I was going to buy Robert Pollard's latest solo album "eventually." However, a recent waltz through the aisles at Amoeba Music escalated that process and in fact had me nearly rolling on the floor with laughter when I saw the album on display.
You see, the recording -- called Faulty Superheroes -- has a "hype" sticker on it that is probably the funniest of its kind I have ever seen. Well, ok, it contains something of an inside joke that is very funny IF you area already a fan of Robert Pollard and familiar with the extreme level of output for which he is renown.
The guy is prolific to a fault -- even hardcore fans have trouble keeping up with the releases both as a solo artist and leading his main band Guided By Voices (GBV) as well as many side projects like Circus Devils and Boston Spaceships. Thus, when a sticker reads "First Album In Over Three Months!" you know that the man is in on the self-depreciating joke.
And so I was forced to immediately purchase the album right then and there. Yup folks, more proof that good marketing works!
Nifty hype sticker aside, I honestly would have probably bought this sooner rather than later as I'd already purchased and loved the preview single "Up, Up and Up." Happily, I can report that the rest of the album is indeed up -- cheesy pun intended -- to the high standard of that single.
This is not the tossed off feeling Pollard of recent side project releases like Teenage Guitar. Nor is this the LoFi wonderment of early GBV classics like Bee Thousand. But this is something of -- if you'll pardon the record reviewer cliche -- a "return to form," or at least one of the forms that have made many a Pollard/GBV fan happy over the years.
In this instance Pollard is mining the flavors of the later period GBV recordings done with last version of that band before the 2004 split. This shouldn't be a total surprise as the root of this band is drummer Kevin March who drove the rhythm section of GBV during that period on albums including their top charting Universal Truths and Cycles (one of my GBV faves, in fact). The album also features production and engineering by Todd Tobias (who has collaborated with Pollard on many non-GBV projects) and who engineered and co produced the aforementioned hit which reached #3 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers charts (#160 in the Top 200).
So how does this album of 12 tight radio-ready rock tunes sound? Pretty great! This is big production Pollard power-trio-plus stuff and the band rocks out with a timeless indie rock sound.
Yeah, there I said it: Timeless Indie Rock Sound! Kinda reads like copy from an imaginary K-Tel Records compilation, doesn't it?
('Hey Dude, is that Dropout Rock you're playing?')
Ok, so I digress...
But really, for a record that was probably made in a Pro Tools digital studio environment, it sounds pretty solid with punchy drums, big guitars and clear vocals front and center in a traditional stereo mix that sounds good in the car as well as in your home stereo.
Faulty Superheroes may even be something of a concept record as -- if I'm not reading too much into the words printed on the enclosed four color insert lyric sheet -- the songs seem to deal with the trials and tribulations of an everyday superhero. "What A Man" ("Climbing very high, the mask, machine and atomizer"), "Cave of Elimination" ("You just have to look right in the eyes for the crime"), "Faster the Great" ("... there he goes, he's never too late") and of course the title track and the aforementioned "Up Up and Up" ("You advocate for higher than our realm, we're all falling in line").
The other cool thing that comes with Faulty Superheroes is a download card which allows you to get the full album in digital form for use on your computer or portable devices. I was pleased to find that they offer you a choice of formats -- either or both -- including MP3 and the larger set of WAV files. I downloaded both and tried the WAVs in the car via my iPhone and it sounded real good. I mean, its indie rock stuff folks, replete with big pounding drums and raw production flourishes so just don't go into this expecting to hear Pet Sounds or Quadrophenia.
But if the idea of hearing a band that sounds sort of like 1968 era Who pushed through a modern day indie / alternative rock strainer sounds appealing, then this might just be for you.
Yup, this is so good I now realize that I have to go back and pick up a copy of Ricked Wicky (another Pollard side project type album which I overlooked.... it came out earlier this year).
Ah, the music never stops in the Pollard pop zone. Amen for that...
Pollard saves the day with Faulty Superheroes!