Certain Songs #563: Guided by Voices – “How’s My Drinking?”

gbv isolation Album: Isolation Drills
Year: 2001

Of course, drinking is one of those things that is all bound up in the mythology of Guided by Voices, as anybody who has ever seen Robert Pollard on stage, chugging beer after beer in between (or during) his songs would know.

So figure “How’s My Drinking” to be Pollard’s version of “Here Comes a Regular,” a slow, sad ballad that takes a deep dark look at what he might be doing to himself.

Framed by a mournful organ that starts out as support and ends up taking over the entire song, Pollard confronts the audience that has absolutely enabled his self-destructive behavior:

How’s my drinking?
I don’t care about being sober
But I sure get around
In this town

Even on an album that is as lyrically straightforward as Isolation Drills (paging Dr. Freud: I just wrote “Isolation Drinks” there) “How’s My Drinking?” is a whole other level of honesty. And it only gets darker.

To hell with my church bells
And leave me die
With you
I won’t change

After that, Pollard doesn’t even have any more words, just moaning “oooooh-ooooh-ooooohs” over the rest of the song, as the rest of the music rises up to swallow his sadness.

“How’s My Drinking?” has the feel of something I might have written in my journal at 2:30 AM on many nights in the 1980s, after yet another unsuccessful night of attempting to drink her off of my mind, sadly scribbled in letters that are barely legible, and not even remembered until the next time I opened it up.

“How’s My Drinking?”

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