Tag Archive | "Guided By Voices"

Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

Posted on 20 June 2018 by Joe

Each June we take a moment to look back on our favourite albums of the year so far. Inventive pop is a key theme his time around, with bands keen to push their boundaries and take their sound into new directions. It’s certainly paid off in the case of many of our Top 10 Albums of 2018 …. so far. We will revisit this list once again in December, when we will reveal our favourite albums of the year.

 

10. Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

For his third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths and 1980/90s influences to great effect. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

Alex Highton

Read our full review here.

 

9. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Space Gun may well be the best album Pollard has recorded under the Guided By Voices moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.

Space Gun

Read our full review here.

 

8. Superorganism – Superorganism

This global octet, with members from the UK, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have impressed us greatly with their stunning debut, which is packed with a range of styles, big choruses and delicious hooks.

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7. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best, featuring great tunes in the likes of Love Somebody and Pulled Up The Ribbon as well as some of the strongest personal writing yet from their leader Will Sheff.

OkkervilRainbow

Read our full review here.

 

6. Tigercats – Pig City

Tigercats are back, bigger, brassier and they’ve brought the party with them, careering round the capital on this gem of a third album, which makes great use of their new horn section and African influences.

Tigercats

Read our full review here.

 

5. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Parquet Courts had already done their bit for guitar rock on their first three albums. Now they expertly take their music into new directions, thanks to Danger Mouse on production duties. The results are pure joy.

parquet courts

 

4. Neko Case – Hell On

The world’s best female vocalist? We certainly think so, especially after hearing this latest highly charged release. She certainly has a lot to be emotional about this time around with this album arriving after her house burnt down and amid a battle with stalkers. Yet another career highpoint and a worthy entry into our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

 

3. The Go! Team – Semicircle

Eu-bleedin’-phoric! There’s no other word combo to sum up the sheer exhilarating joy of this new The Go! Team album.

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

Read our full review here.

 

2. Field Music – Open Here

From its chamber pop gems to pop-tastic foot stompers, this latest from Britain’s most interesting act continues to delight.  There are serious messages too, as the band eloquently express their fears around parenthood in post-Brexit Britain. A deserved high placing in our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

field-music-lp

Read our full review here.

 

1. Jack Hayter – Abbey Rood

A derelict children’s home provides the inspiration for former Hefner man Jack Hayter’s latest, where everything falls into place. It has a strong back story, some moments of genuine drama, great music and above all sincerity. This is not only one of the best folk albums of the year, but currently our favourite album of 2018.

abbey wood

Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Guided By Voices – Space Gun

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Guided By Voices – Space Gun

Posted on 23 March 2018 by Dorian

2018 is proving to be a pretty excellent year for the 1990s. The Breeders released All Nerve with the classic Last Splash line-up (easily my favourite album of the year so far), Yo La Tengo came back with their best since And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (a 2000 release, but recorded in 1999) and Superchunk sound younger than ever on What A Time To Be Alive.

So, it would be odd (given the band’s insane release schedule) if Guided By Voices didn’t have an album out this year as well, one that continues to celebrate the sound that Robert Pollard and his rotating support cast have been endorsing since Same Place The Fly Got Smashed first marked them out as a band to watch back in 1990. The album, Space Gun, is the third by the current line-up and might be the best thing he’s recorded under the GBV moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.

Space Gun

It opens with the title track, a song that has a real timeless quality and could have been on any GBV album in the last 30 years. It is pretty great and would sound amazing as the set-opener at a live show, sadly something we are unlikely to see in this country soon (if ever).

From there on in it is a flow of uncharacteristically consistent songs, there is little in the way of filler here and none of half-formed snippets that can frustrate the casual listener. The hit rate is high here and there are half a dozen potential singles scattered across the album’s 39 minute run time. The title track and ‘See My Field’ have already been released as singles but ‘Colonel Paper’, ‘Grey Spat Matters’, ‘Flight Advantage’, ‘Daily Get Ups’ and ‘I Love Kangaroos’ would all sound great on the 6 Music playlist (don’t hold your breath). Of these the latter is one of the  most surprising songs, 3 minutes of soft guitar pop that remind me what a huge REM fan Robert Pollard was when he started the band.

I know the obstacles that this band presents to new listeners, dozens of albums and some fairly challenging listens amongst them. I’ve not reviewed one of their records for a few years, it seemed a rather fruitless exercise that was unlikely to tempt new listeners. Please Be Honest was a test to even the most ardent fan and August By Cake (despite being pretty brilliant) was sprawling and scattershot. How Do You Spell Heaven last year was much more focused and consistent, and Space Gun is perhaps the culmination of that journey back to “classic album” status.

This is a very listenable record by a band at the top of their powers, well worth less than 40 minutes of your time. Play loud.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

Posted on 20 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the second part of our end of year round up of the best albums 2017. This latest instalment reveals who has earned a coveted place in our top ten. The first part (20-11) can be found here

10. The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir

In which Stephin Merritt celebrates his 50th birthday by writing an auto-biographical song for each year since his birth. The results are pretty great and it is his best hit-rate since 69 Love Songs in 1999. Sprawling concept albums clearly suit him.

9. Guided By Voices – August By Cake

Guided By Voices

This 32 track double album is the 100th album that GBV frontman Robert Pollard has released. It is also the first album released with the latest Guided By Voices line-up, which brings Doug Gillard’s guitar skills back to the fold. Every band member gets some songs on this one, and the results are typically uneven in excellent GBV fashion.

8. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

King-Gizzard-And-The-Lizard-Wizard-1510667858-compressed

Perhaps the only act that can compete with Robert Pollard’s production rate is Australian psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They set themselves the ambitious task of releasing five albums this year, with a fifth due to be released “very very late in the year” according to frontman Stu Mackenzie.

Of the four released so far this is our favourite for our best albums 2017 list – full of prog rock/jazz treats like 10 minute opener Crumbing Castle and psyche pop gems such as Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet. And what’s more it is available as a free download.

7. Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

MMD1400

Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this Best album 2017 release

On previous album’s he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop. Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop. Lead single Blowout is a great jumping in point for this entry into our Best albums 2017 list . Read our full review here.

6. The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

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This is best Lips release since they unleashed Yoshimi on those evil bastard pink robots during their last pop phase. After the mildly entertaining albums Terror and the awful Embyronic, Wayne Coyne and co have gone accessible again, with new classics such as How?? and There Should Be Unicorns among their best ever. Read our full review here.

5. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

Girl Ray - Earl Grey

We are delighted to include this impressive debut from Girl Ray, a quirky lo-fi pop trio from North London. This will particularly appeal to fans for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with Don’t Go Back at Ten among our favorites. Read our full review here.

4. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD Soundsystem

The LCD Soundsystem split didn’t last too long, and this album is a high-quality return by the band to recording. The sound is unmistakably LCD Soundsystem (even down to the usual influences) and there are a few playful tracks among some slightly sombre numbers. This is a welcome entry into our best albums 2017 top ten.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn_Hitchcock-Robyn_Hitchcock-album-2017-promo-1a

It’s taken 21 albums but Robyn Hitchcock has finally gone down the self-titled route for a release, which by happy coincidence just happens to be one of his best in years.

From its purple, cat stroking, cover to its backwards guitars, it is a psychedelic explosion of awesomeness, with oodles of noodles of nods to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The twinkling, shiny pop of Mad Shelley’s Letterbox is a particular highlight. Read our full review here.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

Hug-Of-Thunder

Just like the Flaming Lips, the almighty Canadian collective of Broken Social Scene also saw a return to form in 2017. The return of Leslie Feist to the line up takes them back to their early hey-day, especially with her jaw droppingly awesome vocals on the title track.

New member Ariel Engle, who takes lead vocal duties on Stay Happy, is another impressive addition. While Halfway Home is A fantastic alternative rock anthem that shows just how good this album is within their already prolific two decade spanning back catalogue.

1. Eyelids – OR

Eyelids Or

Featuring members of the Decemberists, Guided by Voices and Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks, Eyelids have leapt to the top of our list thanks to their sweet, jangly melodies on tracks such as Falling Eyes.

This second release from the band also adds ex-REM man Peter Buck into the mix as producer to give it extra class and a 1980s alternative rock feel. A triumph and deserved number one album in our best albums 2017 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Introducing… Eyelids OR

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Introducing… Eyelids OR

Posted on 25 January 2017 by Dorian

We’re not really introducing Eyelids OR (or just Eyelids in their homeland) as we have been going on about the band for some time.

We reviewed their debut album 854 back in 2014, and we’ve been raving about their subsequent single releases ever since.

However the band have just announced their first ever UK dates, supporting Drive-By Truckers, so it seemed to be the perfect time to catch up with the band’s songwriters, Chris Slusarenko and John Moen, to find out a bit more about the band.

You have been playing together for years. How did you meet?

JOHN: Chris and I met as young guys playing music in Portland. I moved to town in 1986 just after graduating from high school. Our bands played together here and there, but I especially remember being introduced by the cartoonist, Joe Sacco at a cafe. We were both skinnier then. I was bleaching my hair to stand out, and Chris wore a beret. I think we were both carrying satchels full of poetry.

Why Eyelids? (and how do you come up with band names? How do you top Death Midget?)

CHRIS: Well Death Midget was born out of innocence and teenage years. Plus it was the era of Butthole Surfers, Killdozer… So it fit our mess. To tell you the truth I’ve rarely got to name a band I’ve been in and I always thought Guided By Voices was one of the greatest band names of all time so it was special to be part of that. But names are tough… Eyelids (with an Or attached for our home state of Oregon—blessed on us via Tim Burgess of The Charlatans UK) just seemed to sound like our music a bit. A bit hazy, a bit eye-opening… It so weird when I stop to think about the word “eyelids” it just starts to fold in on itself… Once you’re the name you rarely stop to think of what it means anymore… it just becomes you.

Eyelids

You’ve both been in the background in some great bands, How do you feel about being the front-men?

JOHN: I think it’s terrifying, but it’s also kind of hard to resist. It seems there’s a fine line between “rocking-out” and looking like you’re about to die. Chris does most of the talking, thank goodness.

CHRIS: I can’t help the banter!!! Singing with Jonathan and John is easy–they come up with great ideas and I’m always surprised to hear harmonies. All my earlier bands never had them!!! Argh…so nice to have finally! And since John and myself both sing and write the songs it’s a nice back and forth between us live as well. I do like to rock out and look like I’m going to die so I’ll take that position for the band…everyone else can look cool. I’ll sweat it out…!

I first came across you from your work with Robert Pollard in Boston Spaceships. He’s a ten album a year kind of guy. How do you keep up? (Both in the recording and the drinking)

CHRIS: Well you just gladly jump in. Part of Bob’s work ethic definitely had an effect on John and myself and was the reason that we both realized we worked really well together. Since Bob would send us a cassette of him singing and playing guitar John and myself had to quickly help create the album he wanted (knowing full well there was another EP or LP or double LP breathing down your neck right behind it). I really wanted to go back to way early GBV worked. Not letting the “band” know the song very well and just get inspired takes before over thinking it. That has kind of flowed over into Eyelids where often the first ideas we play over someone else’s song tend to be the ones we use. Just letting your mind and fingers drift… none of us are what you’d call smoking guitar players but we do love our riffs and hooks. As many as we can pile on we will. And in terms of releases with the upcoming RSD 7” we’re doing with Gary of the Cribs singing lead and the full length in May that will be 5 7”s, a 12” Ep, and 2 full lengths in under 3 years… not too shabby. And we have 4 songs already finished for our next EP as well.

854 was one of our favourite albums of 2015 (and 2016 when it came out in the UK). How do you follow that on your second album?

CHRIS: This is actually the only second album I’ve ever made that I’ve been a principal songwriter in besides The Takeovers albums I did with Bob (Chris performed and wrote all the music, Robert Pollard sang and wrote lyrics). So it’s kind of abstract to think about what a 2nd album means for us. The first album was made with John, Jonathan and myself as a recording project/dare. But after we put a full band together to play the songs live a different character came into it as well. The EP we did after 854 reflects that pretty well. It rocks a little more but still has that weepy quality that I like. The new album was the first one where all 5 of us were there from the beginning and it was pretty exciting to hear that. For example I was playing a new song to everyone called “Moony”. It’s kind of a pretty looping type feel. But then John and Jonathan started adding this cool Television type interplay and Paulie and Jim were playing this XTC Black Sea area drumbeat and I was so happy. My simple little phrase all the sudden had an unexpected life pumped into it.

Peter Buck is producing for you, how did you come to work with him?

JOHN: Peter moved to Portland several years ago, and he is very generous with his time and talents. We are connected through Scott McCaughey who played in REM, and was instrumental in helping my first recording/touring band, Dharma Bums. Scott produced that bands first record and encouraged us in many ways. Peter has played guitar on a Decemberists record, as well, and he would come into Chris’s video store fairly often, where they got to know one another. Also, Chris was pretty heavy into the REM fan club in the old days. I believe he and Peter corresponded. All that to say, we are huge fans and we had to ask him to produce!

CHRIS: Yeah I wrote to R.E.M. right before Murmur was released and Peter was kind enough to write back. We wrote back and forth about 3 years after that. They’d send me reject photos, weird old posters, chronic town t-shirts that were bootlegs. Very generous. He told me they always wrote to anyone where the hadn’t played yet figuring someone in NY or Chicago would find their way. But at the time they were thinking “what the hell is Portland?” Then we re-connected as adults and it’s been a great friendship. And in terms of producing you really want to do well when he’s in the room! No waste ya know!!! He’s got great ideas and he’s been great to work with.

You also have a Record Store Day release with Gary Jarman of The Cribs on vocals, how did you come to pick him for the track?

CHRIS: I’d written some music for Robert Pollard to sing over called The Carbon Whales. It was a fake UK Post-Punk band—like a lost EP that he released. Gary heard it and said it was so convincing and true to the spirit of the original era—he loved it. So when we wanted to do another Record Store Day 7” I wanted to do something that would stand alone. So many RSD releases these days are live tracks or reissues. I wanted something that was made specifically for this event. So we thought it would be cool to have a Gary and his intense Wakefield accent sing lead on both tracks. He’s got such an amazing voice and delivery. It was perfect. I wrote the songs as I would have when I was 17. Kind of innocent but full of confidence. The lyrics I banged out really quick too. Then we all just played on it and had Gary come in and it became a real thing. The 7” is called Eyelids Meet Gary Jarman.

Eyelids Live

Your dates with Drive-By Truckers are your first gigs in the UK. What should we expect from an Eyelids live show?

JOHN: Jet lagged American imperialists, of course! Ha. We are a rock band trying to play pretty… Sounds terrible, right? I really don’t know… I’m sure we will be a bit giddy to be playing with the Truckers(amazing!) in such killer venues. As a band, I think we are good at enjoying the moment together, and that energy( along with the songs that we are quite proud of) translates as a good time to those watching and listening.

CHRIS: I never get tired of playing out and to finally get to play these songs overseas will be incredible. Live I think we’re pretty kick ass so hopefully people will be ready for the songs to be amped up a bit. Pretty and loud. Also I’m a total anglophile in terms of music, film, books… For instance we’re doing an in-store at Rough Trade Records and to me as someone all the way over here on the West Coast of the U.S. it still makes me flutter my eyelids… can’t help it…

If you had to sell Eyelids to someone who had never heard you play before, how would you describe the band?

JOHN: I often dream of not being a salesperson… but, if cornered, I would say that we are a melodic rock band that wouldn’t mind being thought of as an (inclusive) art project. We are strong enough that your weird uncle won’t think we suck, but are soft enough to remind you of that rare house cat that will allow you to stroke its belly. There you go.

CHRIS: What he said.

Chris and John were interviewed by Dorian Rogers

Tickets for the band’s shows with Drive-By Truckers are available here.

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Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

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Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Dorian

2016 is already proving to be a slightly confusing year for followers of Robert Pollard. He recently announced that Guided By Voices were reforming with a largely new line-up, only drummer Kevin March having been in a previous incarnation. That announcement was accompanied by news that the new Guided By Voices album would be a totally solo affair by Pollard. He then springs a new solo album upon us that is the first for over a decade to not be recorded with Todd Tobias on instrument and production duties. In his place, handling all instruments and the recording desk, is Nick Mitchell, his Ricked Wicky side-man  and newly announced guitarist in the live GBV line-up.

Robert-Pollard-Of-Course-You-Are

As typically muddled as this may be it is good news. Mitchell has proved to be a great foil for Pollard on the Ricked Wicky albums and is clearly a first-rate guitarist. It is also true that a degree of saminess had crept in to the albums that Pollard and Tobias were producing – these were good records but you knew largely what they would sound like.

What Mitchell immediately brings to the party is a harder rock edge, and this is immediately brought out on the opening track ‘My Daughter Yes She Knows’ which is riff heavy and unafraid of classic rock cliché. He brings more to the album than guitars though and the arrangements on this album are as adventurous as anything Pollard has produced with strings, horns and keyboards having a noticeable presence on a number of tracks.

Pollard has always been at his best when working with a like-minded instrumentalist and much like Tobin Sprout, Doug Gillard and Chris Slusarenko it looks like Mitchell is bringing the best out of Pollard’s song-writing as well as offering up his guitar skills. The songs on the album are all of a surprisingly high standard for someone who releases so many and there is a good mixture of styles on show across the 12 tracks. There is a slight bias towards the more rocking guitar songs but there is time for some sweet ballads and hook filled pop tunes as well.

The real thing that makes this album work so well though is the variety of arrangement, not just between but within the songs. Listen to the horns on ‘Little Pigs’ or the Love-esque horns/strings/guitar burst in ‘I Can Illustrate’ and you can imagine how much fun was had bringing these songs together.

Best of all is the album closer, and title track, which demonstrates Pollard’s unmistakable gift for crafting tunes that could have been recorded any time in the last five decades.

This is Pollard’s 22nd solo album and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Expect number 23 to be announced any day.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Eyelids OR – 854

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Eyelids OR – 854

Posted on 04 October 2015 by Dorian

Nearly a year ago we reviewed the debut album 854 by the Oregon band Eyelids, and it was one of our favourite releases of the year. The band have added the “OR” part to their name for this release to avoid confusion with another act and signed to Charlatan Tim Burgess’s Ogenesis label.

Eyelids OR 854

You can read the full review of the album which sounds even better 12 months later. If you buy 854 on a physical format you also get 6 bonus tracks to enjoy. Only one of these is a new Eyelids original, the other being covers plus an alternate take of ‘Psych #1’, but they are definitely worth a listen.

Fingers crossed that the long awaited UK release of the album will lead to a tour on these shores some time soon. Watch this space for Eyelids news as we get it.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

Posted on 11 September 2015 by Dorian

Over the last decade films and TV shows about comic book heroes have become more and more popular. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and with the brilliant Daredevil TV show and the supremely entertaining Ant-Man movie 2015 is looking like a pretty good year.

Here at Neon Filler we’re big fans of comics, and it is hard to argue with Superheroes as being the predominant and most iconic images of the medium. Here, in celebration of our favourite spandex clad characters, we present the Top 10 songs about Superheroes.

10. The Wedding Present – Flame On

The Wedding Present are one of the only bands to have their own comic book, so this Watusi era b-side, with a Human Torch theme, is no surprise from Mr.Gedge.


9. XTC – That’s Really Super Supergirl

XTC (sort of) appear twice in this chart and this charming tune from Skylarking is their first appearance.


8. Guided By Voices – Matter Eater Lad

With thousands of Guided By Voices songs recorded it is inevitable that comic books get a mention, the choice of one of the more obscure DC characters fits the band to perfection.


7. The Clique – (I am) Superman

This 1969 track is better known as sung by REM nearly 20 years later and is the first appearance in our chart by the first superhero.


6. Wings – Magneto and Titanium Man

Who knew that Macca was a comic’s enthusiast that invited Jack Kirby to a Wings show? Not many people, and even less have heard this Venus and Mars era b-side about some iconic Marvel villains. Also a song that has a surprising (if passing) similarity to Belle and Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’.


5. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

The title track from Pollard’s latest solo album is not character-specific but still one of the best super-themed songs on record.


4. Darren Hayman – Spiderman beats Iron Man

One of the best songs from the excellent Essex Arms, and manages to reference a number of top-flight heroes as well as Top Trumps, which can only be a good thing.


3. The Dukes of the Stratosphere – Braniac’s Daughter

XTC’s psychedelic alter-egos make little sense with this tune about the super-villain’s progeny, but lots of great lines and references hide within.


2. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman

It is no surprise that Superman gets more references in song than other heroes (see also Laurie Anderson) and this track from Wayne and co. has to be the best.


1. The Trait – Nobody Loves The Hulk

Researching a post like this is fun in itself and also also helps discover some previously unheard tracks, from unheard-of artists. This 1969 garage track is brilliant from start to finish. “We don’t allow no green skinned people in here!” indeed.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

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Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Dorian

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album.

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

This album has all the good stuff that you hope for in a Bob Pollard release, with none of the more frustrating elements. Catchy off-kilter alt-rock? Check. The title track and ‘Up and Up and Up’ deliver that wonderfully. You want some oblique lyrics and British Invasion classic rock? Well howsabout ‘Take Me To Yolita’ or ‘You Only Need Me’. Inclined towards a galloping bit of proper post-punk? Skip forward to ‘Mozart’s Throne’. Stick around until the end and you get to sign-of with the pretty acoustic psyche-folk of ‘Perikeet Vista’. Even better, there are none of the sludgier tracks or tuneless noise-pieces that have upset the flow of even his better solo outings in the last decade.

I always enjoy a lazy comparison with a Guided By Voices album and for this release I choose Earthquake Glue, which is an album that has been a little overlooked in the GBV discography.

Sure there are a number of songs that sound like other Bob Pollard songs. So what? He releases 10 albums a year. It is easy to reinvent yourself if you are Radiohead and can only muster one album every four years or so. Lazy he is not, and this album perfectly captures his obvious love of writing and recording music.

The other thing is that however much he sounds like himself, he doesn’t really sound like anyone else. The Who influence is there, track one has that REM vibe he loves (possibly his most REM-y track since the 1986 debut Guided By Voices EP)  and the Beatles make an appearance, but all in all it sounds like Bob Pollard in a way that nothing else does.

It is also a really well played album, the band all earning their recording fees on this one. Kevin March is reliable as ever behind the drums and this album features some of Todd Tobias’s best guitar playing on a Pollard solo effort. ‘Cafe Of Elimination’ features a proper bit of alt-rock guitar soloing and ‘Photo Enforced Human Highway’ just sounds great, faux-flute keyboards and all (and is perhaps the finest song on the whole record).

Typically I give Pollard’s albums a good review, whatever guise they might appear in, but I’m normally cautious to recommend them. They are not always easy listens, and the erratic quality can be off-putting to the uninitiated. Faulty Superheroes however I can recommend wholeheartedly. It is simply 12 excellent songs and a very easy album to enjoy. Coming off the back of the similarly excellent Ricked Wicky album this could prove to be a bit of a golden year for an artist that undoubtedly has a lot more music up his sleeve.

I love rock and roll. This is rock and roll.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Ricked Wicky – I Sell the Circus

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Ricked Wicky – I Sell the Circus

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dorian

2014 was one of the most up and down years in all my 20+ listening to the music of Robert Pollard. The ups included two first rate albums by the rejuvenated Guided By Voices. The downs included the collapse (again) of Guided By Voices and a rare Robert Pollard album that I couldn’t get along with, under his Teenage Guitar moniker.

It is hard to say what 2015 will bring, or indeed just how many records he will release, but the release of his first album as Ricked Wicky is a pretty stellar start to the year.

Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus

I Sell the Circus sees Pollard teamed with regulars Todd Tobias and Kevin March as well as Dayton based cover band professional Nick Mitchell. It also sees him producing my favourite non-GBV recording since he called it a day with Boston Spaceships.

It is the Yin to Teenage Guitar’s Yang, showcasing the other side of Robert Pollard’s album style. Where that album was all fuzz and crackle, this is a surprisingly well produced record, where that album was half-formed ideas and snippets this is a set of fully formed psych-pop classics.

It is a remarkably consistent, by Pollard’s standards at least, with no duff tracks on the album. It is also a very well sequenced album, with no risk of front loading the standout tracks. These alternate universe radio favourites are peppered through the album and surprisingly strong for an artist roughly 1 billion tracks into his career.

The attractively titled ‘Piss Face’, completed with distorted slide guitar, is the kind of off-kilter rock that Boston Spaceships exceled at. This is followed immediately by the acoustic ‘Even Today and Tomorrow’ which is what Love might have sounded like if they were fronted by a sozzled former school-teacher rather than Arthur Lee.

‘Frenzy of Blame’ is the most obvious “pop song” on the album, and in the great tradition of Pollard casually throwing in a classic two-thirds of the way through an album. To the converted this will come as no surprise but whether the uneducated will ever take the time to listen to this album is another question.

Pollard is surely at peace with his place in the musical world, his days of employing star name producers to push his albums a distant memory. In fact he sounds like he is having more fun on this album than he has for a long time. Album closer ‘A Real Slab’ is a case in point as Pollard and co. knock out three and a half minutes of the best Who song the Who never recorded.

If Pollard was to bring out a dozen even better albums this year it wouldn’t be a surprise, but if this is the last record we see from him in 2015 it would be more than enough.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Eyelids – 854

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Eyelids – 854

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Dorian

When Robert Pollard chose to bring his Boston Spaceships project to an end (the band that released our favourite album of 2011) the core of the band stayed together and formed Eyelids. Headed up by Chris Slusarenko and John  Moen the band play a classic hook laden rock that evokes Big Star, The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub and Velvet Crush across their debut album 854.

Eyelids 854

Now, I’m not at all surprised that this is a good record. John Moen has played with the Jicks, The Decemberists and Eliott Smith (and dozens more, so he clearly has good taste and is a skilled musician. Chris Slusarenko to my mind is the equal of Tobin Sprout and Doug Gillard in being the perfect foil to Robert Pollard, their work together as The Takeovers is among my favourite of the Guided By Voices side-projects. What does surprise me is just how good a record it is, and one that is making a strong challenge to be my favourite of the year so far.

The album splits loosely 50/50 between John and Chris taking lead vocals and both is in fine voice on the record. Backed up with some lovely vocal harmony work the voices sound great throughout. In fact ‘854’, the albums title track, features lead vocals by them both and is possibly my favourite track on the album.

The playing is great too, with fine guitar work provided by the two lead singers as well as fellow Boston Spaceship’s alumni Jonathan Drews. A strong rhythm section (Jim Talstra on bass and Paulie Pulvirenti on drums) completes the band and we have a very full and fully formed sound on our hands.

Strong singing and playing is nothing however if the songs aren’t good enough, and my past experience of the band members gave me no clues as to their songwriting chops. The good news here is that the songs are uniformly great right from the twin single blast ofd ‘Seagulls Into Submission’ and ‘Psych #1’ through to the tense and hurried ‘Say Its Alright’ (complete with a vicious guitar solo) and the final calm of ‘From A Distance’. These are songs that have a classic sound but also have a real timeless quality, this isn’t retro-rock for the sake of it, you can tell that the band care about these songs.

Throughout the record their are sweet hooks, catchy phrases and magic moments to enjoy.  ‘Abby’s Friends’, sitting in the middle of the album, possibly edges it for me as my favourite song on the record, and perfectly encapsulates all the great elements that make it such a satisfying release.

This is an album that I enjoy more with each listen, and one I expect to come back to for years to come. Hopefully it is the first of many releases from the band.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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