Guided By Voices' 20-year career is split almost perfectly between a decade spent deep underground—self-releasing albums, playing to no one, or not playing at all—and a decade as the drunken upstarts of the indie-rock world. When leader and sole original member Robert Pollard decided to stop using the Guided By Voices name (he'll almost surely continue playing the songs) at the end of 2004, it seemed well-timed or even overdue: He'd released too many records, both as GBV and with various side projects, for anyone to keep up with. But when reduced to a digestible package, say four hours, and delivered with love and inebriated passion, the GBV catalog is pretty amazing.
The Electrifying Conclusion is a straight-ahead document of the band's lengthy final concert, on December 31, 2004 at Chicago's Metro. Pollard and his latest lineup run through the band's history with lots of special guests: A photo montage at the beginning gives way to a series of guest appearances (including Tobin Sprout, Pollard's brother, and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster) that look at 20 years of songs through a rosy telescope.
Pollard's famous drunkenness doesn't hinder the moving performances, though it's amazing that he's still standing at 3:20 a.m. after innumerable beers and shots. (They're delivered, in true rock-star fashion, by onstage bartender and GBV friend Trader Vic. And two buckets, marked "piss" and "puke," sit on the drum riser.) But by the first encore, Pollard seems to be just hitting his stride, tackling a series of songs that sounded classic when they were first delivered: "Queen Of Cans And Jars," "I Am A Scientist," "Teenage FBI." By the time 2005 is a few hours old, Guided By Voices feels done for good, and its legacy fairly secure. As Pollard puts it about 20 beers in: "We're the mighty, mighty Guided By Voices, and fuck whoever."