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Heaven from the Gutter
Eye Weekly

Do the Collapse

Motel ****

Both records open with pulsating synths, and the next 45 minutes yield all manner of over-arching faux-Brit accents, arena-rock acrobatics and the sort of obtuse leanings all Ohio garage bands seem to share. But where Guided by Voices kingpin Robert Pollard is forever the daydream believer with his head in the clouds, Cobra Verde's John Petkovic spends his nights prowling back alleys, observing brawls, blowjobs and bad drug deals. Guess which place is more exciting?

Even Pollard is drawn to CV's side of the tracks, enlisting them for '97's Mag Earwhig!, a brief affair that gave Pollard a taste of the über-rock glory he tries to recapture on Do the Collapse. Don't get me wrong, GBV's major-label debut is full of great moments: the power-pop surge of "Teenage FBI," the swooning chorus of "Surgical Focus," the lighter-ready "Hold On Hope." But in GBV's '93-'95 golden era, the songs were encapsulations of great moments, however brief.

When they're stretched to four minutes, Pollard tries to get by on whimsy alone, and producer Ric Ocasek can't quite transform his hired guns (including CV holdover Doug Gillard and former Kim Deal cohorts Jim McPherson and Nate Farley) into a band you can believe in. They finally hit their stride on the zippy 68-second closer "An Unmarketed Product," a late victory that only makes Collapse feel more like a squandered opportunity.

Cobra Verde, on the other hand, think reductively, mashing the Stones, Stooges, Bowie and Cave into a skin-tight pomp-punk crunch. Nightlife is your guided tour through glam-rock's underbelly, with visits to the Funhouse ("Crashing in a Plane"), Main St. ("Back to Venus") and the local cabaret ("What Makes a Man a Man"), where Petkovic throws on his girlfriend's dress and comes up with a more convincing glam history lesson than Velvet Goldmine's Oscar Wilde/Bowie analogy.

Pollard may have ditched Cobra Verde on his quest for pop perfection, but that's fine, because what they've found is -- to steal a Nightlife title -- "Heaven in the Gutter." -- STUART BERMAN

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