Go Back Snowball
Life Starts Here
Robert Pollard has hit upon a novel way of songwriting, and based on these two releases, it seems to work. Pollard, who releases about 100 or so songs each year between “legit” Guided By Voices releases, solo records, and collaborations, is still governed by the same rules of physics as the rest of us. He can only be in one place at one time. So when he gets the notion to make a record with someone miles away, he simply has them write and record the music and send it to him, and he uses the result as a springboard for his stream of consciousness lyrics. The end product turns up as a “Fading Captain” release (these are numbers 17 and 18 — Pollard most likely will be to 20 or so by the time you finish reading this).
Does it always work? Not entirely, but far more often than you would imagine. Go Back Snowball, which is Pollard in league with Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan, ranges from the sad trumpet-laced mood piece “Dumbluck Systems Stormfront” to the fuzzed-out “Again The Waterloo.” Since McCaughan is not a member of the Dayton, Ohio “beer trust” that generally makes up the bulk of Pollard’s contributors, he adds a different musical touch and feel to the proceedings on Calling Zero, and Pollard sounds energized by it all. Granted, this record doesn’t contain a “Cut Out Witch” or a “Slack Motherfucker,” but most anything here would be the highlight cut on 99% of new releases today.
Airport 5, which is Pollard and former Guided By Voices member Tobin Sprout, is a more “GBV”- friendly lo-fi effort, and Pollard and Sprout have worked together for so long that they complement each other well. Unlike their GBV days, this record is a tad more low-key, at least musically- lyrically, of course, it’s as strange as ever.
Fifty years from now, musicologists will still be examining the works of Robert Pollard in all his guises. If his current production rate holds, it will be a canon of work numbering in the thousands of songs, and not unlike a punk rock Picasso, some will be doodles, others masterpieces. All will be challenging, fresh and human. Robert Pollard, superman?