Tuesday, August 15, 2017

THE CLUB IS OPEN... An Introduction



WELCOME to An Earful 'O Wax, the Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard; Song Documentation Database. Here, I attempt to provide a write-up accompanied by a numerical review (for what it's worth) of every song written, performed, or related to one of rock's most prolific songwriters; Robert Pollard.

If you have found yourself on this site, you probably know a bit of the story and history of the Dayton, OH band. If not, welcome! May this be your newest haven for a crash-course in the subject, and hopefully this can aid in your quest for the perfect mix tape.

This idea to delve into this project came to be in early 2012 while talking with a friend about the intricacies of the myriad of Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard LPs, EPs, side-projects, box-sets, 7'' singles, official bootlegs, and compilation tracks. I know as a true GBV fanatic, this conversation happens often. So I decided it was time to make my madness somewhat concrete!

The original sole purpose came about when I decided to try to log a rating to some of the more obscure Pollard related songs in my library for my own reference. How could I forget how good "I Am Decided" was off the top of my head? How was it that the closer, "Blue Shadow," off Pollard's side-project Keene Brothers' LP escaped my memory when thinking about the breadth of the catalog? Official documentation began to accumulate over a few months, and only grew from there. Once the wheels started turning, I found it increasingly difficult to operate the brakes. The determination to review every Robert Pollard related song was in full swing, scribbled in notebooks and sporadically typed out.

What presents itself on this site is just that; my quest to track down, consume (multiple times), and review (if only briefly), every song that came out of Dayton, OH's pop-psych mastermind, Robert Pollard. It's been a rough and bumpy road over many beers, research, and late night phone calls to friends on the matter.


SO, how do you read this and what is it? 
First off, every Robert Pollard related band/solo outing/side-project is divided into headers at the top of the page for quick reference.

The set-up of the free blogger.com space does not provide for ample scroll-down-and-enjoy reading. I encourage all to click on the links above to track down each LP, EP, 7", and compilation to find said song, or to simply browse the nature of each beast.

Also, each LP is accompanied by a brief to somewhat-extended introduction into the release, garnished with facts and opinions. Treat them  as a short review. Treat them as garbage. Do as you will.

What is included?
Any and all Robert Pollard related material is included for mention and review on this site. That is, every Guided by Voices, Pollard solo outing, Pollard solo collaborations, or side-project. Several side-project bands are listed above in the same tab due to restrictions here, not importance, or lack thereof.

There are still plenty of off-shoots of the Pollard/GBV family tree; Tobin Sprout solo material, Doug Gillard solo LPs, Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde, fig. 4, Terrifying Experience, etc. While many of those releases are definitely worth tracking down, (especially Tobin Sprout's frequent and brilliant outings) I have not obtained all at this time.

Also, not EVERY single record is listed on this site. Some singles and box sets simply contained songs that had previously been released. I included each record, in which each song made its earliest appearance. If you'd like a complete discography of everything GBV related, check HERE.

In addition, there are a plethora of bootleg releases with alternate titles to track that were eventually released on the Suitcase box-sets. Also, there are seemingly endless unreleased instrumental outtakes, alternate bootleg takes, internet released demos, and unreleased live cover songs that have not been included. In time, they might see the light of day. Such is the case with Pollard's TWO "comedy" LPs of spoken word, Relaxation of the Asshole and Meet the King: Asshole 2. I've got 'em, just don't know where they fit in this puzzle, but maybe one day.

Additionally, as long as I breathe and maintain functional hearing, new releases will continue to be updated in the future. Please check back.


In addition, THE RATING SYSTEM:
The ratings assigned numerically differs, in context, for each band.

It should go without saying, but a Guided by Voices perfect song rating does not always reflect the same as, say, a great Circus Devils song, decent Acid Ranch, etc. Two different recipes, two different results.

Also, it's a 1 to 5 system. Don't have a stroke that something didn't get 10.


And finally, LET IT BE KNOWN!:
It should go without saying that I am a fan. Not to dive too deep into the sappy end of the pool, Robert Pollard has been an even more enormous influence on me than I can really every say. Who else would do such an arguably stupid thing if not a fan? Nevertheless, what lies ahead may offend, enlighten, educate and shock some as I have given reviews to songs that some hold deep in the ribcage; wedding songs, the break-up tune, the perfect song for a funeral, your favorite drinking singalong melody, etc. So please know that every bad review still comes from a place that still gives even the slightest wink of admiration, and I mean no offense to the fellow listener in the following reviews of everything, and encourage an open discussion about said topics. Such is the way of the world, and shouldn't need mentioning. But it bares repeating when dealing with something as sacred to so many.

May Pollard continue to write, record, release. The army of the shambolic have spoken and, sorry mainstream press, he does NOT need an editor. What we want is what we get, and so forth.  And for the casual, or beginner, may this be both a guide and valuable lesson.  As Pollard has said, he relies on his Four "P's"; pop, punk, psych, and prog (which will be referenced throughout the site), in his song writing. May the best of those styles continue to rain down, for better or worse. One man's "Gold Star For Robot Boy" is another man's "I Can't Freeze Anymore" and vice versa. But hopefully you get the picture.  Read on, enjoy, and detest if you must. But remember, "Life is short, GBV is long."*





Additional thanks to the project goes to the following:  Jeff at Guided by Voices Database (www.gbvdb.com), for his his helpful correspondence and for his stellar website of meticulous fanboy info. Kevin Oliver, for guiding me through a cerebral discussion of Suitcase 2 and its inconsistencies back in the day. Fid, for his enthusiasm, tri-state brotherly support, and providing me with a couple of hard-to-find GBV releases on loan while I was dead broke. Christopher Thomas Brown for talking GBV with me at length and for kind of kick starting this whole idea. And to K. Gogan, my best friend for encouraging me to finish and for helping edit a portion of this mess.



*- gbv

**all photos taken from the fabulous world of google search. If you have a problem with a photo being up here, say the word and I'll take it down. I honestly don't know how to credit you!

***background collage by Robert Pollard, entitled "Brought To You by Real Nice Scientist" 

Monday, August 14, 2017

How Do You Spell Heaven (2017)

How Do You Spell Heaven
(2017, Guided by Voices Inc.)



We arrive at ROCK 101, or so says all the press for Guided By Voices ever expanding discography. Hot off the heels of the fan-lauded August By Cake, the famed 100th LP, Pollard and gang wasted little time dropping a follow-up in the hands of the public; the 2nd installment of 2017.

Unlike, August By Cake, the follow-up is far less scattershot in terms of ideas, fidelity, and contributions. Absent from this are those (great) "solo" tracks from other members of the new and improved quintet. However, as far as a band effort, this is about as cohesive as GBV has sounded since... maybe ever? Bobby Bare Jr. and Doug Gillard play off each other like life long bandmates. The rhythm section of Mark Shue and a Kevin March is simply to die for. GBV sounds stadium ready, locked in at every turn. To his credit, Pollard also hasn't sounded this surefooted in years. Vocally, Pollard is on, rarely stumbling, new life alive in the pipes, even after 100 albums, including all the golden nugget EPs (and some straight poopers) in between.

A solid LP, the whole affair recalls the sound of late period GBV, ala Universal Truths and Cycles or say, Earthquake Glue. There's a "proggier" slant to a lot of these songs; starts and stops, mid-song shifts, ebbing dynamics. Yet, in between it all, Pollard weaves plenty of sneaky, and sometimes blatant, melodies throughout the 15 tracks (the shortest GBV track listing since 2004's Half Smiles of the Decomposed).  Recorded and mastered by Travis Harrison, the man behind the boards to most of ABC and ESP Ohio's Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean LP, this seems perhaps the slickest GBV record since... oh I don't know... Isolation Drills? A new chapter is unfolding in the GBV universe. Keep the ship steady, and all aboard!





SIDE A:
The Birthday Democrats5 If there's one thing Pollard knows how to do, it's open a goddamn record on a high note. Rarely has he dropped the ball on this, and "The Birthday Democrats" is no exception. From Gillard's stabbing(almost annoyingly so), guitar lead, to the soaring vocals, this 2 minute chunk of powerhouse pop bliss kicks things off steady and ready for a revisit. 

King 007- Here's where some of the more "prog" elements of the record come in. The band weaves 2 separate, almost unrelated parts together shifting from acoustic, bass-walkin, easy listening that sounds like a missing piece from Gringoto a nearly straight lift from mid '70s The Who, before dropping back to an oddly catchy GBV-familiar part. It's a dizzying, but mostly rewarding cut. 

Boy W- 2  What now is all this nonsense with electronic drum sampling? Not a bad tune, but the production choice, while interesting and perhaps risky, really takes away from the song. Whole thing falls flat, from average-at-best Pollardian tune to those razor guitar tones. I don't know, this is like The Groillaz do Dayton. 

Steppenwolf Mausoleum- 4 Step into the bleakness and let this one bleed through you slowly. Dank acoustic plucking and ambient squeaks play out as Pollard delivers a haunting melody on top. Eventually, the song kicks in, AND heavily. Solid into the declarative "chorus" of sorts, and back again to the bleak. Multifaceted all around, complete with piano accompanied outro. A grower for sure, but with near boundless rewards. 

Cretinous Number Ones- Upwardly propulsive, thanks in part to Kevin March's drum stomp. Pollard pens one flowing, catchy melody around it, building up to the new instant fan favorite chant of "I dream of drinking!" Short, sweet, and powerful. 

They Fall Silent- 3 A short, haunting gap track in between two powerhouse tracks on the record. Pollard croons through road worn vocal chords in an almost nursery rhyme cadence over bare acoustic strums. So cold, it might fog your glasses. Under a minute, and perfect placement in the LP. 

Diver Dan- 5 Perhaps the shining moment of the record. "Diver Dan" is a no bullshit, straight forward GBV rocker, complete with familiar start-stop moments and tastefully doubled vocals. If Pollard put this on Suitcase 5 one day and said this was like a lost Universal Truths... or Isolation Drills track, it'd be hard to say otherwise. Hit repeat, and add it to your latest best-of mix.

How To Murder a Man [In 3 Acts]- On ABC, we got "Substitute 11." On this LP, we get Pollard's latest "rock opera" type track, something he's tackled often on Circus Devils LPs, among others. Yes, this song is split into 3 SHORT acts, as the whole thing is just over two minutes. At first eerily catchy subtle melodies exploding into rock bombast, lead out by proggier meandering. A bit of a mess, but rewards repeated listens. 



SIDE B
Pearly Gates Smoke Machine- Flip over the record and yes... what a cool mid-tempo rock track, complete with killer Doug Gillard leads! Can hardly wait to hear what Pollard sings over this... Any minute now.. Wait for it.... Oh this is gonna be my new favorite GBV song!  Gillard is on fire here! C'mon Bob, hit 'em with that killer melody. Gillard's guitar lines speak volumes, hooky in their own right. Just drop in anytime Bob, not too late. Gillard's fret board is literally smoking through my headphones. Oh wait... it's over? And at 4 minutes?!!!? An instrumental... What in the world just happened and why? Soooooo good, but so what? Look, it's a damn fine instrumental but can't help feel this was one that got away. 

Tenth Century- Acoustic opening jangles about. Pollard eventually makes a vocal appearance one song too late. A cold but airy gap track of sorts. Sounds more suited as Pollard solo track from the mid-00s, but the full band lead out, and speed up, is pure late era GBV gold that saves the track!

How Do You Spell Heaven- Pollard opens this, warbling vocals shouting about in the mix. Eventually the song kicks into a fairly standard GBV/Pollard solo fair. Feels like a grower that just won't grow.  It's like a sugar cookie or vanilla ice cream. Not bad, but how can you recommend this to anyone, really?

Paper Cutz- A driving, oddly catchy song, if not somewhat annoyingly so. One of those tracks where the verses are near perfect and the chorus is almost too cloying. But not as cloying as using a "z" to spell "Cutz." What, is this a 90s brand of scissors marketed to Gen Xers? Also, the lyrics to this really stink in places. HOWEVER! For all its faults, it's hard to get out of your head, and you might not mind it taking up residence. 

Low Flying Perfection- One can picture Pollard alone on stage singing this, hand raised to the heavens as the subdued guitar jangle leads us in. Eventually the band kicks in to low momentum, lighter waving material truly carried by Pollard's vocal showing. In times of contemplation, turn to this. 

Nothing Gets You Real- A nice little Pollard pop nugget buried near the end of the LP. However, I'm slightly detracted by how light and "little" this song feels on a whole. It's a paper thin, acoustically fay pop rocker that feels like it could've benefited from a little more drive. Still, hooky as all heck, and one you can hum while the world fall down around ya. Pollard displays just how seemingly easy it is to write a killer pop song. 

Just To Show You- The lone single released for the LP closes out ROCK 101! A waltzing, weepy eyed rocker. It's a song for the end of night; tie undone, eyes bloodshot, no one left in the room. Sad, yet empowering. Overall, sounds somewhat thin, but the lackadaisical melody and the harmonies slowly take hold, and the nuances grow with very listen. Seriously, first time I heard it, I hated it. Now look at me... A success in listening beyond your wildest dreams. Now where did I put that Cash Rivers 7''? 












Tuesday, August 8, 2017

She Laughed I Left 7'' (2017)

She Laughed I Left 7"
(2017, Yuk Yuk Motherfucker Records)


As of this posting, there are 2 Robert Pollard solo releases I have debated posting/reviewing in some sort of fashion; his 2 comedy LPs. If you're reading this review, there's a good chance you've dug deep enough and are somewhat informed that Robert Pollard has released comedy LPs, titled Relaxation of the Asshole and Meet the King: Asshole 2. Both titles, released on the fictional Yuk Yuk Motherfucker Records are novelty, stage banter LPs for a late night spin, but mostly just to get you thinking "I can't believe he released this," some how making you laugh harder.

With all that bullshit said, welcome to Yuk Yuk Motherfucker Records VOLUME 3. Cash Rivers is the latest, and greatest (?) in Pollard approved fake monikers. It's a 45 RPM 7'' packed with 17 "songs." Reportedly recorded on a cell phone, this is equal parts country, comedy, novelty record. Essentially, it's Pollard riffing fake titles, or lines that would become the title, possibly backstage to the chagrin of those lucky enough to be sipping beers with the Wizard of Northridge.

Is this ridiculous? 100%. However, this tiny glimpse of a novelty is a must have for drunken wit of a musical genius, who can be as funny as he is prodigious. Cash Rivers is not a must have for anyone, but everyone should hear it. Acoustic guitar, Uncle Bob vocals on display, and the cackling of those lucky enough to have witnessed this "recording session."

500 copies released through Rockathon Records only. Not available in stores. No download code. 

SIDE A:
A B C- Pollard sings most of the ABCs... but not all of them.. YES!

Back on Cholesterol- Pollard sings the title. Catchy and a knee slapper. 

Bring Your Nasty Ass Home- The twangiest of the lot so far. Trailer lovin' good times. 

Buckets and Shots- Sneeze and you'll miss it bullshit. LOLzzzzzzzz

Cocaine On My Way Home From Church- Greatest title made into the saddest country song ever?

Diapers To Panties Instant classic. Can't get it out of my head, brining tears of joy wherever I may roam. Nearly a real song at about 30 seconds. 

Drinkin' With Abraham Lincoln- Pollard rhymes the title with the first line. HA! 

I Can't Blame the Rain- So short, and not funny so it sucks!!! hahaha


SIDE B:
I Had To Pay For My Own Birthday Party- It's sad having to pay for one's own birthday party. Thankfully Pollard immortalized it in song. 

My Good Friends From Brooklyn- Hank Williams move over. So much is sad (said?) in this short tale. 

My Next Beer Will Be In Heaven5 Goddamn doctor tells you your liver is drying up... So sad, but true. 

On My Last Day of Freedom- Perfection  

Pack of Zig Zags- Pollard stumbles over some bullshit, rockin rollin' country nonsense. 

She's Too Old For Trick Or Treat- Pollard declares he's Cash Rivers on this. 3 strums that don't rhyme. Weeeeemm-Wommmmmm

She Stole My Man Panties-  "Diapers to Panties" the "reprise" version? Valiant effort. 

Summertime Santa Clause- Another rockin' good time for the holidays, or a beach party in a drunken haze. Or perfect when coming out of your blackout stage during the holidays or on a beach.

Wrong Way Road- And so it unfortunately comes to an end. 2 somber lines, over 3 or four guitar strums. Oh well... Cash Rivers MUST return to save us all. 

Just To Show You 7" (2017)

Just To Show You 7"
(2017, Guided by Voices Inc.)


The lone single released for How Do You Spell Heaven LP. The Pollard-penned "Just To Show You" opens side A, while the exclusive cut, "Knife City" sits in obscurity on Side B. A Gillard/Shue composition, this makes the single worth tracking down. Limited to 500 copies on clear green vinyl. 

SIDE A:
Just To Show You- The same version that appears on the LP How Do You Spell Heaven. Read the review over there! 

SIDE B:
Knife City- 4 In classic fashion, the b-side is reserved to the bullpen players. A Doug Gillard/Mark Shue penned tune helps add another to the cannon of songs, but a solid one at that. A prickly, potent guitar jangle holds this upwardly poppy tune together. A worthy nod to Tobin Sprout harmonies in the verses. Shit, even the bridge is pretty damn solid. If this were on August By Cake, all GBV nuts would have their favorite 33rd song of the LP to rave about. Bubble-gummy and melancholy.

Bloodshot Six Pack To Go: Working Songs for the Drinking Class 7'' (2015)

Bloodshot Six Pack To Go: Working Songs for the Drinking Class 7'' 
(2015, Bloodshot Records) 



In late 2015, Chicago's Bloodshot Records released a 6 7'' set in a 6 pack set. The records feature exclusive tracks by Deer Tick, Elizabeth Cook, Banditos, and GBV's Bobby Bare Jr., among others. 

Individual records were later available through Bloodshot Records, for those looking to forego the 6 pack novelty set. 

For the set, Robert Pollard includes a new re-recording of the GBV classic "Drinker's Peace." Recorded by ex-GBV member/Ricked Wicky guitarist Nick Mitchell, the track also features an appearance by Bobby Bare Jr. 


Drinker's Peace- Pollard brings back the classic tune from GBV's Same Place The Fly Got Smashed. Here, with help from Bobby Bare Jr. and Nick Mitchell, Pollard brings this back as a lush, orchestrated, more upbeat version. Necessary? Far from it. However, it's an interesting take on the song, but still, it's hard to beat the chillingly lo-fi original. Check it out for shits and giggles. 


Monday, April 10, 2017

August By Cake (2017)

August By Cake
(Guided by Voices Inc., 2017)


Since its official announcement in January 2017, a lot has been written about Guided By Voices' true second reunion effort, August by Cake, so I'll try to keep it brief (yeah right). Pollard dusted off GBV once again in 2016, releasing Please Be Honest, a glummier affair of fairly strong songs mixed with a few pebble kickers and head scratchers. While he assemebled a band and hit the road soon after, Please Be Honest was the first GBV LP to feature Pollard playing every instrument in its entirety. In a way, it felt devoid in spots of the true GBV spirit; an actual band led out to sea by the Fading Captain.

If Please Be Honest accomplished one truly great feat, it was bringing about the conception of, arguably, GBVs strongest line-up to date. Fan favorite, righthand man, Doug Gillard returns on lead guitar. Additionally, baby-faced bassist Mark Shue, and veteran songsmith/guitarist Boddy Bare fill out the strings, with solid-as-stone Kevin March on drums.A full fleshed line-up, and powerful at that! How 'bout it?

 Such is clearly evident throughout the entirety of the sprawling... massive... August by Cake. 32 songs in 72 joyous minutes. Recorded mostly with Travis Harrison (drummer/engineer of Pollard's ESP OHIO), other tracks were recorded at various locations.  While this is the first double LP under GBV, Pollard has been down the double LP road before with From a Compound Eye (26 songs), Let It Beard (26 songs), and Sgt. Disco (32 songs). What sets this apart from those double LP affairs, is the depth of quality. There's a ton of meat to sink one's teeth into. Like a truly great double LP, August By Cake feels both wholly complete, and a big mess at the same time. Still, it comes out oh so glorious.

A big fuss was also made about this being Pollard's 100th LP of his career. Some have counted 99, others say 101, 109 (or with EPs, and bootlegs, 200 and whatever...). No matter how you figure, 100th looks damn nice in headlines. With that said, the "100th" LP features multiple songwriting contributions from EVERY member of the band, an unprecedented event in the GBV universe; 2 songs each from everyone not named Pollard, 3 from bassist Shue! Maybe it's the all-hands-on-deck unity, maybe it's fate, but August By Cake stands as one of the brightest moments in a discography that's as storied as it is dense.


SIDE A:
5° On the Inside- "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN..." announces Uncle Bob, leading off this track, the ringleader of his own pop empire. Similar to the beginning of Nilsson's Pandamonium Shadow Show. A grand statement kicks off this monument of the 4 P's (pop, psych, punk, and prog, of course). Really nailing it with those trumpet leads, this opener is an instant classic, as is usually the case! Full of beefy verses, infectious drum stomps, layered guitar interplay, powerful chorus, and a hook for the ages. Could've been one of the great lost tracks from, say, Do the Collapse? Only 31 more songs to go!

Generox Gray®Fuzzed, warbled guitars open this over a harrowing drum stomp. It's wholly bleak before taking a sly, uplifting turn. Pollard sounds completely sturdy and a tad out of tune at times, but it adds to the mystique. An organ plays the repetitious melody in the distance, and the whole track sort of grows into a strange, wondrous melody you can't shake. Scrub all you want, this one continues to grow. 

When We All Hold Hands At the End of the World- 4 An example of Pollard weaving a ton with so little. A programed drum beat aids in the simplicity as Pollard sings a simple but killer melody that seems wholly familiar. The guitars, sharp as nails, stab away leading into a crunchy melody. Ugggh, nearly perfect. Perhaps it is.

Goodbye Note- 5 Doug Gillard is BACK! The first non-Pollard track of the LP, and what a new classic it is! Upwardly mobile guitar lines, at times joyous, other times relaxed, but wholly triumphant. Infectious like a pop induced flu. Instantly press repeat on your programing device, turn back the needle, do whatever you gotta do to replay this one ASAP. Or continue to push your way deeper into the mysteries that is August By Cake

We Liken the Sun- 3 Warbled guitar plays out on shaky legs as Pollard sings in pleading mode. Fairly brittle track of little note. Pollard sounds out of tune in some spots at the start, but the ending kicks it up slightly for the outro, leaving a joyously melancholy aftertaste. Trim and sweet. 

Fever Pitch - Simple gap track material. It wouldn't be a sprawling GBV record (or any really) without them. Here, under a minute, Pollard sings his sci-fi affected vocal effect while peaking, distorted guitar lines ring about in the back. The melody is humdrum, but in the context, this song fits like a glove. Just not much of note for a single track revisit. 

Absent the Man- Batter up! Next in line of newest GBV members not named Pollard, we find bassist Mark Shue and his first of 3 contributions to the LP. This song is a straight forward, mid-tempo rocker with some angular guitar leads and whinier, strained vocals. It's a fairly strong tune that sounds a little too close to some of the cornball Nick Mitchell stuff off one of the Ricked Wicky LPs, namely "Imminent Fall From Grace."

Packing the Dead Zone- 3 Opens with an unnecessarily Dad friendly voiceover from Pollard's bud, Steve Stefanakos. What follows feels like a lost track from Circus Devil's LP Stomping Ground. It's a slinking, mini rocker full of reverberating vocals, middling vocal effects and stiff-upper-lip attitude with an avant edge. 


SIDE B:
What Begins on New Year's Day- 4 Originally released on the Amazon.com digital release, Indie for the New Year, this is the same recording that few people heard or cared about. Feel kind of cheated having it released twice, especially since the original was released as a Pollard solo track. However, this song is a slow grower, but with real sentimental power. Read the fuller review HERE, when it was released in 2015. 

Overloaded- Drummer Kevin March makes his first song appearance in full, vocals and all on this LP. When I say ALL, I mean everything is Kevin March on this track. A slice of Yo La Tengo guitars, and a healthy dose of past GBV conditioning, blended with '90s guilty pleasure rock-pop = perfection! Prior to this, Kevin was responsible for the track "Cool Planet" off the LP of same name. "Overloaded" proves to be a potent, uplifting, and reflective pop hammer that comes down hard and doesn't let up. At over 3 minutes, it's one of the longer ones on the record, but worth the trip time and time again. 

Keep Me Down- In disappointing fashion, this song was previously recorded and released by Boston Spaceships on 2009's The Planets are Blasted. Why release it again? This, Pollard playing everything himself is an unnecessary rehashing of an already released GREAT song. Sluggishly slower than the original, it does posses a certain seat-of-your-pants charm. Regardless, it's a CLASSIC... however, deduct one point due to unnecessary release. Still, fits quite perfectly on ABC

West Coast Company Man- 3 Clean guitar rock starts out mid-tempo and spill into several different sections of feel, rhythm, and styles. Really keeps you on your toes while sounding somewhat cohesive. Similar feel to some Circus Devils' more "normal" tracks, but with  Gillard guitar overdubs.

Warm Up to Religion- 5 Starting in the jangly stratosphere over an aurora borealis, Pollard finally chimes in, slathered in reverb before the song levels out into a slow, choppy indie guitar fest. Slowly it builds, weepy feelings budding within. A slight tear appears from the corner of the eye perhaps? And then... The finale is grand; whooping vocals, flying Gillard solo, and Pollard laying it down like a full house on a scuffed poker table for the goddamn win. 

High Five Hall of Famers- BOBBY BARE JR... Reporting for duty! Guitarist, and long-time recording artist in his own right, makes his GBV song debut. Here, Bare sounds like a surly, younger Pollard with a little more gravel and twang. It's a stripped down, single guitar, bass and drum take on what feels like a simplistic GBV throwback tune. Revisit this in simple moments of triumph. 

Sudden Fiction- 4 Mark Shue is back for his second contribution to the LP. This one has a similar feeling to "Absent the Man," but the drum stomp and escalating guitar assault bring this up a notch. Far from wholly original, this is a solid showing all around. 80's college rocks meets some Fleetwood Mac in the choruses, meets '90s Chapel Hill hooks? A whole lot sprouts forth from so little. 

Hiking Skin- 4 Originally released online as the streaming preview track to ABC. This recalls a lot of Pollard's greatest hits in a few acrobatic vocals moves. The bellowed sections raise the melodic flag along choppy, power pop sections. The guitar work is appropriately grand in this short benchmark track. Would've fit nicely on Motivational Jumpsuit or Cool Planet. Guitar outro leads us out and into...


SIDE C:
It's Food- 3 The stabbing outro of "Hiking Skin" opens Side C (the wonkiest side of the LP, for sure). Barebones, Pollard humbled vocals over prickly guitar pulls. It lacks any real punch on its own, but remains solid nonetheless. A few twists, mainly notable for the lofty harmonies in parts. 

Cheap Buttons- 4 The lyrics are downright belly laugh worthy here, but appropriately so. Pounding, choppy stadium rocker on a small scale. The hooks are memorable on a grander scale. The band fires from the hip and hits all targets, moving or otherwise. The breezier interlude, complete with tambourine take the cake. And no, I will not make a pun here. 

Substitute 11- 4 Lyrically, this one plays out as some sort of avant Pollard stage-play, something we've seen during several Circus Devils' LPs. It's a morose trudge with creepy, dusty guitar leads that sink into your brain. The song breaks into a 2nd section as Pollard sets the scene for our fictional "Substitute 11" character. It rides out on a steady, mid-tempo beat. What is going on here? What is the point of all this? I don't care because I love it... Fades into...

Chew the Sand- 2 ... The 3rd track credited to Mark Shue is essentially a noisy, post-punk, apocalyptic instrumental too long for its own good. However, amid the density, such a track is welcome. Taken on its own, it leaves little to write home about. Distant tom pounding on the drums, guitar wankery, gibberish Pollard vocal interludes. Not fit for a mix-tape, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Welcome to ABC you hunk of aural filler. 

Dr. Feelgood Falls Off the Ocean- 5 A rehashing of one of the brighter spots off the jumbled mess that was the Suitcase 2 collection. Originally (and brilliantly) titled, "Something for Susan in the Shadows." Pollard dusted this off and rerecored it complete with drum machine and Gillard guitar overdubs. The melody is simply to die for, the lyrics topnotch. Tap a toe, cry a river, clutch a blanket, paste photos of your life into a scrapbook no one will ever see... whatever your choice, this is your soundtrack. Fantastic. 

The Laughing Closet- 3 A real adult contemporary feel to this tune. It's so mellow, accompanied by faux strings, it might draw a yawn on first few listens. However, it's solid, beautiful Pollard territory that will sink into the cosmos and be recalled fondly when it pops in one's head. Ultra short and somewhat flooring with repeated listens. 

Deflect/Project-5 Doug Gillard knocks it out of the park with his second contribution. Taught guitar work that plays out like audio gold. Slightly progged up in its arrangement, this is a breezy, tight track that lodges itself deeply in the brain. Gillard seems to don a Tobin Sprout-like vocal style (pardon the comparison to past GBV greatness). The solo is out in no mans wizard land. Short and OH SO Sweeeeeet. 

Upon the Circus Bus- 3 Bobby Bare Jr. follows Gillard with his second track of the record. A barebones, lo-fi recording with haunting vocals. Duel speaker, crap-tastic, conversation gibberish saturates the atmosphere, giving it all an unsettlingly feeling. Memorable? Somehow, it is. Sounds like early, lost GBV EP worthy material.


SIDE D:
Try It Out (It's Nothing)- Guitar and drum heavy opener to the final side. Similar to a Universal Truths... era GBV. A straight-ahead song on the shorter side, complete with flying harmonies and triumphant trumpeting in the bridge. Pollard and that goddamn golden trumpet of hits, huh? Bleeds into....

Sentimental Wars4 .... So, we arrive at Kevin March's 2nd contribution to the LP (the last of the GBV members not named Pollard on this record). March sounds oddly like a young Pete Townshend here. It ranks up there with sentimental schmalz of "Hold on Hope," while sounding oddly 80s' John Hughes soundtrack worthy in spots. The chorus is unforgettable, period. It's like March stapled a construction paper heart on his sleeve and said "fuck it." Love it or hate it, this one's a keeper. Incredible. 

Circus Day Hold Out- 3 A Pollard oddity begins the descent to the end of the record (as the last 6 are all Pollard fronted). It's glum, grimy. A doom rocker of sorts. Gillard's leads add to the creep factor. A plodding crawl, this one's mainly saved by the gang vocals that close it out. 

Whole Tomatoes-  It wouldn't be a Pollard LP without one terrible title thrown in. A wholly acoustic number that slips fairly far into forgettable areas. However, Uncle Bob keeps the vocals strong, and builds something out of seemingly nothing. The "keyboard" strings hold this above water enough to make you care, and breathe some life into it. Short, sparse, and oddly sweet as a tomato is technically a fruit. 

Amusement Park Is Over- 5 Oh sweet heavenly baby Jesus! These melodies are on point and potent. The lyrics? Incredible. The only slight drawback is when Pollard kicks in on his shambolic drum part (recorded himself), but the song is a patchwork classic hidden at the backend of a LOADED record. Sweet, sad, sentimental, nostalgic? All applicable. 

Golden Doors- 2  Not much of note here. Basically a spoken vocal track with a slight melody over chilly guitar strums. Somewhere, someone is saying this is the best song ever written but not I. A fairly forgettable song tacked on for good measure. 

The Possible Edge- 3 Pollard gives another strong vocal showing over this jangled waltz. Not worthy of turning many heads, but it's prickly and short enough to revisit. The vocals are sweet as a puddle of melted sugar cane on a pile of Peeps. 

Escape to Phoenix- And finally.... We reach track 32. A stomping closer, complete with accompanied claps and a jabbing keys in the verses, this sees the record off in another triumphant moment maker. Seize the day, รก la Pollard style. The Wizard of Northridge created another power house closer? Go figure. Fades out into group vocals reciting the lyrics that end the song "Circus Day Hold Out" Does it all work? You betcha. August By Cake is a WINNER! 



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Laughs Last (2017)

Laughs Last
(Happy Jack Rock Records, 2017)


To think it has actually happened. The horror is over.... After 16 years, Pollard, along with brothers Todd and Tim Tobias have pulled the plug on the nightmare machine known as Circus Devils. Yes, Laughs Last was announced as the official swan song recordings to cap an impressive collaborative career of studio blasphemy and art damaged experimentation. 

Circus Devils has always been Pollard and the Tobias' brothers playground to cut loose, experimenting with lyrics, instrumentation, recording techniques, and even short films (the DIY, art school project- esque videos are sometimes downright chilling). However, all strange things must come to an end. On Laughs Last, the boys really let all the colors fly: the brazen, the noise damaged, the depression, the hooky, and the epeleptic bouts of schizo-pop-phrenic dysphonia. The record really does offer up all styles of Circus Devils. In some ways, it feels like a stripped down version of Sgt. Disco. Another analysis could also feel like, "ehh, maybe it's just some ideas leftover." At any rate, it's a fairly solid sendoff, mixed with a few new day classics to boot. 

Recorded by Todd Tobias in Dayton, Pollard did the vocals with the help of ex-Ricked Wicky/GBV guitarist Nick Mitchell. The LP was also released the same day as the 30 track "BEST OF" collection Laughs Best (featuring a bonus DVD of Circus Devils videos... not to be missed).  Gone but not forgotten, take your final leap into the murky aural pond of Circus Devils and see what hallucinations you can drown in.  Farewell.



SIDE A:
Get Out of My Way When I'm In Town- A wholly familiar, nearly gratingly simple melody through the verses. The choruses go big on this, sounding like it'd fit comfortably as a darker GBV track.  Pollard mostly repeats the title a bunch of times, as he does on many a Circus Devils tune. The rest is held together by a loose mid-tempo drum beat, some dismal guitar hits, and nauseatingly high-pitched ping-ponging effects. Off to the final races with Circus Devils. 

Philosophy Bag- Punctuated guitar lines hold this down amid a wave of blips and swirling amplified electricity in the background. Also, let's not forget about that cowbell now! Downright nightmarish toward the end in its repetition. Music appropriate for a sacrificial ritual, perhaps... but don't take my word for it as I'm a novice in the ritual game.

ZX35 POW- 1 Did the Tobias brothers forget the utilize the other instruments at their disposal? A straight crap guitar track fumbled to some nonsense pattern while Pollard speak-shouts some drivel. Almost slightly interesting in its simplicity, but lyrics like "Circus Devils love you" and "now you're having fun. Circus Devils fun," sucks the soul right out of the air.  

Teenage Rooster- 4 Another nauseatingly repetitious song, one that's to die for based on its guitar chug, heavy hitting drum stomp and fuzz organ. It feels at any minute Mark E. Smith could pop in and declare this a later period The Fall song that got away. The instrumental groove hooks you, as Pollard bellows away in the background. Post-punk for an exorcism. 

Alice Cooper Alarm Clock- 1 Cool title for what it achieves. However, this is strictly a fart and you'll miss it gap track of guitar noise that is seemingly broadcasted from a cheap radio. Oh there's an organ that plays a downer melody in there to. Necessary? Maybe. As a song, you get nada. Bleeds into...

End of the World Ice Cream- Stomping drums open this up, and it practically feels like we're in for some standard minor-chord rock. However, the drawling organ ensures we're into dipping into prog territory as Pollard delivers a strong vocal showing on the verses, but the hook in the chorus is a little "mehhhh." 

Do the Nixon- 5 Alright, you don't have to be a damn Pollard scholar to identify this as the immediate  hit of the LP. Circus Devils like to do this every so often, putting a downright pop-tastic track right in the middle of the chaos. Very likely could be on any Pollard solo album recorded with Tobias. From the guitar jangle, to the upwardly mobile guitar jabs, followed by Pollard's humorous, cleverly referential lyrics and simplistic hook it fires on all cylinders. It all feels so elementary, but goddamn triumphantly rewarding. AND at just under 2 minutes. 

Smoke Machine- After wallowing in damn near hip-shaking material, we dive headfirst right down downer alley. The verses feel comparable to some of the gloomier material off Please Be Honest, however, the chorus really pushes us into a fuzzed out '80s college rocker of sorts. The hooks are dark, yet powerful. Might miss the brilliance the first time around, but this one's a mini epic anthem of genius worth repeated revists.

Time Trapper- Dusty, lonesome acoustic picking over ethereal keys. Pollard sounds fragile, cold even. Like walking peacefully through a bad dream. The whole thing teeters on the edge of depression, while remaining mystical and cryptic. Folk-prog to freeze to death by. 


SIDE B:
Crucified By the British Press- 1 oooof. Fuck what I think, but this whole track's phoned in. From the left-over music, to the quality of the recording, to Pollard's corny lyrics and vocal styling. The vocals don't fit with the wimpy Tobias production throughout. And what's this song even about? A real, or maybe fake rock band, getting bad press? Don't know where this song fits in the Pollard cannon, other than maybe Suitcase, but I guess Circus Devils is a good place to dump it? So "normal," it's head scratching. 

Mr. Detail's Explanation- Lo-fi guitar fuzz in one speaker, brittle melodic chords in the other. The song, once it gets going, is straight melodic, layered vocal declarative ear candy. Pollard sounds strong, delivering what feels like a lost track from a '90s GBV EP, say, Sunfish Holy Breakfast

Farm Action- Sounds like an outtake from their previous LP Stomping Grounds. Another normal tune here. Has the feeling of "Girl in Space," off previously mentioned LP. Musically, the whole affair is a straight yawn. Pollard gives a noble showing, but it's all a pretty hum-drum, mildly pretty tune amounting to little payoff any way you slice it.

Into Gear- Schizophrenic piano loops about in the distance while jazzy percussion clangs its way around organ swells. Pollard speak-sings a repetitive tune in a reverb chamber, as if floating in space. A great one to hear in the dark. Beatnik cool meets one man's space odyssey. 

Cockroach Whiskey- Lonesome acoustic plucking, a real pensive tune as if off of the Escape LP. Pollard, appropriately, goes of the rails lyrically with untethered verse plucked from the stratosphere. It's like listening to one of his collages come to life. Mildly unsettling, with a quick assault on the ears kind of finish. Sad, strange, rewarding. 

To Each His Zone (Sunshine Baby Butt)- Alright. This title though? Just a slight wink and a nod to the lyrics "sunshine, baby but" in the chorus. It all feels like fairly adult contemporary. A far cry from Circus Devils' madness, as is most of this B-side. At first, this one plays out downright cheesy, but it's a well formed Pollard tune that needs time to settle in. Not breaking new ground here, but valiant effort nonetheless. This song does not rock.

Aerial Photographs From Alcatraz (Including 'Nightmare Parade')- Oh yeah, here's a Circus Devils tune for ya'. Spoken word Pollard stylings over heavy metal guitar droning and a nervy bongo stampede. The second part of the track slinks in after Pollard announces "Nightmare Parade" and through a mystic, warped mini stretch we sit. Yes, it does indeed feel slightly nightmarish. Thanks fellas, but average fair.

Asteroid*- So here we have it. We've come to the end. And what a perfectly beautiful ending it is. A simple two to three chord organ swelling track as Pollard sings it as if a eulogy, stating "the lights are burning out behind and ahead of me," and "dead cell material dissolving." Of course, this is all in relation to the song's narrator stating they are, in fact an "asteroid*." Ah, whatever the case, a perfect sendoff to a wrap up the daunting, maddening, beautifully eclectic catalog of Circus Devils. Farewell, on your cosmic journey through vomit, melody, dissonance, REM cycles, and space debris. 







Friday, November 25, 2016

Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean (2016)

Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean
(2016, Guided by Voices Inc.)


2016 was a relatively quiet year for Robert Pollard, that is, in terms of released material. The year opened strong with Pollard's solo outing, Of Course You Are, and continued with the return of Guided by Voices in Please Be Honest. So after, only 2 LPs worth of material (both with insipid, un-Pollardian album titles), the record store shelves and internet went dark with Pollard LP news for months. 2014 and 2015 combined saw nearly 30 releases (28 of which found its way onto this blog in separate reviews), while October 2016's Pollard release count sat stagnant at a mere two!

It's not as if Pollard wasn't keeping busy. For the first time in two years, Uncle Bob hit the road with his newly branded Guided by Voices line-up, making festival stops around the country (and across international boarders), making stops on the west coast and the deeper south. So when word got out that not only was Doug Gillard BACK in Guided by Voices following a mid-summer dispute/mutual departure with guitarist, Nick Mitchell, camp Pollard quickly announced the release of the new side project, ESP Ohio.

The announcement couldn't have come at a more convenient time. With the formerly mentioned addition of Gillard to GBV, the faithful couldn't help contain themselves over the possibilities that might lie ahead with Gillard back in the fold. Less than a month into his presence, and already a new LP had been recorded? In reality, ESP Ohio's first outing was put to tape in March of 2016, anchored by new addition, drummer (and engineer), Travis Harrison. On bass, Mark Shue, the newly acquired GBV's bassist makes his first recorded appearance on a Pollard recording as well.

Most importantly, this finds Pollard and Gillard working together again for the first time since 2011's Lifeguards' LP, Waving at the Astronauts. As expected with any Pollard/Gillard release, the prog takes front and center. Gillard, never one to shy away from guitar heroics, adds an overtly sleeker, sometimes underlying sleazier, side to Pollard's instinctual pop chops. With the return-to-form naming of Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean, the record as a whole may arguably be Pollard's personal dream release of the year. Rock, pop, and prog loaded, the LP is a promising first showing from another Pollard vehicle we can all hope ventures forward, in both name and spirit.

Also, two trivial aspects to touch on: Pollard originally was going to release 2013's Circus Devils' LP My Mind Has Seen the White Trick under the name ESP Ohio, but decided against it at the last minute. In contrast, that Todd Tobias/Pollard showing has little to nothing in common with this record. Also, speaking of Circus Devils, Pollard is most certainly the only rock musician (or person), to use the word "Cyclopean" in not one, but two, great songs in his career (check out "Cyclopean Runways" off Capsized!).



SIDE A:
A Much Needed Shot in the Arm- The song opens with hopefully mobile guitar jabs from Gillard as Pollard recalls an old melody that's hard to place but wholly familiar. The build-ups to the chorus really open things up until the song tightens a bit into darker territory. Before you know it, we're off and flying free again. The whole shebang stirs up late period GBV, when Gillard and Pollard were out take the world in their TVT Records days. 

The Great One- A somewhat idiotic vocal line opens up over what sounds like a wind-up, monotonously poppy march. Then a "fiddle" effect comes in for a few bars and absolutely crushes. The rest of the verses are a pretty bland mix of idiotic bomping. Fear not, for the song switches gears and carries us out into a first raising redemptive "chorus" that leaves you wanting more.

Tom Tom Small and Wonderful-  A bleaker, stranger trip down a dark hallway, stupid title and all. The echoing "la la la" vocal parts are straight haunting, but the whole song has a subtle vocal hook to it that really sinks its teeth in after repeated listens. Reminiscent of something off Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair. Again, the closing shines and leaves you in need of a revisit. Pollard is using his fadeouts to the height of their powers on this LP. 

Miss Hospital '93- Sounds a bit lifeless both vocally, and musically, at first (reminiscent of some Tobias recorded stuff from Pollard's solo Merge period). The chorus raises the bar, but the hook just seems to miss its mark. Pretty standard fair, garnished with some welcomed and appropriate trumpet fair toward the end. Abruptly ends and unwittingly shifts into....

Bird Man of Cloth- Oh man, what a transition! It's 2016, but it's like listening to Moses on a Snail all over again. The verses are like straight frowns put to tape. The chorus brings some rays of light, before pulling the curtains shut again. Pollard, his unsteady hand on the dial, can't help but keep turning up the prog factor on this as the song progresses. Unsteady, but rather solid.

Intercourse Fashion- Always one to dabble in both bad titles, and attitude laced rockers, this song delivers both. The verses show glimpses of stiff-upper-lip guitar chug rock, followed by some eye-roll worthy lyrics in the choruses. Speaking of said chorus, they are the complete, airy opposite of the verses. Still, the song feels more like 2 ideas interconnected haphazardly without a direct payoff.

You the Earth Man- Another slogging attitude rocker, thanks in part to that "oh that's Doug Gillard playing that, right?" guitar parts. This is the Lifeguards' song that got away on, say Mist King Urth. The verses are straight cornball, including Pollard's vocal delivery. The choruses save it, but the lyrics are straight from the scrap pile. If you can get past the schlock, and Gillards' ridiculous guitar bends, you'll be in for the track of your life. 

Flowers and Magazines- This one has the potential to really burst out at the seams as a true gem, flirting with cutting loose from time to time. However, this closer to Side A is progged as all hell thanks to Mark Shue's heavy melodic bass noodling, and Gillard's '70s guitar leads. Weird, short, catchy, and worthy of repeated listens. 


SIDE B:
Royal Cyclopean- 5 Released as one of the two singles off the LP, it is clear why. Everything about this track screams NEW Pollard classic! Yes, it recalls a lot of what made Pollard a household name in our hearts. A slow guitar chug holds this all together, as Pollard gives his melodic declaration before the song opens into anthem territory. Oh yeah, we're also treated to a ridiculously simple and empowering trumpet lead line through the verses. The blink or you'll miss it "chorus" is to die for. Gillard's lead guitar flourishes are top notch. To be loved for ages. 

Weakened By a Logical Mind-  Light opener following the opening blazer to side B. Pollard's vocals mirror the guitar stop start rhythm, but it's all works quite handsomely. The chorus is catchy as a bag of fish hooks in an overcrowded pond full of starved fish. Gillard's guitar leads, although subtle, are a highlight in this short outing.

Girls' House- 4 Feels slightly off-kilter but unfolds into rather pop standard fair. Gets catchier with further revisits. The only bruise on the whole thing is Pollard's baritone "in a girls' house" vocal interjections toward the end. Great, short instrumental section sees us out.

This Violent Side- Between the guitar stabs, the drum machine sounding beat, and the high end bass melody line, this feels more like Interpol goes pop than Pollard. The song breaks off into bleaker territory, before returning to its sweet, but thin, form. Yes, short and oh-so-sweet. 

The Ticket Who Rallied- Guitar rock, set-on-destructionm opens it up complete with nicely placed cowbell hits. How 'bout that? Ever shifting gears between prog-stadium sections and punchier punk territory, the song pushes forward. Each shift in mood is another short burst of excitement, even when you know it's coming. Pollard drops plenty of melodic interjections throughout, especially mid-section. Another brief Side B inclusion that cohesively holds the whole side together.

Sleeping Through the Noise- 3 Overall cold atmosphere, complete with Circus Devils' ambiance in the background. Pollard languidly gives a solid vocal showing more akin to melodic spoken word over this swamp of mood and short bursts of caffeinated aggression. Sounds like a lost Lifegaurds' track. Far from memorable in the scheme of things, but a quality mood piece tacked in for good measure.

Lithuanian Bombshells- The second of two singles released off the LP. Like "Royal Cyclopean," it's easy to see why. Is that vintage crowd friendly melodies I hear opening up the song? Better believe it. Could this be the great Ricked Wicky song that got away? For good measure, the song shifts gears following one of the greatest pop-oriented verses Pollard's written in a while. One of those rare times the verse outshines the chorus. But damn, do we need that downward shift in the chorus to make us appreciate the some of the finer points in life. 

Grand Beach Finale- 5 Great title! And a GREAT closing track. With a million and one chances to close his records on a high note, Pollard's missed the opportunity more times than not over the years. Here, at nearly 5 minutes, you've got to let it all play out. Wholly unimpressive at first, we slowly drown in sparse guitar work mixed with stomping drums as Pollard sings on assuredly. A slow burner that keeps it mid-tempo throughout, but let it works its mysterious ways on 'ya. The subtle harmonizing, backed with guitar pulls, leads into the "check them out.." parts. Play on and revel in one forceful track full of understatements and patience. 




Lithuanian Bombshells 7" (2016)

Lithuanian Bombshells 7" 
(2016, Guided by Voices Inc.)


One of two 7'' singles released a month before ESP Ohio's debut LP, Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean, each single features an LP track plus 2 unreleased Pollard/ESP Ohio tunes. Limited to 500 copies worldwide, both 7''s sold out in a flash at Rockathon Records.


Side A:
Lithuanian Bombshells- Same track appears on Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean. Check out the link for full LP review. 


Side B:
She Wrote Well (To Tell)- 4 This one's a collaborative effort between Pollard and bassist, Mark Shue. A punk tinged, pop heavy ripper. Catchier than the flu virus in a house of closed windows. The Pollard/Shue vocal harmonies throughout shine. Won't go down in the books as a classic, but deserves all the accolades we must give it. Fantastic.

Woah Nelly- Inevitable, I guess, that one day we'd finally have a Robert Pollard song named "Woah Nelly." Merely an observation. So creepier, dustier basement recording. Uncle Bob sounds rather candid here, as if just thrown from a deep sleep and propped up in front of a boombox recorder. Acoustic plucking, with sure-footed yet wobbly vocals, this is a rather beautiful, oddly addicting track. Sentimental, mysterious, and pulls at the heartstrings. 


Royal Cyclopean 7" (2016)

Royal Cyclopean
(2016, Guided by Voices Inc.)



One of two 7'' singles released a month before ESP Ohio's debut LP, Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopeaneach single features an LP track plus 2 unreleased Pollard/ESP Ohio tunes. Limited to 500 copies worldwide, both 7''s sold out in a flash at Rockathon Records. This one comes on clear red vinyl for all the color drollers out there!!! Whoa Nelly!


Side A;
Royal Cyclopean- Same track that appears on the LP Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean. Check out the link for full LP review. 


Side B:
I'm in Shock (Hit Me With Tonic)- 5  Holy Shit! What's this doing on a b side? Under 1 minute of vintage Pollard vocal melody candy played over tightly wound, melancholy punk pop. Reminscent of a Breeders formula, or a straight rip of "Keep it in Motion," the song is a throwback to all things we love about Pollard's writing. The guitar leads are to die for, the vocals hooks popping up at unexpected moments. Forever stuck in your head, pull the needle back and play it over and over again.

A Mallard Pushing- Written and performed by Doug Gillard. It's nice to see Gillard getting the main vocal showing, as the recent Pollard 7'' b-sides are often happy to let the role players take front and center. A minute and change long, this is sparse R & B lo-fi playing with a rolling acoustic lead to lead us out. The vocals are straight deadpanned, but comforting, and catchy. Sligthtly left of center, but goes down easy. Those leads'll get stuck in your head. Revisit to cure what ails ya.