Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Even though Half Smiles of the Decomposed sounds great, the band plays with impressive skill, and it represents one of Pollard's most successful attempts to balance his low-fi musical impulses against the demands of proper record production, it lacks the ineffable fire and energy that has always set their best work apart.
  2. In essence Half Smiles of the Decomposed is more overloaded with ideas and styles than any other recent Guided by Voices album, yet the songs still hold together cohesively and the album actually gains in depth from the variety.
  3. The mediocre filler that rounds out Half Smiles' lineup is, sadly, par for the band's late-era course.
  4. Finds GBV playing to their long-standing strengths. [Oct 2004, p.124]
  5. 70
    As a send-off... it's not quite the full parade. [Sep 2004, p.104]
  6. 60
    It's hardly a career-defining collection. [Sep 2004, p.98]
  7. Like many of the band's best, it's packed to bursting with sometimes inscrutable pleasures. [16 Sep 2004, p.79]
  8. The best Guided By Voices album yet. [28 Aug 2004, p.57]
  9. Pollard does boost the voltage like before, but the album's apparent air of consideration is rare for GBV... This doesn't really improve the slipping hit-to-miss ratio GBV has produced for the past few albums, but it does set Half Smiles apart.
  10. A more pop-oriented approach, with acoustic textures and melancholic tendencies that recall some of the band's finer work. [#7]
  11. One of the highlights of their career.
  12. Sounds like every other disc Matador has released by them. [Oct 2004, p.134]
  13. A middle-of-the-road release that, because of the context of the band's end, is the most heartbreaking release of the year so far.
  14. 82
    It's ultimately a pop album, reflective and thoughtful, and these songs are just that: songs. [#12, p.97]
  15. As a pure, balls-out rock n' roll record, Half Smiles of the Decomposed is certianly on par with the likes of Isolation Drills and Universal Truths and Cycles.
  16. The album isn't a certified classic like earlier GBV favorites "Alien Lanes" and "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars," but it does have a healthy dollop of Pollard's trademark effortless pop perfection.
  17. Though lacking in innovation, the final GBV album will please any longtime fan that prefers “Game of Pricks” to “Chicken Blows”. Pollard’s songwriting finally feels consistent, fully realized and commanding.
  18. Those whose expected Pollard to bow out in a blaze of lo-fi glory will be sorely disappointed, but true fans will recognize just how well the mid-fi approach suits Pollard.
  19. Half Smiles of the Decomposed isn't quite the guns-blazing finale I always imagined the last GBV album would be, but it never becomes a limp-wristed approximation of the band in any of its previous guises.
  20. True to form, there's a fair amount of unexploded duds mixed in with the direct hits.
  21. Too much of Half Smiles of the Decomposed, however, does not rock.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 16 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 12
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 12
  3. Negative: 1 out of 12
  1. aaronL
    Jan 14, 2007
    Overall this record has a darker, more introspective feel than most GbV stuff, and the more progressive-influenced songwriting feels out of character for the group. Easily this is the least essential GbV record, but at the same time it is so intrieguing - mostly because it's so different. Full Review »
  2. RA
    Aug 18, 2005
    It's not my favorite GVB album, but there are a few solid tracks. I'm not disappointed because Bob Pollard will continue to write songs and perform. Luck for us as we are in rock's nadir. Full Review »
  3. LawrenceP
    Sep 17, 2004
    Average for these guys. A masterpiece for most bands.