Tag Archive | "Ricked Wicky"

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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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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