I'll start by admitting I'm a fan of Guided by Voices, their shitcan rusty 4-track lofi era as well as their "professional" production era.
Bob Pollard is a glorious drunken mess, he writes 2-minute pop songs that are forcefully incoherent and littered with enough awkwardly linked metaphors and symbolic free association to make Beck scratch his head.
That being said Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, the Best Of Guided by Voices album is possibly one of the finest collections of excellent music you'll find anywhere and is a perfect primer for the band. It also saves you the daunting task of tracking down the bands full back catalog, what with their unreleased tapes, releases under other names, side projects and solo efforts. Despite all this love however, deep down I want to slap the shit out of Bob Pollard with a tv tray.
A word typically attached to Bob Pollard by nearly every critic who attempts to critique him is "prolific". It appears near his name so often he should just adopt it as part of his title; "Nice to meet you, I'm Bob Prolific Pollard. Who do you see about a drink in here?"
Websters defines prolific as:
- Producing offspring or fruit in great abundance; fertile.
- Producing abundant works or results
And honestly that fits if you're going by quantity v. quality. Robert Pollard, with or without contributing musicians is responsible for easily 60+ LPs and EPs, each with, let's say, 12 songs average. That's over 600 songs committed to tape in the last 26 years. Do the math and that basically boils down to Bob Pollard recording one song a week, without ceasing, since 1983. Yeah, I'd say he's prolific.
However, it can't really be considered prolific if the bulk of your songs are written with a bottle of scotch and a deluxe box of Magnetic Poetry. Is it really a testament to his songwriting when he's less a wordsmith and more a random word generator? Let's examine some passages from this sage-like fountain of pop wisdom.
From "Hot Freaks"
I met a non-dairy creamer
Explicitly laid out like a fruitcake
With a wet spot
Bigger than a great lake
Took me to the new church
And baptized me with salt
She told me, liquor
I am a new man
This one is on the house
This one is better than ever
I walked into the house of miraculous recovery
And stood before king everything
And he asked me to join him in the red wing
Took me to pie land
Said, I'm a thigh man
I will be eternally hateful
I believe I've made my point.
Further still, some songs barely qualify as haiku, let alone pop lyrics. I'm not sure if there are guidelines for how many words you have to have in a song to make it count, but if there is, Bob Pollard is skirting along the bare minimum.
Take the song "Cigarette Tricks":
Shoot up on the fast lane
She falls like a concrete robot
She's a boy
Billy-I Billy-L Billy-L Billy-Y
Billy-I Billy-L Billy-L Billy-Y
Yeah, that's it. That's the whole song. It's 18 seconds long. They counted that as a completed work and put it on the album. In my mind that's cheating, it's cheating like the guy from Sigur Ros inventing his own language and writing 4 albums worth of whale music that no one on earth can translate.
Now maybe I'm setting unnecessarily stringent standards on an art form that is at it's core a completely open ended medium, but when people think of you as "prolific" I don't think that should include every drug-addled sentence fragment you scribble down on the back of a pizza box and set to a three note melody. Shit, my daughter can probably do that and she's 2 years old. She doesn't have a die-hard indie fan base. (That I know of.)
So, Bob Pollard, you released a double album in 2007, Standard Gargoyle Decisions /Coast to Coast Carpet of Love, that amounted to 33 tracks of music. I was supposed to review this double album and found it impossible. How can one review what one does not comprehend? It was 33 tracks of three chord pop songs with impossibly symbolic meanings and when I went back to review the back catalog for reference I found the same thing on the last 15 or so albums you've released.
Look, my point is this: Just please stop.
You released 3 albums last year and one already in 2009. What can possibly be left to say? How many more little nuggets of weirdness can you squeeze out and still have people think you're a genius? It must end because in my opinion you're not really doing anything. You're just coasting on mystery.
P.S. What the hell is a Tractor Rape Chain anyway?