On Robert Pollards second solo album “Waved Out” released in 1998,
Pollard experimented with putting new vocals onto an existing recording.
The song “People Are Leaving” was actually a song by singer songwriter,
Stephanie Sayers, with new Pollard vocals dubbed in.
This is the basic concept of “Beard Of Lightning,” which was originally recorded
by late 80’s Free-Form Thrash/Metal band, Phantom Tollbooth,
whom Pollard was a huge fan of.
I’ve never heard of the band Phantom Tollbooth till
Robert Pollard released this album.
But the producer of the bands original album, “Power Toy”,
which the instrumental tracks for “Beard Of Lightning” originally
came from, was Spot.
Who I knew from the productions he did for SST Records bands and other Hard Core Punk
artists, such as, Black Flag, The Descendents, Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust and
my personal favorite, The Minutemen.
Perhaps I might have heard Phantom Tollbooth if I would have stayed around
with the whole hard core punk scene.
But things really changed after the death of D. Boon from the Minutemen.
With gigs turning into riots,
exiting punk gigs only to be welcomed by police on horses.
Skin head Nazi punks and Straight Edgers, (same thing?)
and the drugs getting harder,
It was imploding.
So I jumped ship.
While I would have been a huge fan of the band at the time,
today, I am not at all a fan of Heavy Metal.
While the music grinds and is intense,
it doesn’t have a lot of the bullshit trappings of most Heavy Metal.
Pairing the music of Phantom Tollbooth with Robert Pollards words
and vocals is an odd combination.
But I would really be interested in what a fan of the original “Power Toy”
album would think of it.
Probably a better fit would be erasing Phil Collins vocals from the first
album Genesis recorded without Peter Gabriel, “A Trick of the Tail".
Any lyrics Pollard brought would be a huge improvement.
In that case Pollards vocals would be a better fit than on “Beard Of Lightning”,
mainly because with the music, the vocals get over powered.
On the Circus Devils albums, there are some Heavy Metal moments
and Pollard’s vocals mesh perfectly with the music.
But I think it’s because the vocals are treated with distortion or
Pollard is yelling.
Which would really improve this album.
There are songs I enjoy like the maniacal “The Cafe Interiors,”
“Capricorn’s Paycheck,” “Atom Bomb Professor” and “Iceland Continuations,”
but the vocals really need to be louder, or the music turned down.
The album could use some re-mixing.
“Mascara Snakes” with the “Slipperman” vocal effect in the middle, is a cool song,
which I went in knowing because I’ve seen the video on YouTube many times,
with the burned out hippies at the music festival.
My favorite here is “A Good Looking Death” which is an acoustic song,
with guitar noise, love it.
On the original album, “Power Toy” the band covers Heart’s “Barracuda,”
but it’s not included on “Beard Of Lightning,” now that would have been weird
hearing Pollard singing Heart.
Guided By Voices fans may or may not like this album,
and I say that because it is a lot different from anything
Pollard has ever released.
The casual Guided By Voices fans may not know what to think,
The completist among us, may not know what to think,
but we’ll get something out of it.
Probably Pollards most challenging, Out There release.