s not the kind of thing he wants to telegraph to the world. So of course, being the asshole/dearest friend that I am, I’m going to do it for him.
Like I said, this was never one of my favourites, but thinking about it in the context of my friend, I like it quite a bit more. Don’t get me wrong: I still don’t love it, and I still don’t think it’s half as great as Joe does. To me, it has the hint of something really good, but it never capitalizes on it. It’s got that fuzzy rock feel that has inspired a lot of bands that I love, but it doesn’t seem to have that edge. I guess it’s always seemed a bit simple to me – there’s no unusual instrumentation; the lyrics are fairly basic; and none of the guitar hooks really suck me in.
But you know, I guess I respect it more now, cause I realize I see a lot of Joe in this album, and a lot of this album in him. Not that Joe’s simple – but he’s honest, I guess. He doesn’t like anything with a trick in it. He doesn’t like things that cheat people, or deceive them. And The Same Place the Fly Got Smashed is about as un-deceitful as they come. It’s a strange little indie-rock album that’s sorta about alcoholism, but not really. And that’s it. It’s not over the top. It’s not melodramatic. It doesn’t try to sucker you into anything. It just does what it sets out to do, and it does it simply, and it does it well. It’s transparent, which I guess I think Joe is too. He is what you get, and that’s probably why I’m his friend.
Joe’s favourite song off this album has always been “Drinker’s Peace” – it’s also the only song he can actually fluently play on the guitar. Once again, the song always used to underwhelm me, and once again, I’m not now saying it’s my all time favourite. But I guess it says a little something about my best friend that the song he likes most out of any other is kinda sweet, and kinda understated, and kinda gentle, and kinda serious.
So, would I recommend this album to people? Probably not. Am I going to rush out and buy it? No. But is it important to me? I guess, in a weird way, it is – because it’s important to my buddy, and he’s important to me. And he and this album belong together – they’re both uncomplicated in the best possible way. They’re both happy to sit on the sidelines and watch what’s going on. And yeah, they can both kick like mules and they can both be a little misty, but they’re made for each other. And cause I love one, I’m more than happy to accept the other.
For the record though, Joffrey’s still a fucking bastard.