Monday, November 26, 2007

Standard Gargoyle Decisions

This one slipped right through the cracks...I bought this CD about a month ago when it came out, and I totally forgot to review it! Oops...

None of you know who the hell Robert Pollard is, but he's the greatest rock-star that never was. Pollard is truly the stuff of Indie-music legend. The tale is complex, but here is a brief synopsis:

This kid has dream--wants to be in The Who. Kid grows up, but never really "grows up" (if ya get my drift) and ends up a thirty something 4th grade teacher with an unusual hobby: the guy writes songs. On weekends, Bobby Pollard and some of his Ohio drinkin' buddies get together and play "rockstar." Bobbie records some of their sessions on a 4-track tape recorder. Pretty soon, a band is born--Guided By Voices.

Eventually, people are paying to see the little band of buddies get drunk and play their little songs. An independent label starts putting their stuff out. It's all "lo-fi" (meaning it's cheaply recorded) but it has soul. Turns out Pollard can write really catchy, 60s era rock songs. Really, really catchy ones. The band goes through LITERALLY HUNDREDS of members, but one constant remains: Robert Pollard.

Guided By Voices takes off, Pollard quits teaching and is suddenly a "near" rockstar. After a decade of rocking, the Pollard calls it quits for GBV (they never got bigger than playing Conan O'Brien a few times and being in the odd on SCRUBS).

But like all prolific geniuses (Stephen King I'm looking at you), Pollard's "retirement" is nearly as prolific as when he was active.

Case in point, last month he released two solo records...on the same day. One was a soft, prog-rock-experiment, the other was a straight rocker STANDARD GARGOYLE DECISIONS. Being poor, I opted to skip the experiment and buy the rock. And I'm glad I did. Pollard's fourth (or is it fifth?) solo record since GBV split is actually pretty good, just not as good as the old Guided By Voices records were. Essentially, it's a mellow GBV record. Call it GBV-lite.

Pollard still sings in his fake British accent (sometimes sounding like Peter Gabriel) , the tunes are still catchy and very short. Pollard's chief songwriting talent is the ability to write hooks. You know, the part of most songs you remember? Well Pollard can do that like no one, only problem is...that's all he writes. So what you get are 2:o0-2:30 songs that are hooks and guitar riffs. These songs either click with you, or they don't.

STANDARD GARGOYLE DECISIONS is good, but nothing I would play for anyone I know and expect them to "get it" on the first listen. The longer Pollard goes without his band, the more "difficult" his albums become. There is something magical about hearing a new Pollard song, though. I got goosebumps hearing "The Killers" and "Pill Gone Girls" the first time I put the disc on. There are a few moments like that, peppered throughout the record--that make me remember how great GBV was. Everything else falls into two categories: just okay or what I consider "filler" (noise that barely resembles a song).

Pollard frustrates me because his moments of brilliance (revealed in the list below) are just barely good enough to justify the rest of the crap he loads onto his CD's.

The man simply cannot self-edit.

Basically he writes and records EVERYTHING that passes through his head. This is probably what killed his bid for the big time. But, if you can look past the turds...there are some real treasures.

Go download the following:

"Pill Gone Girls"
"The Killers"
"Spider Eyes"
"Feel Not Crushed"
"Shadow Port"


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