Ex-GBV guitarist/songwriter embarks on first tour in more than a decade

Tobin Sprout is the unsung hero on many of Guided by Voices' “classic lineup” albums, playing the creative foil to Bob Pollard with his guitar and occasionally his own tunes. While in-the-red, distorted guitar isn't out of his comfort zone, Sprout is more prone to pretty ballads and acoustic jangle-rock, and those types of songs show up often on The Universe and Me, his first solo album in seven years.

Recorded live with Sprout's band at his home studio in Michigan, the new songs unsurprisingly eschew studio polish for a warts-and-all production approach, and yet, for the most part, they don't feel like demos. The title track, “When I was a Boy,” “Cowboy Curtains” and others are pleasantly nostalgic, pop-song sing-alongs.

As GBV chugs on, Sprout is having a big year of his own, embarking on his first tour in more than a decade. Burger Records released The Universe and Me in January, and the label will also be reissuing two of Sprout's 1990s Matador albums, Carnival Boy and Moonflower Plastic, in the coming months. Another GBV alum, Mitch Mitchell's Terrifying Experience, opens this Columbus show. (Safe bet)