It is really quite stunning and even a bit unsettling…
I mean, I write songs and know what goes into it all… sometimes they come easy, other times, not so much.
But he tosses them out so effortlessly, and issues pretty much everything he writes, its just astounding. That a vast majority of the stuff he puts out is actually good is all the more remarkable. I would almost venture to say that only Bruce Springsteen has him beat as far as the ability to generate good songs seemingly on demand.
That said, I was really trying my best to hold off on exploring Mr. Pollard’s latest side project — a group which as of this writing has already put out three albums and a bunch of singles, and that was just in 2015 — called Ricked Wicky.
Yah, I know, the name is super geeky and dumb sounding. But, then I always thought The Police was one of the dumbest names for a band and they became huge so… I have put that little issue aside…
I first dipped my toes in the waters of Ricked Wicky somewhat gingerly by only buying some of the singles (which almost always sell out quickly). I liked the stuff I heard, which is basic British inspired rock and roll not all that different from Pollard’s other band, Guided By Voices (GBV).
In essence Ricked Wicky is a GBV product in all but name. It includes drummer Kevin March who was in the most mainstream version of GBV between 2002 and 2005. Also on board this time is Todd Tobias who produced several of GBV’s 21st Century titles (such as Universal Truths and Cycles and Earthquake Glue) as well as a slew of Pollard side projects including many of his solo albums (such as the excellent Moses on a Snail).
So why is it called Ricked Wicky? I have no clue. I can only guess that there is some sort of tax advantage for Pollard by creating all these different band identities such as Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils, Teenage Guitar, Lifeguards and such. I could see that it might be handy to be able to write off one’s losses for a period of time, especially if it doesn’t make a profit, and then move onto shake the next potential money maker.
So while this all may make some convoluted business sense, it does get confusing for the fans. In fact, I have met many hard core fans who have thrown up their arms in frustration at not being able to keep up with Pollard’s completely ludicrous and wonderful non-stop output.
Honestly, I was really not prepared to buy any of the three Ricked Wicky albums quite just yet. However, I recently came across a used copy of the newest one at Amoeba Records last week (complete with the download card, woo hoo!). Its called Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair. As it was on pretty teal blue splatter and coke bottle clear green vinyl, and the price was right ($10), I figured I’d take a chance.
Glad I did. Its a good Guided By Voices record for the most part with a couple twists. I mean seriously, Ricked Wicky features basic guitar, bass and drums — the essence of GBV — with Pollard singing most of the songs (except for somewhat poppier “Blind Side” and “Plastic Oceanic Getaway,” songs which I assume are sung by band member Nick Mitchell, who wrote them).
For the GBV fan, its the presence of “that rock thing” which makes a good GBV song resonate and that is what really matters on Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair — there are bunch of those kinda tunes here, kidz.
Not surprisingly there is a lot of Who-influenced stuff here, such as “A Number I Can Trust.” My favorite track is also the first single, “Poor Subsititute” which would have no doubt been on a GVB album had they not been on hiatus (note: there is a great music video for this song up on YouTube). Even “Red Legged Pygmalion” with its quirky hook-of-a-riff has verses that sound like the kind of thing Roger Daltry might have been sung in outtakes from Tommy and and perhaps The Who By Numbers. “Could I See The List One More Time?” is a mini epic of sorts.
The sound on this record is dense, sludgy and wonderful. This isn’t Jazz at the Pawn Shop, folks, that is for sure. But its got an interesting, raw, live-in-the-damp-basement-studio sensibility which, which you turn it up, you can feel. Digital? Analog? Who cares? Its got loads of big overdriven amplifier tones here and old school sounding drums deep in the mix ( Is that one mic over the drum kit and a mic on the kick drum, guys?).
So, there it is. A Ricked Wicky record that may well be worth your while to pick up (assuming you still dig this whole quazi-lo-fi indie rock thing). Or at least check out the singles.
Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair will probably satisfy your daily minimum rock and roll requirement for Vitamins G, B & V and no doubt will help to hold us over until the next formal GBV reunion happens.