Robert Pollard CD review [Recordhead]

Music Reviews
Robert Pollard CD review [Recordhead]
Jan 14, 2003, 23:05


Ask your average punter about Guided By Voices, and their prodigious, lightly edited output, and drunken stage antics probably are the first things that come to mind. Even if you're a loyalist, you might not think twice about front man Robert Pollard's voice. It's been so great for so long, that it's easy to take for granted. How many times have we seen him nearly incapable of uttering his name after seven onstage beers, but still able to pull off intricate, opaque wordplay without a hitch? There's no way in hell the guy should be able to sing like that—age, smokes and brews should have him croaking like a frog with emphysema. And yet, amazingly, his voice only gets better with abuse.

This solo release is a fine demonstration of Pollard's powerful, supple pipes. Get past the whole Yank-imitating-Brits-imitating-Yanks mannerisms—the guy, as my gospel-singing coworkers might say, can blow. This one has a kind of sparseness to it (what with the scratching around and the found sounds and whatnot), but also a lushness that alludes to latish British Invasion stuff. (You know, when the groups got their first Mellotron, or a string section, but before they started writing symphonies). The song times seem uncharacteristically long but the songs are set up like suites shifting from lush melodies to found sounds used to accent the tunes. “Red Ink Superman” contrasts avant-garde use of slowed-down tapes with a classic GBV anthemic chorus and staccato guitar hook, while “Harrison Adams” starts with an off-the-wall anecdote that sounds like it's recorded on a porch somewhere in Dayton, but then breaks into one of Pollard's most heartbreaking choruses: “You aren't happy with me/And I know it.”

To listen to GBV is to forgo the filters. Sure, Matador probably gets their most fully released releases, but there's gold to be had wading through the side projects, solo discs and outtakes. Spending some time with this, even though it's probably a little outside the canon for the casual listeners, is well worth it. [Recordhead]

-Cecile Cloutier

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