Friday, June 13, 2008

Robert Pollard Is Off To Business

It is no surprise that Robert Pollard’s latest solo effort clocks in at around 35 minutes. What is surprising, though, is the fact that it takes him just 10 songs to get there. Rather than islandhopping around to as many snippets of sound as he can on his new album, Pollard settles into these songs and builds them out. This makes for not only some of his longest post-GBV offerings, but also some of his best.There is a charm to the way Pollard approaches his career. He, particularly of late, doesn’t take it too seriously and spends his time building a huge collection of albums that he wants to make. And while he shouldn’t take himself too seriously, there’s nothing wrong with getting down to the business of being a songwriter. Records can be fun and carefully crafted and even serious all at the same time, and Pollard seems to have remembered that fact on Robert Pollard Is Off to Business. These songs have a presence and heft to them due in no small part, to Todd Tobias’ role as producer and multi-instrumentalist on the album. This is easily his warmest and most inviting sound yet. The warm, classic-rock crunch of “The Original Heart” starts the album off with a punch, and shows that Pollard hasn’t forgotten how to weave his love for The Who into his own off-kilter brand of power-pop. “The Blondes” is a big ol’ rock ballad, and perhaps his best arrangement since “Edison’s Memos”. There’s also the punk-tinged, infectious punch of “1 Year Old” and the five-minute-plus “Weatherman and Skin Goddess”, which melds Britpop with arena rock . The wah-wah tinged "Gratification To Concrete" contain some of Bob's best melodies this side of The Keene Brothers "Death Of The Party" and makes for arguably the best track on the record. (On a side-note I'd like to add it's one of my wife's favorite songs and when it comes to Senor' Pollard, I'd don't hear the phrase "that's a really good song" too often) These songs show Pollard’s best effort yet at tackling different genres in his songs, filtering his wide swath of influences through his own uncanny knack for melody. He doesn’t try to make a psychedelic song here, or a punk song, or craft a rock opera. What he does is give us ten Robert Pollard songs, with those elements weaved throughout, the way he used to with GBV and his best solo stuff on Matador. Of course, Pollard doesn’t lose his goofy side in all this variety. He dips his vocals into his newly found cartoony bass briefly on “The Blondes”. (Rich Turiel, Pollard's manager, said Bob had scribbled, "sound like Pete Ham" (of Badfinger) on a piece of paper before cutting the vocal track. Robert Pollard Is Off to Business is a great return to form for Pollard. It has songs just as strong as anything on his Merge releases. As the first full release for his new record label, Guided by Voices, Inc., this album is the start of a new era and if this record is a sign of what’s to come, then Pollard’s long-time fans should rejoice.

The Original Heart
The Blondes
Gratification To Concrete
Weatherman and Skin Goddess
Wealth and Hell-Being

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