Live at the Horseshoe Tavern
Despite being a steadfast fan of independent music, mid-’90s indie rock has never been my thing. Because of this, stalwarts like Guided By Voices and its off-shoots from Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout have only been heard by these ears on rare occasions. In light of this, Live at the Horseshoe Tavern, probably the definitive disc of Sprout’s career as it spans his GBV days to mid-2004, is not the revelation for which I was hoping. It’s a decent enough compilation of quintessential, driving indie rock, but there’s too little development in Sprout’s two-minute compositions to please anyone but his most ardent fans.
That said, the two discs that make up that night’s show are interesting on a completely different level: none of the sound is cut out. Most professionally recorded/released live albums feature the best tracks from a given night, leaving the missteps on the editing room floor. This disc reveals that what Sprout and his band might lack in songwriting innovation they make up for with the tightness in their performance. They burn through the rockers and slink through sombers with the skill of a seasoned road band. Also great for any regular concert-goer is the perfectly captured crowd background noise: the drunken idiot’s impromptu howling, the female uber-fan who screams excitedly for every song, the more obscure the better, and those poor guys who go to the show yelling out the same request every five minutes only to be shot down through the entire set and a three-song encore. We’ve all been there.
Sprout pulls a slightly devious move by tacking three new home-recorded demos on the end of the concert. They’re decent, piano-driven ballads, but again, not the revelation for which I was looking. If you’re a Guided By Voices fan still lamenting their recent break-up, you might as well console yourself with this and take comfort in the knowledge that Sprout will still be on the road bringing the songs he penned for that band with him wherever he goes.
Tobin Sprout: www.tobinsprout.com