Pollard leans on his ominous side on Please Be Honest, often working in a minor key sweetened with the occasional explosion of pure power pop brilliance.
If there’s anything one can be sure of, it’s that a new year comes each January, that it will wrap up each December, and that in the time in between, Robert Pollard will bring a few dozen new songs into the world. In the past three decades, Pollard has produced songs by the fistful (BMI lists 1967 songs to his credit), recording them with a revolving lineup of like-minded musicians under the band name Guided By Voices alongside solo albums, side projects under more than a dozen different noms de rock, and even an album of drunken stage banter that Pitchfork infamously gave both a 0.0 and 10.0. Pollard retired the GBV name in 2004 before reviving it nearly a decade later for a comeback tour with the “classic” mid-90s lineup that expanded into the studio, firing out six albums in just two and a half years before suddenly calling it quits mid-tour in 2014.
Barely a month after releasing his latest solo album, Of Course You Are, Pollard announced he was once again reviving the GBV name for a new album and a brief tour. It’s an odd choice, given that the former album was recorded with a collaborator, while Pollard performs every instrument on the latter. But no matter: despite the lack of a band, per se, Please Be Honest (out now on Pollard’s own GBV Inc. label) still feels like a Guided By Voices record, though more in line with the bedroom intimacy of lo-fi masterpieces Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes than the slick alt-power pop of Isolation Drills. Pollard leans on his ominous side on Please Be Honest, often working in a minor key sweetened with the occasional explosion of pure power pop brilliance. Here, droning, clanging tone poems like “The Grasshopper Eaters” or “Nightmare Jamboree” are juxtaposed with the jangle of “Kid on a Ladder,” the sunny British invasion pop of “Glittering Parliaments,” or the low budget new wave of “Unfinished Business.”Like virtually every Pollard release, there’s chaff among the wheat, such as the weird thirty second, two-note piano dirge “Sad Baby Eyes,” but those are more than made up for by a slew of prettily picked acoustic ditties like “Defeatist’s Lament” and “I Think a Telescope.”
To bring the new album to life in a live setting, Pollard has summoned yet another GBV lineup, this one including longtime GBV drummer Kevin March and singer-songwriter Bobby Bare, Jr., on guitar. The band’s St. Louis gig at the Ready Room will be only their second, but the new lineup is in luck, because with GBV, “ramshackle” and “rough around the edges” are the name of the game. | Jason Green
To learn more, visit www.robertpollard.net. Full tour dates below.
04.26.16 | Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN
04.27.16 | The Ready Room, St. Louis, MO
04.29.16 | Vega, Lincoln, NE
04.30.16 | Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO
05.02.16 | The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
05.03.16 | The Accord, Champaign, IL
06.25.16 | Sled Island Festival, Calgary, AB