Robert Pollard: Coast to Coast Carpet of Love (Merge CD/LP)
Robert Pollard: Standard Gargoyle Decisions (Merge CD/LP)
I’ve lived with these records for a little over month or so now, and I’ve come to some conclusions regarding Robert Pollard’s post-Guided By Voices oeuvre:
1. Producer/multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias is an as madly eclectic and prolific a musical genius as Robert Pollard himself. Thus, a perfect partnership is formed and a great many records are made under a variety of monikers. Fans and record collectors rejoice! Yet, I occasionally miss the sense of a band in a room rocking out and I get a nagging suspicion that Pollard is sometimes merely “phoning in” his performances.
2. As a songwriter, Robert Pollard continues to explore new expressive possibilities in the two-minute pop/rock song. Allusive, asymmetrical, and often lacking a typical verse/chorus structure, these songs are subtle and not immediately graspable, despite their brevity. These records require repeated listenings to reveal their elusive charms.
3. Perhaps for these very reasons, neither of these records is likely to win many new converts to the Pollard bandwagon. And that’s OK. Acquired taste and all that. . .
Even though Coast to Coast Carpet of Love is billed as the creamy pop record and Standard Gargoyle Decisions is supposed to be the edgy, art-damaged record, I actually find SGD to be the more immediately appealing listen. Go figure.
I also find CtCCoL’s cover to be kind of, um, embarrassing. Maybe it’s just a bit too uncomfortable for me to contemplate. That album cover begs the question: Is it utterly ridiculous for a fifty-year-old-guy to seriously rock out? I hope not, I guess. I dunno. As my forties race by, I really don’t want to think about it, you know? Please, Bob, more collages, less poses.
If you’re already a fan, you already own these records and love them to death. If not, I don’t think they are necessarily the place to start. Personally, I’m more excited by the latest Circus Devils than either of these two records, to tell you the truth. But, maybe I simply haven’t lived with them long enough yet.
Fortunately, the limited edition LPs are beautifully pressed by RTI on 200g platters of virgin vinyl and my copies are perfectly flat, centered, and quiet. They sound really good. Please note, however, that CtCCoL’s labels are reversed with side B being actually side A. Oops. As usual, Pollard’s music works better for me on LP, so it’s definitely nice to have these two on audiophile quality vinyl. Oh, and the LPs come with a coupon for a free mp3 download of the entire album, for the iPod-enabled. Nice job, Merge!
The Happy Jack Rock Records singles series continues apace, with No. 7 due on December 22nd. The b-sides released so far range from the sci-fi sound collage of “Battle for Mankind” to the creamy pop/rock of “Met Her at a Séance” and “Be in the Wild Place.” The song “Coast to Coast Carpet of Love” is perversely left off of the album of the same name but appears here as the b-side of a SGD song (“Pill Gone Girl”). That’s too bad, as this is a powerfully direct song that should not have been exiled to an obscure 7” single. So it goes with Pollard’s profligacy. November’s b-side features the epic and orchestral “Sixland” sung, not by Pollard, but by former GbV producer, John Shough. Uh, OK. The Happy Jack Rock Records singles series continues for another six months. For more information, get thee to Rockathon.