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Robert Pollard - Robert Pollard is off to Business

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Artist: Robert Pollard

Album: Robert Pollard is off to Business

Label: Guided by Voices Industries

Review date: Jun. 11, 2008

Since dissolving Guided by Voices in 2004, Bob Pollard has released at least seventeen records. Seems like a good time to weigh in. Robert Pollard is off to Business, nominally a solo project, features Todd Tobias (late-period GBV producer and brother of GBV bassist Tim Tobias) playing all of the instruments and Pollard singing. The two recorded independently, and the sound suffers for it. The instrumentation is overblown, featuring too many clean, canned tracks that make Pollard's erstwhile ragtag crew seem surprisingly absent. Moreover, the recording of the two components is different enough that they sound glued together; one can't suspend disbelief and hear it as a band playing together in a room.

Pollard seems more or less the same. His voice is really special. It conveys deep moodiness with touches of race cars and airplanes. Pollard's strokes of songwriting genius can sometimes seem random--as the number of songs he writes approaches infinity, the possibility of there being zero good ones amongst them gets vanishingly small. On the other hand, his voice is a delightful constant through good writing and bad. The propeller-arms guitar rock supplied by Pollard's various flesh-and-blood bandmates tend to provide just-off-enough accompaniment, but Tobias mucks it all up. There are moments in "The Original Heart" when the two are unified in sounding like Pollard idols the Who, but then there is "Confessions of the Teenage Jerkoff" in which Tobias does some "creative" flamenco shit that makes Pollard sound weirdly like Eddie Vedder, and "The Blondes" which is kind of like a Christian rock band reimagining "Space Oddity." Come to think of it, such a thing probably already exists, but seriously: nyet!

One good thing about Pollard is how his lyrics are sometimes really sweet, like that vestigial 4th grade teacher element of his psyche is still duking it out with the part that is falling down drunk and sleeping with groupies. "Weatherman and Skin Goddess" has a little bit of that sweetness, but it's no "I am a Scientist." Pollard is best when he frees himself to produce copiously while reining in song length. The format here, ten songs all longer that 1:30, permits the wrong kind of indulgence.

Some of these songs would sound simpatico on Gossip Girl, which says more about how little has changed in the kid zeitgeist since Bee Thousand (1991!) than it does about Pollard's recurrent sound. Kind of weird, right?

By Josie Clowney

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