Let It Beard, the final album from Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships, was a stand-out album this year and made top spot in our 2011 Top 20. The album was recorded by Robert Pollard as demos on his boombox before being sent to the musicians in the band to record their parts. www.gbvdigital.com have made these demos available from their website and we can all get an insight into the song-writing and recording process of one of the most prolific artists of all time.
The thing that strikes you most when listening to the tracks is how “finished” the songs are at the demo stage. They are rough and warts and all, false starts, hesitation and vocal errors are all there, but the songs have the same basic arrangements, style and rhythm as the finished versions. ‘Blind 20-20’ has the same frenetic guitar style as the final song and you can almost hear the gaps where the superb backing vocals would go on ‘Chevy Marigold’.
Even more amazingly the songs were written whilst recording took place,”conjuring” as Robert Pollard calls it, leading to some necessity to cut bits of songs together on some of these tracks. Pollard’s individual brilliance takes nothing away from his musical partners Moen and Slusarenoko, it was their brilliant playing that took these sparse acoustic demo’s and turned them into the best guitar album of the year. The gaps are part of the fascination of an album like this, listening to ‘Tourist UFO’, even in this form, you are waiting for the brilliant J Mascis guitar solo.
It is difficult to review an album like this, and not one that I’d consider giving a score to, it is a brilliant musical document but not one that I expect to listen to as much as the full album. If you haven’t heard the full album (and you really should, go and buy it right now) you are missing a big part of the enjoyment of listening to the songs in this form. Any fan of Robert Pollard’s work in any of his guises will get a lot from this though, a nice insight into the master at work.
It also makes me think that a Robert Pollard solo acoustic album could be a pretty wonderful thing. An album of his songs played by him on his acoustic guitar with a bit more of a slick production (but not too slick) would be a great addition to his already enormous discography.
Limited edition physical copies of this album sold out in just two days but the album is available for digital download for free on the GBV Digital website.
By Dorian Rogers