Throughout the years, Robert Pollard, besides releasing albums
under the band name, Guided By Voices, brought out solo albums
and side projects.
Some of the most recent include; Ricked Wicky, Circus Devils and ESP Ohio.
But besides the comedy country album “Blue Balls Lincoln”
released under the name Cash Rivers and the Sinners this year,
there hasn’t been a solo album since 2016 or a side project
since what was the final Circus Devils album in 2017.
If this was any other artists, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning
because a year or two isn’t a big deal.
But for Robert Pollard who would release four side projects
in a year including a proper Guided By Voices album,
perhaps it is.
As of this writing, April 2018,
so far Bob has released the above mentioned Cash Rivers record,
a great live “Guided By Voices” album, “Ogre’s Trumpet” and
about 3 weeks later, Guided By Voices latest studio album,
Plus three singles from the album,
the first which was released December 2017.
Pretty amazing being it’s only early April.
I do miss the days of the side projects,
especially Circus Devils, Ricked Wicky, ESP Ohio and
Bob’s solo albums.
But while listening to the latest “Space Gun”,
I keep having the same thought,
“This song could have been on an ESP Ohio album” or
“This one could have been on a Pollard solo album”,
there’s even one that could have been on a Circus Devils record.
I have always said about Pollard’s solo albums
and side projects,
that even though the project may go under a different name,
it’s still Guided By Voices,
but just a different aspect of it.
One of my reasons for saying that is,
I always thought it was strange, that some fans wouldn’t
delve deeper into Bob’s catalog, searching out albums that weren’t released
under the name “Guided By Voices”.
It’s not like Bob’s other projects aren’t in the same musical universe as GBV.
What I mean by that is,
It’s not like Bob did a Rap or Hip Hop album,
God, that would be a nightmare.
Even the Country stuff Bob did as Cash Rivers,
was mostly tongue in cheek.
Bob has never betrayed his musical roots,
British Invasion, Rock, Psychedelic, Prog, Pop, Garage, Punk and Post Punk,
which are basically the same as my taste in rock music.
That is why I have never been disappointed in anything he has ever done,
even his weirdest stuff.
Everything Bob does, is a piece of the puzzle.
A thought that runs through my head when listening to “Space Gun” is,
that perhaps Bob wanted to make an album under the Guided By Voices banner,
that included songs intended for what would be the next, solo album
or Ricked Wicky, ESP Ohio or Circus Devils albums.
Perhaps because fans that don’t partake in all the side projects
and only listen to Guided By Voices releases, will hear these songs.
It was said that Bob was disappointed that more fans
didn’t listen to the Circus Devils albums.
I strongly feel those fans truly missed out on some great stuff.
What follows is my track by track comments,
being that this review is getting pretty long,
I’ll try to keep my comments short.
Starting with a field recording of a paper towel dispenser,
“Space Gun” the first and title track,
it has the trade-mark Guided By Voices rhythm guitar which is on the down stroke.
The song sounds like the “Cool Planet” classic line-up of the band may have recorded it.
But it’s in the last minute of the song that hear Doug Gillard’s lead guitar.
The track is a like a melding of the “Classic’ GBV sound and the current.
I was (am) a big fan of the ESP Ohio album “Starting Point Of The Royal Cyclopean”,
yes I realize that the current line-up is basically the same.
but the songs had a different feel and sound than GBV albums,
especially in Bob’s background vocals.
“Colonel Paper” starts out sounding like Ricked Wicky,
but then goes into something ESP Ohio would do.
A Great Rocker.
The second I heard “King Flute” I thought of the excellent Boston Spaceships
album, “Let It Beard”.
Kevin March’s drumming is excellent, sounding like a disciplined Keith Moon.
Bob hasn’t released a solo album since “Of Course You Are” in 2016,
among his best, I must say.
“Ark Technician” sounds like it would fit comfortably on any of his solo albums.
“See My Field” has the feel of the line-up of the band with Doug Gillard
when they recorded the “Hold On Hope” ep, not the song,
but the tracks within the ep.
The Strings, if that’s what they are, add a nice touch.
I love the loud chunky slow prodding rhythm guitar, a GBV trait,
which is very evident in “Liar’s Box”.
There is a weird background sound that is like something from Circus Devils.
This is one of those tracks that I didn’t get into right away, now I love it.
The second I heard “Blink Blank” ESP Ohio came to mind,
from Doug’s guitar and Bob “bum bum bum bum bum bum, bum” background vocals.
Great noisy guitar at the end!
Bob has always made pop/rock songs with great hooks
that clock in at about a minute and a half, “Daily Get-Ups”
is one of them.
One of Bob’s many talents is making songs that trick your mind
into believing that they are longer than they actually are.
“Hudson Rake” achieves this.
It’s funny to think that by the time most performers get past the intro of their songs,
Bob is on to the next.
“Sport Component National” is one of those fairly short songs,
that has multiple parts to it, quite like Boston Spaceships “Blind 20-20”
and the early GBV track, “Break Even”.
This song fools you into thinking it’s at least 6 minutes long,
but it clocks in at under three.
I love that short acoustic part!
An instant favorite, Freakin’ Great!
“I Love Kangaroos” is another that seems like a solo song,
perhaps because it’s more pensive and singer-songwriter like,
with a verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle eight/verse/chorus song structure.
Showing that besides writing crazy pop rock,
he’s a great songwriter who knows how to create great hooks.
“Grey Spat Matters” is another one of those great short pop rock songs
Bob is known for.
Most performers would be lucky to come up with such a great hook,
lyrics and music track and milk it for five minutes.
But not Bob, after under a minute and a half, he’s on to the next song.
Proving once again, Bob has no shortage of great songs.
“That’s Good” originally showed up on “Suitcase 3 - Up We Go Now” in 2009,
but I have no idea when it was originally recorded.
The four Suitcase box sets which feature one hundred tracks each is mostly
made up of demos and tracks never properly recorded.
But every so often Bob will take one and mold it into something amazing.
“That’s Good” wouldn’t have been my first choice,
as a matter of fact it wouldn’t have come to mind.
But Bob and the band turned this sketch of a song,
into a Psychedelic masterpiece, firmly in line with “The Liquid Observer”
one of my many favorite tracks from Circus Devils amazing album,
If the impossible happened and Bob lost the ability the write songs,
he would still have an endless well of song ideas.
Lesser artists would do nothing but rerecord each and every one
of the “Suitcase” tracks.
Myself I always look forward to Bob rerecording those tracks
and what he comes up with is always better than the original.
I hope he continues to do that in future releases.
In closing, Bob and the band, have created a Masterpiece.
It was a masterstroke touching on what Bob has done on his solo
albums and side projects, which gives the album a varied sound.
This is the third studio album, including a live album for this line-up
which includes, Doug Gillard lead guitar, Bobby Bare Jr guitar, Mark Shue bass
and Kevin March drums and of course Robert Pollard.
In that time, they have become my favorite line-up.
“Space Gun” is a Great album and Bob has said that this will
be the only Guided By Voices studio album this year.
I can’t Wait!!!