Review Summary: Robert Pollard wants to make pop-punk.
The point Robert Pollard’s career reaches on Brown Submarine
is annoying. He’s rarely had objectives to make and meet - nor has he had points to prove - but his latest assumes a sort of self-parody, emulating his faltering, rockin’ solo career. Of course, most haven’t bothered to keep up - depending on what kind of fan you were, Guided By Voices died at Alien Lanes
or they died at Half Smiles of The Decomposed
. Pollard, probably a fan of himself, doesn’t really think Guided By Voices died at all; his open defiance to being a ‘ringleader’ caused their split, but with Boston Spaceships Pollard he is again carrying a signature sound to a group who could develop so much more.
There’s a fine line, for the soft rock renegade, from which his music can switch between overblown pop to just plain irritating. Both are unprepared worlds, but the improvisation he offers on Boston Spaceships stretches away from the former. His stubbornness at first is unrevealing; “Winston’s Atomic Bird” vaguely rips off the older days of Do The Collapse
and “Teenage FBI”, and at first this confidence is endearing. Just as on any of his solo efforts, he sounds like everybody’s heard of him and nobody’s stopped listening. Then, he does it for another fourteen songs. He strums another rapid flash of sentiment on “Brown Submarine”, but it’s obvious that Pollard’s just not as spontaneous as he once was. He’s tired of his old-fashioned bellows, and what other way does he know?
Pollard just drags his confidence on and on. His voice can’t go much further by “Rat Trap”, trembling half-laughs of Oh no!
blurting the song out of the way. This ruins a catchy chorus, but eventually he can’t force out a pop song, what with “Ready to Pop” having the guitar support, layers of backing vocalists and general bravado but a weak, wobbly murmur coming out of the leader’s mouth. These moments aren’t wordy – all Pollard really needs to do is hum along, but he’s lost. The low and grandiose hiccups on “Still in Rome” remind me of Pollard’s two little life-long perks; to release prolifically and drink haphazardly. On stage, it always seemed like fun when these two worlds blended together, but commanding his newfound Boston Spaceships, it’s as if his drunken fairytale has finally crashed.
It’s becoming harder and harder to take on a year of Robert Pollard. Brown Submarine
could well be written off as the aftermath of 2008 - his task of ‘signing off’ until the upcoming year – but an excuse that easy would be forgetting the six records already confirmed for 2009. One of those will come from trio Boston Spaceships, and will likely be as polished as its predecessor and twice as devoid of quirk. With this doomed prediction, I can imagine the 2009 most fans daydream about. We’d rather just watch him stagger around a stage crying “Hey kids!” and trying to remember thousands upon thousands of song lyrics. He doesn’t get older that way.