Not In My Airforce (Working Version) (1996)

16 Jan

This earlier draft of Bob’s first solo album is mostly comprised of studio-recorded tracks, while the released version drops some of these and sprinkles the album with a handful of boombox and four-track recordings. Some of the songs cut from this early sequence ended up on Mag Earwhig. There’s an image of the lyric sheet for this version, complete with alternate titles, in the Suitcase booklet.

Not In My Airforce (Working Version)
1. I’ve Owned You For Centuries
2. The Finest Joke Is Upon Us
3. Get Under It
4. Gods Of Richard
5. Accountant’s Wife (Maggie Turns to Flies)
6. Girl Named Captain
7. Chance To Buy An Island
8. Flat Beauty
9. Finks
10. Learning To Hunt
11. On The Ashes (Release the Sunbird)
12. The Colossus Crawls West
13. God Bless The Monument Club (Psychic Pilot Clocks Out)
14. King Of Arthur Avenue
15. Applehead (The Ash Gray Proclamation)

I enjoy this sequence quite a bit, more than I thought I would. As a big fan of the official version, I thought I’d miss lo-fi songs like “Quicksilver” and “Parakeet Troopers” breaking up the big studio tracks.  However, these songs flow together remarkably well on their own, and the album as a whole lacks the darker, moodier tone of the proper album. Although I don’t think there’s a huge distinction between the two, this working version feels more like a Guided by Voices album to me than a solo album.

After the quick opening blast of “I’ve Owned You for Centuries,” the stately “The Final Joke is Upon Us” makes a brilliant second track. It sounds great with such a prominent spot on an album, in contrast to its “deep cut” status on Mag Earwhig. Much like “Finest Joke,” the other two future Mag Earwhig tracks — “Learning to Hunt” and “The Colossus Crawls West” — fit perfectly with the Airforce tunes.

Album-highlight “Get Under It” rounds out this opening trio nicely. Next, “Gods of Richard” is the most obscure song on this sequence, having been unheard/unreleased until Suitcase 2 came out in 2005. It’s not a long-lost classic, however: it’s a fairly unremarkable guitar instrumental that bears a slight resemblance to the opening chords of “Psychic Pilot Clocks Out.” In the context of the album it works well.

The only other song that never found a home on either Not in My Airforce or Mag Earwhig is the outstanding “Finks.” Until it was reissued on the Hardcore UFOs box, it was only ever released as a bonus track on a Japanese issue of Under the Bushes Under the Stars. It would have surely become a fan favorite on any album, as it’s a catchy-as-hell blast that actually briefly entered the band’s live set in 2003. I enjoy how the unlikely vocal melody skips across the simple riff, demonstrating Pollard’s knack for not being boring or obvious. Too bad it never made it to Mag Earwhig with the other Airforce orphans, but it is definitely a nice treat for anyone who tracks it down.

As on the final version, “Psychic Pilot” (here titled “God Bless the Monument Club”) is the late-album “hit,” and “Applehead” (AKA “The Ash Gray Proclamation”) makes a great closing track. “Applehead” is the only lo-fi recording on the NiMA Working Version, and is a holdover from some early Under the Bushes drafts, where it was also used as the closer.

With its impeccable flow and song selection, it’s well worth giving the working version a listen! Here’s what you need:

Not in My Airforce
Mag Earwhig!
Suitcase 2 (“Gods of Richard”)
Hardcore UFOs (“Finks”)

Incidentally, here are the tracks from the final album that don’t appear on the early draft:

Quicksilver
John Strange School (this is the only studio-recorded track that is NOT on the working version)
Parakeet Troopers (a Bee Thousand outtake formerly known as “Crayola”)
One Clear Minute
Roofer’s Union Fight Song
Prom is Coming
Party
Did it Play?
Double Standards Inc.
Punk Rock Gods
Meet My Team
Good Luck Sailor

It’s also interesting to note that the final six tracks on Not in My Airforce (starting with “Party”) don’t appear on early Matador promo copies. In fact, they were intended to be their own little EP, and were tacked onto the album at the last minute. That means “Prom is Coming” was the original closer, and “Psychic Pilot” was the penultimate track. The presence of those final six acoustic snippets somewhat diminishes the impact of that 1-2 punch.

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8 Responses to “Not In My Airforce (Working Version) (1996)”

  1. Steve January 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Those last 6 tracks are some of the best things Bob has ever done, in my opinion. They are six songs that seem rather inconsequential when they are on their own but when you add them together the whole is SO much greater than the sum of it’s parts. They have such a bleak haunting quality that you really don’t find anywhere else in his catalog.

    And oh yeah, the album itself is also freaking genius, too.

  2. isawacat January 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Is the same recording of “Release The Sunbird” used on both versions?

    • Dan January 16, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

      yes, i assume so!

  3. Dollar Man January 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    The genius of Not In My Airforce is truly enhanced by the strange sequencing choice (six weird little acoustic songs to close out the album? Who else but Pollard would do this?) It remains his finest solo effort – by a large margin.

    • Dan January 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      i agree, it takes a special kind of genius to do this.

  4. Joe January 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Some of those last six lo-fi tracks on the Not In My Airforce were cowritten with the late Jim Shepard of V3 out of Columbus, OH. He was in Dayton hanging out with Bob and they wrote them, I think he died not to much after that. Jim Shepard does a live version of “Prom Is Coming” is on a boxset released after he passed away.

  5. Matthew Cappadona January 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    It’s good to know their are other GBV/Pollard fans out there who also indulge in homemade album reconstructions. I came across this blog while I was in the middle of giving my Guided By Voices albums “The Deluxe Reissue Treatment.’ I haven’t even thought about where Bob’s solo albums fit in! Let’s be honest here, the distinction between the one’s he released under his own name vs. those with the band (durning its initial run) are negligible at best. All that material came from the same pen. Keep up the good work.

    Matt

    P.S. If Dan or anyone else on here has the Quiet Version of Motor Away (also known as the Organ Version), please help a brother out & send that sucker my way. (I can be reached by email here: mattcappy@hotmail.com). It was on the Carry On-Left Overs & Side Dishes 2CD Rarities Comp. I hate asking (it always feels like bad form somehow) but this has vanished from availability on the web. I’ve spent two days searching & following dead ends. I’m currently comping Alien Lanes & it’s a glaring gap in my collection. The acoustic versions are always so beautiful (i.e The Propeller Demo’s) that it’s something I just simply can’t “let go.”

  6. Dan Schmidt July 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Just found this blog, and it rules.

    It took me a really long time to get into Not In My Airforce, and it finally clicked when I discovered that those last six songs were tacked on at the last minute because Matador didn’t want to release them as a separate EP. Once I stopped listening to those six songs, it became one of my very favorite Pollard albums. Interesting that the other commenters here love them.

    I also think that Under the Bushes Under the Stars is improved by breaking off the last six songs into their own EP (as was the case in the LP release). Those six songs are some of the best on the album, but if I listen to the whole thing in a row I’m too fatigued by the time I get there. I do better to take a break and then come back for the rest.

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