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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Robert Pollard still churning out the tunes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

(Photo)
Robert Pollard's release of "Space City Kicks" drops Jan. 18 by Guided by Voices Inc.
As a writer (albeit of a different sort) I appreciate how liberating it must feel to be Robert Pollard. Indie rock's master of prolificacy seems to have no song ideas that he doesn't write and eventually record. The 53-year-old has well over 1,300 songs registered to his name with BMI.

All of this is a long way of saying Pollard writes a lot of songs.

Pollard's apparently limited editing process makes any new album -- whether it be solo, with Guided By Voices, with Boston Spaceships, or under a pseudonym -- an adventure. The song styles will be all over the board, from jarring noise experiments to fairly polished pop rock ballads.

Who else but Pollard could release a 28-track album with no song topping the 3-minute mark and it not seem the least bit surprising? GBV did it with 1995's "Alien Lanes," and it's among Pollard's best work.

So it's no surprise that Pollard's "Space City Kicks," due out Jan. 18 on Guided By Voices Inc., is the usual mix of gems and rocks.

In this case, like the best of the Pollard/GBV catalogue, the diamonds are good enough to make you overlook the coal.

Chief among the diamonds is "I Wanna Be Your Man in the Moon." While the title of the song sounds like it could come out of a 1950s pop number, it's actually a catchy piece of Pollard rock that stands up to his best days in GBV.

"Touch Me In the Right Place at the Right Time" also shows Pollard's penchant for long titles. It's also another example of what a good songwriter he remains.

While Pollard can make some weird songs with obscure meanings, he is also a master of writing the things most good pop songs are about -- love and sex.

"Something Strawberry" is a delightfully cheerful. "One More Touch" and "Blowing Like a Sunspot" are good tracks that come as close to balladry as Pollard gets.

The title track is just plain loud with some outstanding crunchy guitar.

Of course, there are the oddities like "Picture a Star" and "Children Ships," but Pollard fans know you just take the good with the strange.

We live in the age of the iPod, so it's really not much of an issue.

I am perhaps most intrigued by the opening track "Mr. Fantastic Must Die!" Although only a 1:28 oddity, I'm curious if Pollard really has a problem with the Fantastic Four's stretchy brainiac of a leader or just likes the sound of the title.

Either way, the track sets the tone for the album. You know you're in for a fast-paced, sometimes strange, ultimately entertaining ride.

My spin: B-

Pollard projects rarely have the consistency to be considered great. They also have enough high quality songs to make them worth a listen.

While this may seem an album only worthy of a handful of downloads, that takes away half the fun for those who enjoy his work. The fun is to get the album, see how many tracks he's wedged in it this time (It's 18.) and then figure out which ones really belong on your latest playlist and which ones can stay on the shelf.