Not In My Airforce
(1996, Matador Records)
Released in between GBV's Under the Bushes Under the Stars LP and their Plantations of Pale Pink EP, Matador Records released Robert Pollard's first solo outing in October of '96. This is the first of what would become a mountain of solo LPs to see the light over the years, however, this would be the first of only two released on Matador Records.
The LP was also released on the same day as GBV bandmate Tobin Sprout's excellent solo outing, Carnival Boy, also on Matador Records. Pollard expressed disinterest in this decision, feeling it was unfair to have both LPs released on the same day. Pollard wished to distance himself from the Guided by Voices moniker with this release, and wanted to let the LP to be judged as a true solo outing. In the end, Matador got their way.
Pollard's first solo effort is a fully loaded package of lo-fi acoustic jams, and saturated with jangled mid-'90s indie that could have fit nicely on several GBV releases of this time. It remains one of the brightest spots in the solo Pollard catalog.
In 2017, the LP was reissued in it's intended format via Rockathon Records, the last 6 songs being included on a bonus 7'' rather than the proper LP.
Maggie Turns to Flies- 5 Surreal sound collage opening, launches into an epic mid-fi opener that shoots off the launch ramp. Inspired and grand. Classic.
Quicksilver- 5 Stellar AND quite simple acoustic number. This song would be a staple of some of this era’s GBV shows, and it’s clear. Too good.
Girl Named Captain- 4 Shoegaze pace with a shoegaze guitar crunch, and arena-Pollard vocal posturings. Hypnotically cool.
Get Under It- 5 Tightly wound pop drum and guitar coil. Simple structure. Subtly hooky melodies by Pollard, perfectly met with a big GBV-esque finish.
Release the Sunbird- 3 Run-of-the mill after the last four killer openers. Feels like a good idea that never got fully fleshed out.
John Strange School- 2 Spacey vocals over wavering, simple guitar picking. Serves better as a short mood piece more than a song. Tracks like this would become more prominent on later solo albums. Here, it serves as an intriguing, although forgettable segue to the next track.
Parakeet Troopers- 3 Ultra lo-fi and static guitar is paired with catchy repetitive vocals that are effective, in a nursery rhyme kind of way.
One Clear Minute- 4 Similar to something off an earlier GBV EP, this short acoustic number features fun vocal tricks, and great hook. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Chance to Buy an Island- 2 A no frills, slow throwaway track. Fairly boring. Not an island worth visiting much, let alone buy.
I’ve Owned You For Centuries- 4 Grand slammer, with excellent melodies in the verses. Short and sweet.
The Ash Gray Proclamation- 3 Lo-fi piano and seesawing acoustic guitars that sounds like it was recorded over tape that’s about to disintegrate at the threads. Off the cuff type stuff that works.
Flat Beauty- 5 Sounds like 3 or 4 songs off Under the Bushes... melted into one. And that’s a great thing! A mutated variation on great, steady tempoed mid-90’s era Pollard territory.
King of Arthur Avenue- 3 Uplifting acoustic number morphs into an ill assimilated rock jam for a brief five second interval. Would have been much better if served as straightforward acoustic, and cathartic pop.
Roofer’s Union Fight Song- 2 Swooning, crooning Pollard with out-of-tune vocals falter over acoustic strums. Borders on drunken bullshit, and then pretty much falls face first in it. Completely forgettable, although "Not in my airforce," pops up in the lyrics. How ‘bout that? You will at least remember that.
Psychic Pilot Clocks Out- 4 Psychedelic intro leads into mid-tempo, run-of-the mill stuff. It’s a song that, if for nothing else, you should stick with for the end reward. The big finish of “I feel life passing on by us,” repeated ad naseum is simply great.
Prom is Coming- 2 Leftover track of little note. Voice echos of poorly mixed guitar progression. Ehhh.
Party- 4 Late ‘60s pop style vocal melodies. Keep it like a secret because it’s a great little surprise.
Did It Play?- 4 Lo-fi guitar and vocal track is coupled with hushed vocal harmonies that rule. Early GBV EP stuff with more of those killer late ‘60s melodies, Pollard-style.
Double Stands Inc.- 1 Eerie, lo-fi strums ensue on a foreboding acoustic. Pollard vocals ring through an echoing tin can. Mood piece that falls flat.
Punk Rock Gods- 2 Another acoustic lo-fi track with doubled vocals. This song another moody, simplistic piece but manages to stay dull and predictably unsurprising throughout.
Meet My Team- 3 Short, quiet guitar and vocal track with some small, but effective melodies from Pollard. A throwaway that sparks some intrigue.
Good Luck Sailor- 4 Finishing the album off with seven short and simple songs can get dizzying on a whole, but “Good Luck Sailors” is, for sure, the best of the bunch. Would fit nice and snug on Fast Japanese Spin Cycle ,but makes itself a suitable home as an album closer here.