Blog Archives

Matthew Cutter – Closer You Are: The Story Of Robert Pollard And Guided By Voices

I love me some GBV et al., and Cutter’s book tells the story (thus far) engagingly. Lots left out, of course: no discography, just go to gbvdb.com!, and side projects needed more coverage… could have been two volumes, probably, but this gets to most of the main bits. The book we wanted, the book we needed. Just need Vol.2 for all the rest. Thank you for your fine work, Mr. Cutter, and thank you Mr. Pollard et al. for everything!

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Robert Pollard’s 100: Aaron Is Beside Himself With Joy And Thanks

subtitled: We Need To Talk About Zack And His Awesomeness.

As You Know 1)  I am a HUGE fan of Community. I try to spend as much of my time on the KMA as I can promoting inclusion and sharing of ideas and (occasionally) the sharing of cool stuff. COMMUNITY!

As You Know 2)  Despite my not having bored you to death covering all of their releases, I am a HUGE fan of Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard, and all of their off-shoots and projects. 

As You Know 3)  Recently, I posted HERE that Pollard released a book a few months ago called 100, with only 1000 copies available worldwide. I had to have it! Except I couldn’t, because Rockathon decided that they weren’t going to ship copies outside the U.S. Gah!

And then Zack of The Audible Stew was first* to step up to the plate, folks. He jumped on it immediately, offering to order the thing to his house, then ship it to me. The whole time, he emailed me updates and status reports. Zack went WAY above and beyond throughout the entire experience, incurring personal cost by choosing to wait until we had a total for the item and both shipping charges (to him, then to me) before I sent him payment. Which had to be slightly frightening as shipping from his house to mine was rather expensive (probably the reason Rockathon didn’t want to ship this 12″x12″, 3lb hardcover book internationally). But there was more. When it arrived, the whole thing was packaged beautifully and safely in two layers of cardboard and bubble wrap. And everything done without hesitation, without request for personal gain or reward, without waiting or hassle or bother.

Seriously, Zack took COMMUNITY! to a whole other level on this one. I sincerely cannot thank him enough. 

ZAAAAACK!!

 

We’re all collectors here, I believe, so you know what I mean when I say that I’ve been collecting GBV/Pollard/related things for years, and knowing something as beautiful as this was out there but not regularly shippable to me was frustrating! To say that I am beyond thrilled to have this item (which contains all front and back cover art of the first 100 albums) in my collection is understatement of the year.

There follows a few shite photies to commemorate this thing of beauty…

So much glory.

THANK YOU, ZACK!

 

 

* Other Dear Readers also offered to try and secure a copy for me, and to all of you I say thank you so much as well!

We All Know That There Are Times When Being A Collector Gets Tougher

Y’all know I love Guided By Voices, and all of its side projects, and all of the books and art work and whatever else Robert Pollard and his band of merry reprobates have released over these decades. It’s my mission to collect as much as I can… within my means, because there’s just SO MUCH of it and some of it is now super-dear. Anyway, I have a bunch of it and am always looking for more.

Back around Christmas sometime or so, Rockathon (a place to buy many Pollard-y things) released 100,  a beautiful hardcover book collecting all 100 album covers and back covers. It looks awesome. It’s $50 USD, which for me (today) is just over $64 CDN. So, like everything else Pollard-related, I ordered one, right?

Nope. And not for lack of wanting too… simply put: I can’t. They will not ship that item outside of the US. Not even to their dear neighbours to the north, the hockey-loving sweethearts of Canadialand. No reason was given for this shipping prohibition, though I assume it’s because it’s (likely) a big heavy book and they didn’t want to crush international people with shipping costs… Case in point: I just ordered the new EAT magazine (volume 14) from Rockathon this week. It was $10 USD. Reasonable! However, shipping was almost $17 USD. So yeah, even that is an expensive cheap book, but I own volumes 1 – 13 and I’m not gonna stop now!

So, I can’t get the 100 book. There are only 1000 copies in the world, too, so the chances of finding one used somewhere are gonna be slim to none. Unless there are any US-resident Dear Readers who wanna help a brother out (with full recompense for all expenses and whatever else incurred), this is another Pollard item beyond my reach. Hence the title of this post.

EAT 13

Y’all know I’m a pretty big fan of Robert Pollard and all of his musical activities. He’s one of the most prolific artists I know, and all of it’s awesome.

As if all of his musical projects aren’t enough, he’s also an excellent visual artist, working in collage. A lot of his album covers are his original artworks. And every so often, he releases a book collecting his work, all entitled EAT. They’re beautiful books, for sure.

When there’s a new release, I don’t even ask, I just order. So, not long ago I ordered the most recent edition, EAT 13, and it arrived at the house today. It’s 130 perfect-bound pages of more Robert Pollard awesomeness!

Sharp-eyed Readers will notice that there’s a little extra something in the bottom right corner of that cover page.

That’s right! This one is signed!

When I placed the order, I didn’t even notice in the write-up that if orders were placed before November 30, those copies would arrive signed by Bob himself.

When I opened mine today, I thought maybe the signature was just part of the cover image, but on closer inspection it is actually an autograph done with a marker.

To say this discovery made my day would be a total understatement!

Robert Pollard FTW!

Robert Pollard – We All Got Out Of The Army

Hooray! Another brand-spanking new record from our hero, Mr. Pollard. As per usual, his creative riffs (the title track’s riff is a monster) and lyrical oddities are firmly in place. Even better, the (imagined) high leg kicks are ensured. Solid gold. The whole thing is fortified with vitamins and very good for your ear-holes.

Everybody should know about this guy and the good work he is doing to keep rock and roll interesting and alive. In a sad world of corporate rock whores and poseurs who’d be utterly lost actually trying to do something imaginative and new, this record (like most of his efforts), is a breath of fresh air that’s KMA-Recommended to be good for your brain, your soul and your need to rock.

Rollins, Dropkicks, Pollard, Zippers and the Canadian Dream

James Parker – Turned On: A Biography Of Henry Rollins

That title should read ‘unauthorized’ biography – apparently Hank wanted nothing to do with this 1998 book. I suppose it’s because he spends his entire spoken word thing (and many of his diary-style books) giving out snippets of biography anyway. Or it could be because this book purports that he used a lot of acid in the Black Flag days, which undermines Rollins’ straight-edge stance. Frankly, if it’s true I really don’t care. What puzzles me is why he’d hide it when he claims to be so up front about everything else. Admit it, move on. Whatever. Anyway, the book is otherwise a well-written re-hashing of the early DC punk and Black Flag days, as well as beyond, most of which has been documented in other places.

Dropkick Murphys – Do Or Die

I’ve had this CD for years (since I got it as a Valentine’s gift – I know, my wife rules!), and have played it to death. Rocked it again while working out yesterday and loved it all over again. They’ve never matched this album in its entirety again, though there have been great individual songs since. A fave for sure, essential listening.

Robert Pollard – The Devil Went Home And Puked

An all-dancing, all-singing, all-drinking highly creative video collage of Robert Pollard and his band of merrily drunk mofos, recorded throughout Pollard’s incredibly prolific and happily lengthy career. Sure, this 67 minutes of weirdness is probably for fans only, but that’s me, baby! Wahoo!

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Perennial Favourites

Yeah, this CD’s been out forever but it’s awesome. My wife put it on today so our son could have some lively music to jump along with in the Jolly Jumper. It worked like a charm. You know, I loved that swing revival in the 90’s, when bands blew the dust of their grandparent’s music collections and let ‘er rip. It should happen again. Actually, it should never go away. To me, swing and big band is a constant. Just saying.

Andrew Vincent – Canadian Dream

You should look this guy up. His song, Canadian Dream, is really rather excellent. It says a lot about our generation, for better or worse (depending on your opinion in the matter). My sister says we’re all doomed to be Prince Charles for the rest of our lives, that the Boomers will never get out of the way. Talk about priorities. Anyway, I’m rambling. Great song. Go hear it on his Myspace. Thanks to CBC radio for introducing me to this man’s work.

Pollard, Pier, Paul, Oasis, Flatt, Mark, Hotness, iPod, Tributes, Cross and K’NAAN

So yah, it’s been a while. Good to see you.

Robert Pollard – Elephant Jokes

You’d think we’d get tired of this guy’s constant output. After all, how much can one person create and not have it all sound the same? If you said ‘not much,’ then you’ve never really listened to Robert Pollard. This is intelligent jangly weirdo power pop that always hits the sweet spot. It’s varied and creative and fun. This is reason to celebrate! I hope he makes a million more. He probably will.

Ford Pier – Adventurism

Perfect freak-out session of musical insouciance from Mr. Pier. Subtitled “Torture Is The New Anal,” this record offers up so much time signature-twisting awesomeness that first listen doesn’t come close to giving it all to you. Even the cover is upside down (or is it just my copy?). Along for the ride this time are Jason Tait, Michael Philip Wojewoda and Ryan Granville-Martin. And I’d really like to know why Martin Tielli is the man to see about schedules… Well, whatever. Folks, this record is another slice of unabashed, unapologetic brilliance. A snapshot of a rare talent, indeed. Loved it.

Les Paul

R.I.P. Les Paul.

Oasis

Yeah well, down the hatch. Good riddance.

Busted Flatt

First heard Rascal Flatt’s atrocious cover of Tom Cochrane’s ‘Life Is A Highway’ on country radio on my neighbour’s crappy stereo in his garage. I couldn’t believe my ears. So, of course, I went home and looked it up on YouTube. I was blown away by the absolute horror of this version. The life has been sucked right out of it. The vocals are slow, and the twangy good-ol’-boy schtick does not work at all. The backing track is perfunctory New Country to the point of making it faceless and unrecognizable from any of a million other songs on CMT. Holy shit, that was BAD. Bad bad bad bad bad!

Trivia! Carolyn Mark ‘Slithers’

Bet you didn’t know that Carolyn Mark and The New Best Friends are on the soundtrack for the movie Slither. Yep, there they are, doing ‘2 Days Smug And Sober’ from the brilliant Pros And Cons Of Collaboration record. Neat!

Still gotta try making a Bourbon Decay one of these days…

The New Hotness

Part of what’s been keeping me busy around here arrived the other day, in the form of a 40″ television and a surround sound system to go with it. The TV’s alright (as far as TVs go, I’m no expert), but the promise of a big sub with surround speakers sets my skin to tingling. Haven’t got it hooked up yet, but just imagining Metallica cranked in there makes me really happy indeed. Oh baby.

Apple and iPod

So I announced a month ago that I’d awesomely got an iPod for my birthday. To this day, I still don’t have any music on it! I know! The issue seems to be that iTunes only wants me to pull things from my laptop’s hd, when all of my music is stored on my wireless external hd. So it means another step to move it all back to the lappy’s hd and, frankly, there’s not much room there, so it’d require several moves/deletions to get it all on the iPod… and even then that’s only if I can figure out a way to be allowed to add things in chunks. Also, iTunes keeps wanting me to make libraries and playlists and all this other proprietary horseshit I care nothing about – man, I just want to drag folders onto the iPod and be done with it.

James has been a big help, but not having a Mac he’s a bit out of depth in getting workarounds on that OS figured out. I’m thisclose to calling Mac themselves and having them hold my hand through the process. I’m also considering downloading some external freeware that seems to promise it’ll let me do what I want. As it stands right now, iTunes is nothing but a humungous pain in the ass.

Tributes To The Vines and Godsmack

I got these at the dollar store, so you know they’re high quality. And not really remembering any of the actual songs by either band will surely hinder these reviews completely. Released on Tributized Records (haha, that’s classy), both records are fine, I suppose. Glowing, right? Right!

The Vines Tribute has eight cover tunes by bands you’ll surely never hear again and, while they’re passable, well, whatever. The disc improves when you get to Iggy Pop (live), Flamin’ Groovies and Johnny Thunders tracks as the ‘roots of the Vines,’ and then the dude from Cinderella’s new band’s bonus original track. Yes, they went all out on this collection. At least it was only a buck.

As for the Godsmack disc, the Pagan Rock Allstars (oh baby) give us the “essence of Godsmack,” which amounts to an exercise in nu-metal imitation. A couple of other bands whose names you’ll never utter chip in too before we get the ‘roots of Godsmack,’ one track of which kinda rules. It’s a cover of Metallica’s ‘Battery’ by Eric A.K. (of Flotsam and Jetsam, which was Jason Newstead’s band before joining Metallica), Robert Trujillo (haha he plays with them now), Dave Lombardo (SLAYER!!!) and Mike Clark (the producer?). Truly shows you how much that track needs Hetfield’s vocals but the song is so awesome that your Grandma could rock it. Now there’s an image. Anyway, There’s also Venom and Paul Di’Anno and yet another track from the Cinderella dude’s new band yada yada yada. Once through this thing was enough.

Hilarious, and not bad for two bucks. Will I play them again? Probably not.

Black Cross – Art Offensive

I also got this one at the dollar store, and actually it’s pretty awesome. It’s like old school punk, only better produced. Lots of aggression, searing guitars and a driving bottom end. Of course, like all good hardcore-sounding albums – by the end you’re sure you’ve heard the same song 12 times in a row but who the hell cares? At high enough volume, even a couple of these tracks in a row can get your blood pumping and make you indignant as hell without knowing why. Fun.

K’NAAN – Troubadour

I bought this ‘cos it was cheap, and I’d heard good things about it somewhere once, I think. Also, somehow I connected K-OS and K’NAAN in my brain. Maybe it was all the upper case letters. And if ever there was a good reason to buy a record, upper case letters is definitely it. Well, it has a duet with Kirk Hammett on it so I’d want to hear that, at any rate. And Mos Def and Damien Marley too, so why not?

And the disc? The music has great moments, with lots of world and soul influences and cool beats. The vocals, however, leave a lot to be desired. He’s got flow at times but, seriously, he only every raps on one note. Fine, but after two or three tracks it’s incredibly boring. Add to that an Eminem-sounding nasal sarcasm tone in places and it’s, well, derivative. When he hits the more melodic tracks and sings, it’s soft-pedalled and lovey-dovey. Not nearly as vocally interesting as K-OS. Should I even be comparing these two? Um, I dunno. This record has a whole lotta songs that’d make great mix-tape tracks. Don’t think I could listen to the whole thing all the way through again, though. Chacun son gout.

Robert Pollard, Pavement, TV On The Radio, Danny Michel, Rolling Stones

Robert Pollard – The Crawling Distance

Hooray! New Pollard again! Frankly, my raving about a new Pollard effort in these pages is redundant, by now. So just consider this notice that this album is released and you should definitely buy it! This 10 song collection has all the trademark sounds of the master at work: the brit-rock vocals, the odd lyrics, the interesting structures and key changes. It’s all here. The man is unstoppable.

Pavement – Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creed Edition

Whomever had the idea to re-release all the Pavement records with all kinds of extra goodies thrown in deserves a medal. They’re gorgeous. This most recent addition to the series has so much extra stuff it’s boggling: a re-mastered original album, b-sides to several EPs, compilation appearance tracks, radio sessions, studio outtakes, photos, essays, you name it. There’s enough in this 2 disc set to keep a person occupied for weeks, and it’s all fantastic.

Man, I miss Pavement. I know it had to end, and I know we’ve been fortunate that a couple of the members have carried on with other projects, but a part of me still really misses the magic these guys created. Sets like this are a nice reminder of what once was.

TV On The Radio – Dear Science

Here we have a dance-y, trance-y, indie homage to 80’s pop music. It’s got drum machines, falsetto vocals, the works. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, as far as it goes, I enjoyed this record for the creative effort that it is. I ultimately sort of held it at a distance, though, since it’s really not my cup of tea. I honestly did enjoy it, but I doubt I’d play it often. Man, talk about a backhanded compliment. Lots of people like this stuff. If you do, power to you. Get out your jelly shoes, hair crimper and neon stretch pants and rock it often. Whatever floats your boat.

Danny Michel – Welcome Home (1997-2007)

I can sum this up quickly: Danny Michel rules, as you all already know, and this set is the perfect collection of a decade of his amazing songs, played on acoustic guitar. Every track is a gem. Seriously, head over to zunior.com and get this so you can check this out. You won’t regret a single second of it.

Rolling Stones – Shine A Light

Watching this movie, I realized for the millionth time that, dammit man, I love this band. I don’t care how old they get, or how corny their song lyrics can get sometimes, or that watching Mick Jagger perform is akin to watching a skinny little man being electrocuted. It’s that sound, that magic that is the Stones in flight. It’s jangly, it’s messy, it’s bluesy and it fucking rocks.

Scorcese had his work cut out for him, capturing this spectacle, at which he both succeeds and fails. We’re treated to incredible footage from great angles, and the picture quality is fantastic. But it’s mostly like watching a strobe-light being swung around the room. Too many camera-switches makes it impossible to actually enjoy a lot of the footage. It’s a shame. In his panic to give us everything, Scorcese hurt my eyes and offered up only fleeting flashes of greatness.

Nevermind, the music is phenomenal, the guests are interesting, and that one of a kind Stones energy is definitely present. And that’s all that matters.

*NB: There’s more favourites coming up next, so be ready!

Robert Pollard, Echobrain, Tracy Chapman, Metallica and Jack Johnson

Robert Pollard – Town Of Mirrors

Open the cover of this coffee table collection of EAT-style collage and lyrics, and re-introduce yourself to the restless mind of a genius.

Echobrain – Echobrain

Jason Newstead’s side-project was no threat to Metallica in any way, shape or form, but it still sounds as good as any other mid-90’s pop-rock you enjoyed at the time (despite this being from 2002).

Tracy Chapman – Our Bright Future

This is gentle, back-porch music at its best, and the songs are whip-smart, as always. Yummy.

Metallica – Some Kind Of Monster

Just watched this again and my opinion holds true: they should have gotten past this horseshit privately. We didn’t need to see it, but we did. Ugh. And Lars? Spit out that gum and shut up, man. Please.

Jack Johnson And Friends – Sing-A-Longs And Lullabies For The Film Curious George

This guy writing songs for a kids’ movie is a natural. Chock full of the gentle, now-classic Johnson groove, with some help from great friends like Ben Harper, G. Love and Matt Costa. Sweetness, indeed.

Robert Pollard – Eat 5

Here we have Volume 5 in the (by now) venerable EAT series from our main man, Robert Pollard. Happily entitled The Dogshit Chronicles. Oh my. And what a collection it is, chock full of hilarious stories of harrowing drunken exploits and tall unbelievable tales that are quite likely all true anyway. 

 

The stories are short, sure, but that hardy matters. This is a fun volume and totally worth your time just for a laugh. I got it, of course, because I make it a point to try to get everything Pollard-related, but you might have a good chuckle at these tales as well, some night when it’s late and you don’t want to start reading a new novel because you really should be getting to bed for tomorrow but you’ve had a bad day and you just want something that’ll cheer you up a bit. This will work wonders. Of course, if you’re a die-hard GBV fan like myself, these stories are just more grist for the mill, additions to the On-Going History Of Bob.

 

Now imagine living this stuff, not just reading about it, then try to sleep. How much more proof do you need that this man is awesome?

 

The Legend continues to grow.

 

Table Of Contents:

01 Life Is Football – Hit Somebody!

02 You Must Eat The Lawn Chalk! (Dog Shit 1)

03 David Jansen

04 David Copperfield

05 Lugnut Blues

06 Either Or

07 Dogshit 2

08 A Predisposed Irishman In Yellow Springs

09 Steak And Eggs

10 Red Dawn (Olivia Neutral Milk Control Tremors)

11 Quick One

12 St. Patrick’s Day Police And Firemen Benefit

13 Good Hands With All-State

14 Fabulous Freebird’s Freedom Cruise

15 Born Again Pizza

16 Black Dog

17 The Hitler Of Crickets

 

PS I love this EAT series, as you can imagine. But I have a question: Have I written about the other four volumes in this series yet? If I haven’t, I am surely remiss and will get right to that very thing shortly.

Robert Pollard – Robert Pollard Is Off To Business

Robert Pollard is a walking treasure trove of great song ideas, riffs, hooks and general weirdness that only serves to set him miles apart from any pretender to his undisputed crown as King Of Tasty Pop/Rock Songs. This full-length record is yet another in the gigantic string of completely great releases that he introduces to the world on a very regular basis.

I found my foot tapping and my brain firing new neurons as his incredibly well-crafted constructions washed into my ears like waves of bliss. The lesser-interested might listen to this and wonder he stopped Guided By Voices in the first place, since you might argue that this sounds as well-produced as the best of that band’s work at TVT. But they’d be completely missing the point. While GBV would be one of the only bands I sincerely hope might reunite one day (even if only briefly, because those players deserve to be heard forever too), at the same time I don’t care who he’s working with at any given time, so long as he’s working. Pollard’s greatest strength is the writing of indelibly strong songs, no matter what name he might be operating under at the time.

This is a great rock record. His voice soars over massive riffs, and he effortlessly spits out hooks so as to make anyone aspiring to his heights feel like they have a ton of work left to do (and they surely do). True, sometimes he’ll make records where a few of the tracks are just weird enough that they mess with the continuity of the listening experience (and I love those too, you know), but on this record he’s offering up nothing but great song after great song after great song. What a feast!

I’ve always wondered (and it happened again as I happily absorbed each song on this record, over and over) why this man’s work remains on the (relative) fringes. What is wrong with people? Why isn’t this on the main New Releases racks and flying on the shelves faster than Britney or 50 Cent or any of the other horseshit that sells way more than common sense should dictate? How could he have remained under the radar of absolute hugeness for so long? Surely (by now) you’ll concede he deserves it!

Then again, maybe it’s better this way. Maybe he can remain our little secret of awesomeness, and we can selfishly devour each release (as I did with this one, same as all the rest) and know that we are the ones who really know where it’s at. Let the idiots buy the pap that pacifies their atrophied brains. We’ve got a genius working to favour us with his output, and we’re all the better for it.

I read somewhere online that this is supposed to be his only release (under his own name) for 2008. But this is only June! Surely the man can, as he has always done in the past, whip up another collection (or three) of confections and sate us, his grateful listeners? He could release a new album every week, as far as I’m concerned.

Completely recommended.

Track Listing:
01 The Original Heart
02 The Blondes
03 1 Years Old
04 Gratification To Concrete
05 No One But I
06 Weatherman And Skin Goddess
07 Confessions Of A Teenage Jerk-Off
08 To The Path!
09 Western Centipede
10 Wealth And Hell Being

Robert Pollard – Weatherman And Skin Goddess

Any new Robert Pollard release is a good release. 

The single for the forthcoming early-June release of the Robert Pollard’s Off To Business record (on the newly-formed Guided By Voices Records, natch), Weatherman And Skin Goddess is a tasty little three-track single containing one track from said record, and two non-album tracks too.

Not that I’m keeping track of such things, but the title track Weatherman And Skin Goddess is probably the longest Bob track in a while, at 5:21. From a man who usually revels in half minute snapshots of genius, this is a veritable feast of hooks and awesome one-liners all wrapped up into one song! This is a songwriting master course, so turn it up and listen to the way the components work seamlessly together. You’ve just been taken to school.

While listening to the first non-album release, Kiss The Quiet Man, I had very clear mental images of Mr. Pollard jumping up and down on-stage, slightly wobbly with beer, clapping his hands and kicking his leg high every now and then… and so I know that this pop masterpiece of a song is definitely a worthy addition to the discography.

Bringing up the end of this far-too-short disc is Coat Factory Zero, a clunky chunky rocker that sounds like its searching for something in every verse, and then finding it at every musical resolution. It swirls and dangles, it pulls you in and lifts you up, exultant. Yeah, it’s fantastic.

Get ready for the full record release, kids. It’s gonna kick yer ass.
 

Track Listing:
01 Weatherman And Skin Goddess
02 Kiss The Quiet Man
03 Coat Factory Zero

Robert Pollard – Superman Was A Rocker

Robert Pollard has released two new discs of beautiful tastiness in the last little while, this one being under his own name, and #15 under his new record label (in the aftermath of Fading Captain), Happy Jack Rock Records.

If I understand this collection correctly, it seems that Pollard dug into his apparently endless pile of cardboard boxes in his basement and pulled out all of these sounds and songs from tapes recorded over the years 1980-2007. That’s a pretty big span of time and encompasses a lot of players, many of whom are the usual suspects: his brother Jim, Mitch Mitchell (now of the amazing Terrifying Experience), Kevin March, John Dodson, Doug Gillard, Nate Farley, Tim Tobias and Tobin Sprout. Of course, knowing what we know now, this is a pretty incredible list of players.

As with any Pollard release, the immediate task is to remove all expectations before listening. That way, whatever you hear is fresh and interesting. And this disc is chock full of tasty treats for your listening pleasure. The sound quality varies from pretty good to questionable at best, in places, and it might sound to some that this is just a bunch of demo recordings that should probably never have seen the light of day. I disagree. Who wouldn’t want to hear everything from those boxes in the basement? They are all pieces in the gigantic no-borders puzzle that is this man’s musical output. Bring it on!

Besides, the unfinished, rough sketch-like quality of these recordings is the key to their charm. We are so disgustingly conditioned (by major label releases and corporate radio) to expect perfection and predictable song structure. We’ve been taught to enjoy being pandered to, and I believe that these records are the antidote. I hope Pollard and crew continue to release as many records as they can, for as long as they can. They are a durable shelter in the face of the relentless shitstorm gale that is the mainstream. We’d be lost without him.

Track Listing:
01 Another Man’s Blood
02 Go Down First
03 Back To The Farm
04 Substitute Heaven
05 Prince Alphabet
06 You Drove The Snake Crazy
07 Surveillance
08 Fascination Attempt
09 Love Your Spaceman
10 Jumping
11 St. Leroy
12 Peacock
13 More Hot Dogs Please

Robert Pollard – Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love & Standard Gargoyle Decisions

It’s pretty much become expected around here that I’ll rave and drool about a man named Robert Pollard. You’re probably sick of it, but that’s fine. One day, if you haven’t already, you’ll joyously wake to the fact that this prolific man of countless projects is truly an unstoppable genius. 

Some day in the future, his music will finally be lauded everywhere for the beauty that it is (even more so than it is already appreciated). Box sets will be loving constructed, writers will wax poetic about his work, newly-uncovered tapes (of which there are surely thousands by now) will be released and analyzed by rabid fans like archaeologists study bones. Young people who aren’t even born yet today will be making tribute albums to how influential he was for them in their formative years, and lighting candles in perpetual vigil at the foot of his (inevitable) display at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

Trust me.

So imagine my glee when it was recently announced that Mr. Pollard would be releasing not one but TWO new full-length albums on the same day! Holy Awesomeness, Batman! It was Christmas in October!

I immediately wrote away to my one and only Pollard dealer, Stu at the Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon, to have him send me a copy of each record as soon as they arrived in his store (and not one minute later). Stu got them to me in record time (pun intended) and I have been in a state of pure bliss ever since. Thanks heaps, Stu!

And now to the albums themselves. I couldn’t choose which one I wanted to hear first, so I simply closed my eyes, shuffled the discs a few times in my hands and grabbed one at random, coming up with Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love. Oh man, it is awesome!

There have been many times during his long career when Mr. Pollard has gone way out beyond the marked swimming areas to plunge into uncharted and unsafe waters with his songs. Sometimes this results in oddball, patience-testing ditties that only the super-fans could love. But Coast is a cohesive, highly-listenable record. All of the classic hooks are here, folded neatly into the lyrical leaps and little moments of freak-out that have long been part and parcel of everything the man does. This could very well have been a Guided By Voices record (and I know how that sounds when I say that, and no, I will not stop pining for them). But if the band was still playing today, a lot of these songs might’ve fit them very well indeed.

I played it through twice – once to listen only to the music, the second to try to match the words to the tunes. This little project served me well, because not only did the album make sense when I deconstructed it and then glued it back together in my mind in that way, but I got to listen to the whole thing twice in a short time!

Hands down, I highly and completely recommend plunking down your hard-earned for a copy of Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love. It is a thing of beauty.

So then, without a moment’s hesitation, I moved with glee into Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Once again, the man outdoes himself. And I’m not just saying that… it’s true!

The focus here is all about getting yer ya-ya’s out. This record moves toward a rougher, more raw sound than on parts of Coast. There are so many songs here that just rawk unabashedly and without looking back. It’s heavier, bad-ass and fuzzy, yet still totally sounding like only he can sound. The songs here show you just how much Pollard brings to the table.

Listening to this record a second time, I can totally imagine these songs being awesome in concert. They just have that feel to them. If he were to show up and play this record from start to finish as a show, it’d be a classic must-see event.

So.

I won’t pick song favourites from either release. It wouldn’t do the scope of these monumental releases, chock full of the best rock out there, any justice at all. Just know that all the songs are brilliant.

And for you, Grasshopper? Own them both. It’s as simple as that.

 

Track Listings:

Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love

01 Our Gaze
02 Count Us In
03 Exactly What Words Mean
04 Current Desperation (Angels Speak Of Nothing)
05 Dumb Lady
06 Rud Fins
07 Customer’s Throat
08 Miles Under The Skin
09 Penumbra
10 Slow Hamilton
11 Look Is What You Have
12 I Clap For Strangers
13 Life Of A Wife
14 Youth Leagues
15 When We Were Slaves
16 Nicely Now

Standard Gargoyle Decisions

01 The Killers
02 Pill Gone Girl
03 Hero Blows The Revolution
04 Psycho-Inertia
05 Shadow Port
06 Lay Me Down
07 Butcher Man
08 Motion Sickness Ghosts
09 I In The World
10 Here Comes Garcia
11 The Island Lobby
12 Folded Claws
13 Feel Not Crushed
14 Accusations
15 Don’t Trust Anybody
16 Come Here Beautiful
17 Spider Eyes

Robert Pollard – Silverfish Trivia

I’ve just received my copy of Robert Pollard’s newest EP, Silverfish Trivia, and I have the mighty Stu at the Vinyl Diner in Saskatoon to thank for it. Stu always comes through for me via snail mail, because the record shops in my town blow chunks.

You know, I’ve heard A LOT of Robert Pollard in my time, and none of it has ever been bad. That seems such a grand, sweeping statement, but it’s the truth as I know it. And this CD is certainly no exception to that rule. It is much slower, gentler than his last couple of efforts. More introspective-sounding, and I love it. Of course I do. I’m a fan!

Book-ended by short and sweet instrumentals, with another thrown into the middle for good measure, the songs here are the sounds (to me) of a man at peace, groping his way through some new dawn light into an easy understanding. Other review sites have been vaunting Circle Saw Boys Club as the song to think of as the single, and it is a great tune I will play often and could see putting into mixes of Pollard’s stuff (which I am fond of making for my car). But for my money, the ambitious and many-layered Cats Love A Parade is the one that stands out most. I don’t usually pick tracks like this, as I tend to believe it’s better if you’d just listen to it yourself and then make up your own damn mind. But this time I just had to do it. Brilliant yet again. The man never fails.

Another worthwhile thing about this short little window into Pollard’s World is that each song stands alone with strength and verve, but if you step back and take it in as a whole, it works that way too. Maybe even better that way. Yummy!

This EP marks the ending of the venerable Fading Captain series, and the birth of a new series called Prom Is Coming. I’ll admit that I was a little worried when it was announced that FC was, well, fading, but I should have known better by now that this man cannot sit still, cannot stop producing music and that there would have to be something else soon. This is it, and it’s a lovely thing indeed.

As I say with everything Pollard-related, go get your own copy. It’ll be the best thing you do all week!

Robert Pollard – Normal Happiness

The demise of Guided By Voices (R.I.P. boys, sniff sniff) does not seem to be getting Robert Pollard down at all. Still pumping out albums and art projects in the aftermath, at a pace that would dizzy lesser musicians, he also remains sonically upbeat about the whole thing with this effort. Normal Happiness, setting aside my obvious bias for his output, is definitely a worthy entry into the vast well that is the Pollard catalog. As always, the songs are short, sweet blasts of inimitable brilliance that still, in keeping with his long-standing modus operandi, sound like they could conceivably fall crazily to pieces at any moment. The listener is pulled along from song to song, barely able to digest the last confection before being assaulted (in a friendly way) by the next one.

There are some signs of growth, here, too. On “Give Up The Grape,” he muses that perhaps all his years of legendary hard drinking are finally taking their toll, and that he “…maybe should define some lines that I cannot cross.” There are other places on the record, amidst the seemingly nonsensical babble (which I call poetry) that usually comprises his lyrics, wherein he strongly alludes to boundaries and the reasons for them. Interesting, positive, and yet further proof that Robert Pollard will never do what you expect, will always twist the opposite way and be proven right, time and again. You really should just have trusted him in the first place.

Albums like Normal Happiness stand as incontrovertible proof of the fact that, so long as he remains in love with the process, Robert Pollard, with every brilliant move he makes, will continue to be the most interesting musician in America.

Robert Pollard and the Ascended Masters – Moon

Thrown in as a free CD with the purchase of Normal Happiness, Moon is a live concert recorded in front of a Pearl Jam audience in Cincinnati, OH on 6-24-06. Culling from earlier solo releases and showing off tunes that would eventually be released on Normal, and even throwing in Game Of Pricks for those in the crowd who weren’t quite sure if he really is the dude from GBV, Robert Pollard and the Ascended Masters rock the house in fine style on this disc. Pulling together all of his vast influences and filtering them through his strong love for 70’s guitar bands, Pollard leads his new band through the ups and downs and curves that his songs naturally take, all with impeccable accuracy, timing, and the smirk that you know never leaves his face as though he were remembering when he was a kid jumping off his bed with a tennis racket, unable to quite believe, even after all these years, that he’s getting to do the gig for real.

It is no slap in the face for Pollard, long a closing act with GBV, to be an opener for the likes of Pearl Jam. In fact, it makes a kind of poetic sense that, so close to his beloved hometown of Dayton, he gets to act as an introduction for a band that sounds nothing like him but that shares his love of The Who, and who must still think enough of his growing legend to have invited him along for the ride. What I would have given to have been there that night.

Surely this record came about because Pearl Jam records every one of their shows for their bootleg series so, with everything all set up already, it would have been easy to chuck in another blank tape and capture the Pollard sweetness for us all. Sure, it seems that the crowd noises are edited out except for between songs (which smacks of studio re-touching), but that matters little. The sound quality is consistent and, for one-offs like this, that’s the best we can ask.

Some will probably say that this is a fans-only record, but that’s bollocks. I would have bought this CD if it had been a separate release, and I would have enjoyed it just as much. So pull on your faded Chucks, get down to your local indie record shop and snag your copy before they’re gone. It’ll be the best thing you do all day.

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