Honey Locust Honky Tonk
(2013, Guided By Voices Inc.)
Following 2012's highly consistent effort Jack Sells The Cow, Pollard returned with a full LPs worth of material, ready and willing to out-duke its predecessor. Honey Locust Honkey Tonk is a packed record. 17 songs in 34 minutes, it plays out more like a GBV record than some of the GBV reunion records. Not to say that Honey Locust Honky Tonk sounds like classic GBV on most tracks. In fact, Pollard's constructed an LPs worth of raw material, chocked full-of listenenable, attention worthy tracks with little filler. Todd Tobias, long-time producer, and Circus Devils counterpart, does a stellar job fleshing these songs out. In short, it is Robert Pollard's strongest solo album, arguably, since the '96 debut Not In My Airforce.
He Requested Things- 4 The lead-off track to 2013's first Pollard LP is a grab-bag of Pollard styles, much in vein of the record as a whole. Acoustic lead-in into semi-arena rock, into airy pop. The whole this has a slight prog underlining, and is pretty damn catchy. Where other Pollard tunes may have easily flown of the rails at any of these changes, this opener holds strong.
Circus Green Machine-4 A mix of Brit-pop and Brian Wilson on this short track that builds up into arena rocker before giving way back to its airy pop ways. Yes!
Strange And Pretty Day- 4 Some simple piano banging around. Pollard's vocals sound like they're coming from a tin-can. Where in recent years, this has often spelled disaster, this is a mysteriously sad, and pretty, pop ballad. Very Daniel Johnston of Mr. Pollard.
Suit Minus The Middle- 4 Song fades in to stomping, upbeat rock-pop. Classic approach here! 2 part song, that's pretty much a verse, and instrumental "bridge?" Whoa!
Drawing A Picture- 5 A LSD-pop trip to Candy Land? Pollard does The Kinks? Whatever the case, this song follows steps 1, 2, and 3 of pop songcraft. From it's repetitive whistle hook, incredibly infectious repeated melodic hook, and lead guitar propulsion, this is one of Pollard's '10s bests.
Who Buries The Undertaker?- 4 Equal parts later '00s GBV and the best of Pollard solo material of the early 2000's. Great, simple as pie, stabbing guitar lead.
She Hides In Black- 4 '80s radio pop-bomp kicks this in, and holds true for the verses. However, this track is far from lame, as it breaks into a solid '60s brit-pop chorus.
Her Eyes Play Tricks On The Camera- 3 Squealing organ,somewhat crunchy, heavy-handed jam. Some of the stronger moments here, vocally and melody wise, get lost in this meandering, crashing downer, but sustainable arena-prog song.
Find A Word-5 Bass heavy, beautifully guitar jangled track. Pollard's bitter-sweet, easy flowing melody is quiet beautiful on this. The main bass line is dower, and yet catchy as all hell. Great, short closer.
I Have To Drink-3 Great title in the Pollard realm. Super short, guitar anthem tune. Sounds like a Springsteen snippet piece, but with excellent melodies. Decent opener to Side-B.
Flash Gordon Style- 3 Rocking, propulsive track with classic GBV one-note guitar line throughout most (i.e. "Shocker In Gloomtown"). Song is powerful, but fails to deliver strong melodic moment to put it over the top.
Igloo Hearts- 2 The first real filler of the record. Some weirdo vocal effect/delivery over simple, melancholic and rather doleful pop guitar, and off-time drum rumble. Short, but not so sweet.
Shielding Whatever Needs You- 4 Short and sweet guitar/vocal effort that yields strong on Pollard's melodic part.
I Killed A Man Who Looks Like You- 5 Glum, '80s, The Cure/Echo and The Bunnymen-type pop feel to this rainy day tune. An extremely strong, chilly track. A touch of rarely visited material in the Pollard cannon with great lyrics. A new day classic.
Real Fun Is No One's Fun- 2 Slow, stomping anthem that's more a credit to Todd Tobias' Circus Devils training than Pollard's melodic line of songs that's shown up thus far on the LP. The rambunctious, anarchic, joyous sing-a-long outro is worth some price of admission, but mainly a drag.
It Disappears In the Least Likely Hands (We May Never Not Know)- 3 Damn, that's a long title! Upbeat, steady GBV mid-LP rehash tune, but spruced up nicely by Tobias' production. Pollard's melody is without frills, but song remains satisfyingly catchy, if not somewhat underworked on by Pollard.
Airs-5 Damn, that's a short title! Sounds like classic '90s GBV, if not a popular '80s lite-FM radio pop hit. Don't let that detract you, however. This breezy, steady pop tune should be on the fucking radio, in a perfect world, thanks to Pollard's easy melody and Todd Tobias' accomplished instrumentation.