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Thinking Man’s Trip to the Zoo (2012)

9 Jan

Striking a perfect balance between weird and accessible, Mouseman Cloud (2012) is like a leaner version of Elephant Jokes (2009). It’s one of the my favorites, so I was happy to come across this earlier sequence with a couple of extra tunes. The extra tracks are outtakes that ended up on the flip-side to Guided by Voices’ White Flag single.

Thinking Man’s Trip To The Zoo
01. Obvious # 1
02. Casino Model
03. Picnic Drums
04. Dr. Time
05. Aspirin Moon
06. Bats Flew Up
07. Smacks of Euphoria
08. Mouseman Cloud
09. Lizard Ladder
10. Continue To Break
11. Zebra Film Negative
12. Human Zoo
13. I Was Silence
14. Mothers Milk And Magnets
15. No Tools
16. Science Magazine
17. Half-Strained
18. Zen Mother Hen
19. Chief Meteorologist

Here, I made a Spotify playlist: Thinking Man’s Trip to the Zoo

Apart from the two extra songs, this version of the album has only minor differences from the released version. The closing trio remains the same, as does song #1 (…obviously). The overall tone and feel of the album remains largely unchanged, but this is a nice way to hear those two non-album in the context of an album rather than isolated on a single. They don’t really sound like GBV tunes — despite being released under that name —  and fit in perfectly with the rest of the Mouseman songs.

Both the outtakes had prominent spots on Thinking Man’s Trip to the Zoo. The minute-long “Casino Model” works great as a segue between the first song and the much longer, heavier “Picnic Drums.” The 40-second “Zebra Film Negative” opens side 2 (assuming “Continue to Break” closes side 1 as it does on the released version) and leads into the equally short “Human Zoo” for a nice one-two shot of awesomely unique Pollard brilliance.

One possible advantage the Thinking Man sequence has over the official Mouseman is the separation of “Mother’s Milk and Magnets” from “Continue to Break.” Both are killer songs, but “Mother’s Milk” has been a divisive track due to its unrelenting repetition of the titular phrase. On Mouseman, it’s followed by the similarly structured “Continue to Break.” Together, those two songs highlight repetition and make it seem as if that quality is a recurring theme throughout the album. Separated, the “theme” of endlessly repeated choruses becomes much less prominent.

I love albums like this that are short, sweet, and cohesive despite being all over the place. Whatever version you listen to, “Science Magazine” is still a huge highlight. It’s a melancholy pop song that is sort of like a sequel to “I am a Scientist.” The heavy sea shanty “Zen Mother Hen” is excellently catchy, and “Chief Meteorologist” closes the album perfectly with a very From a Compound Eye-esque psychedelic chug.


Mouseman Cloud
White Flag single