Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Elephant Jokes (2009)

Elephant Jokes
(2009, Guided by Voices Inc.)

Following the drab, and rather aimless The Crawling Distance, Pollard returned with his second solo outing of 2009. Elephant Jokes proves to be a much stronger follow-up due to an unearthed trove of hooks and flat-out killer songs. Upping the ante, Pollard returns to glory-day GBV form, in terms of packing this thing full of fucking songs How many songs? 22! Twenty-two! 22? Yes, 22. Thant's 2 more songs that the previous two solo LPs combined.  The unfortunate reality of Elephant Jokes, however, rears its ugly head examining the lopsided nature of the record. A highly digestible side-A eventually gives way to a rather dank, and at times, idiotic side-B that can cause open palm to smack hard against forehead (i.e. "Hippsville  (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever)").  Still a solid outing on the Pollard home front. 

Side A:
Things Have Changed (Down in Mexico City)- 5 Excellent opening track, akin to heavy late '90s/early '00s GBV. Great dynamics. One of the most promising opening tracks of the solo Pollard cannon. And all at under 2 minutes.

Johnny Optimist- 5 What a two-fisted opening to the record . Where as “THCDIMC” was a moody heavy hitter, “Johnny Optimist” is a bouncy, pop chugger. A radio-ready track with a riff so simple and effective it's maddening.

When a Man Walks Away- 5 Verses fall on the heavier side of things, with a breezier, jangly chorus. Compact and excellent. Sounding a bit like the good old days. No proggy-trickery, or convoluted instrumental sections.

Parts of Your World- 4 Acoustic song with a sense of urgency in the verses, spills into weird unsettling chorus build-up. Pollard is knockin' em up and knockin' 'em dead thus far.

Symbols and  Heads- 4 Intro sounds reminiscent of material off of Mag Earwhig/ Under the Bushes to me. Mid-tempo, solid rock track. The “Oh yea, Oh yea” chorus is a the only weak spot.

I Felt Revolved- 3 Light sounding tune, guitar and vocals mostly, with some awkward Pollard melodies creeping up. A little thick on the British accent, Bobby. Bit of an afterthought track, but not bad.

Epic Heads- 3 Heavier song with some angular chord progressions, and pretty goddamn epic choruses. Song length keeps it effective.

Stiff Me- 4 Crunchy, simple, and ultimately catchy. The stop start choruses aren’t much, but the simple, repetitive stomp of this song is infectious enough for the win.

Compound X- 3 Light, no-frills tune with rolling toms and easy finish. Ahhh, goes down smooth.

Accident Hero- 3 Starts like a jilted “Jessie’s Girl.” The chorus sung with a drunken grandeur, and the song waivers at points. Pollard sounds a little pukey on parts, making it less effective than it could be.

Tattered Lily- 2 After the length of The Crawling Distance, this one is the epic of the LP at 3:35. Intro sounds similar to something off early '00s prog-GBV. Unfortunately, the track is longer than it needs to be, after a slew of stream of conscious tracks, making it a bit of a chore.

Side B:
Hippsville (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever)- 1  WHAT?  “Don’t you just like college?” sung at the weirdest, melodic upward inflection of all time.  UGGHHHH.  This is where the editors are needed.

Newly Selected Dirt Spot- 4 Brief, bouncy pop bliss with sharp lead guitars, and schizophrenic choruses.

Jimmy- 5 Has Tobin Sprout returned?  The opening double vocal verses are vintage Bee Thousand era GBV. While not wholly original on a Pollard writing level, the song IS wholly refreshing. (terrible lyrics though. Jesus).

Pigeon Tripping- 2 First evidence of Circus Devilery slipping into this solo album. Moody, noisy-funk with duel shouted vocals?  Intriguing, but not much else.

Spectrum Factory- 3 Sounds like an outtake lef-off the Carbon Whales EP, South.  A post-punk feel, moodier with well placed synths, and monotone verses. Bigger choruses, but a little averaging sounding. No real punch ever delivered.

Perverted Eyelash- 1 Unfortunately there’s a song called “Perverted Eyelash” on this earth now, and unfortunately it sounds like this.

Cosmic Yellow Children- 1 This Bowie-esque space rocker is hokey and unmemorable. Wanking off on a child's synth sometimes yields disappointing results.

Blown Out Man- 2 Moody, downtrodden tune. Not much in the way of hooks. Primarily a stuck in the muck rock piece with little extras. Does include a few out-of-tune vocal spots.

Desiring- 3 Pollard acoustic ballad with some unfortunate easy-listening synth strings in the background. The acoustic dynamic build-up at the end feels less craptastic, and ultimately, this ballad is pretty fucking solid at its core.

(All You Need) To Know- 2 Slow and steady wins the race with a simple, whistleable riff holding the verses together.  Unfortunately, the upfront, baritone Pollard vocals are a bad choice.  Would much rather hear him cut loose on this track. Also, what should have been a 2 and a half minute song, adds another unnecessary minute.

Architectural Nightmare Man- 3 After a killer opening and a sputter to the end, getting the closer right was a crucial move for “Elephant Jokes.” Well, it’s sort of there.  The intro to this song is acoustic strums in a skipping pattern which is cool in a “Pluto the Skate” type way. But then it spills into trudging bullshit territory that nearly sinks the good graces.


  1. Weird. "(All You Need) To Know" is my favorite song on the album. I think elephant jokes and we all got out of the army could have been a stellar double album.

  2. listened to this the other day. "Desiring" is pretty damn good.

  3. Will always be top 5 Bob for me. Wish he did more albums such as this. You're right though... second side is a bit dopey. It's almost true to what this album is, though.

  4. listened to this again. holds up. solid album.