Robert Pollard
Space City Kicks


1.5
very poor

Review

by robin EMERITUS
January 19th, 2011 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: come with me and count the years Pollard has broken my silly heart.

We know how this goes. Some of us are Guided By Voices fanatics, nodding righteously to records far and beyond Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, lacking the backbone to stop Pollard from wobbling along the stage, beer in hand, six 2010 records on the merch table. That is, those of us in denial. We’ll try out everything Pollard does, and even if he’s indie pop’s extrovert, sometimes we’ll just be left wondering if this stuff was for him, more than anything. Relaxation of the Asshole, his ‘comedy’ album, was Pollard talking to himself, mostly. Some of us are just fans, taking classic GBV for what it is and not daring to move beyond it. That’s generally a safer, more cost-effective way to live: some of Pollard’s solo records feel like an attempt at bringing his lo-fi pop genius into the 21st century, and when that happens as it did on 2009’s crushing Elephant Jokes, I sort of wish I was just a fan. Even though we’ll get a gem now and then, it’s usually because it’s Pollard not being Pollard, such as on Off to Business. Otherwise, his solo output swings teasingly at its fans, now reaching its sixteenth release discounting a slew of side-projects, trying to get everyone involved. Space City Kicks feels like another album to add to that buzzing noise of Pollard’s that dares us. And with last year’s reunion of classic GBV, we’re all fanatics.

Of course, at this point, it sort of feels trivial to swing back. Pollard’s records are out there, and we can look away or allow ourselves to be pulled in. If we choose the latter, we’ll find Pollard fondly remembering the past every day of the year. And we’ll find him trying to keep it as the present: most of Space City Kicks sounds like Under the Bushes era GBV, which is to say, flattened out, better-produced duplicates of songs like “Game of Pricks.” Under the Bushes was a great record because it was the first GBV record to rationalise their lo-fi indie rock and make it as accessible as it was emotional. But Space City Kicks is about the thirtieth record to do it: “Woman To Fly,” a song that takes the oddball nature of Pollard and forces structure upon it, has been done a hundred times by now. In places, Pollard sounds even more nostalgic than usual, such as the carbon copy “I Wanna Be Your Man on the Moon,” a track so reminiscent of that ’96 record that it’s near painful to listen to. As is the semi-eerie guitar work of “Blowing Like a Sunspot”- it’s so huge a throwback, hitting the exact same spot so efficiently, that it makes Space City Kicks more distracting to listen to than anything. It’s as if Pollard has finally lost it, unable to occasionally pick on new moments or just lesser known old ones.

That’s something that a fanatic could always argue in favour of when we sat through Elephant Jokes and got a snippet of genius, but Space City Kicks feels like the final straw, as if Pollard promised us “another Bee Thousands/Alien Lanes/Under The Bushes,” as musicians are so prone to, and became the first musician to make such a promise come true. It’s not so: those albums had boundless energy driving them, with songs bouncing off the walls like “Game Of Pricks” did. On Space City Kicks there’s that second quality we’ve come to know in Pollard, that lifelessness in which songs refuse to bounce off walls. There’s no energy in title track “Space City Kicks” as it chugs along as just another track of eighteen. There’s nothing sly and cunning about tracks that try to be, such as the similarly abrasive guitar-work of “Picture A Star.” In fact, every guitar strum on this guitar, regardless of whether its loud and obnoxious (“Children Ships”) or an attempt at contemplative Pollard on “Woman To Fly,” feels ripped off. Not ripped off in the way Pollard and Sprout used to rip off R.E.M., either; that was so much fun, with so much mood and excitement tapped into on every tribute to Murmur, whereas Space City Kicks, the upteempth Pollard album, has nothing riding on it but its number. This is entirely unexciting indie pop, trying but failing to grasp at that off-the-walls Pollard persona.

There’s an excuse us fanatics would make for all of this: that this is just for Pollard, something to play back to himself to remind himself that he’s still got it and that he still creates snippets of songs like “Something Strawberry.” But it’s obvious to me now that we’ve all actually listened to these records, and that Pollard has devoured the brain of every dumb GBV geek. It’s not that Pollard is killing his career because this isn’t his career anymore. Music is his first love, as shown through the joy he spreads on a good live show. It’s not that Space City Kicks or the fifteen albums before it do any real damage to his classic output. It’s just we know there’s more to this guy than this sluggish, lifeless material. And we can say it’s a pick and choose thing with six plus records every year, but I’d rather a good album than six bad ones. Space City Kicks is, I’m going to assume, the first of many to avoid in 2011.



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user ratings (9)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Enotron
January 19th 2011


7695 Comments


so negative robin! cmon lets pump out a few 5's!

Kiran
Emeritus
January 19th 2011


6001 Comments


can't believe you bothered with this!

robin
Emeritus
January 19th 2011


4248 Comments


seriously. every year.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 19th 2011


6001 Comments


stubborn masochism

kanecooper
January 19th 2011


630 Comments


oh my

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 19th 2011


10593 Comments


sounds dreadful

Tyrael
January 19th 2011


20876 Comments


Makes no sense.

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Romulus
January 19th 2011


8434 Comments


still haven't listened to any of Pollard's solo stuff but i'm feeling like i should finish with GBV before i go there

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2011


15737 Comments


sounds like me with interpol

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2011


15035 Comments


that cover is so boss

AggravatedYeti
January 19th 2011


7685 Comments


will never listen to a Pollard solo album (or Boston Spaceships for that matter) and I don't regret the decision one bit.

kanecooper
January 19th 2011


630 Comments


never say never

robin
Emeritus
January 19th 2011


4248 Comments


sounds like me with interpol


except with 5000 albums.

dylan get this.


Larry Bird
January 19th 2011


7 Comments


boston spaceships are pretty decent
yeti aint very good at listening to good music though

AggravatedYeti
January 19th 2011


7685 Comments


talkin pretty big there larry.

and robin why the fuck would I get this? I laugh enough daily to have no need for Bobby Pollard.

rasputin
January 19th 2011


14544 Comments


fantastic review

porch
January 19th 2011


8460 Comments


yeah nice writing

kanecooper
January 19th 2011


630 Comments


yeah you done good kid, keep it up and one day you could make staff!!!

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2011


15035 Comments


i have a collection of his solo/non-gbv stuff called crickets and it is quite great so idk

conradtao
Emeritus
January 21st 2011


2090 Comments


great review

this sounds awful :C



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