Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department (1999)

Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department
(1999, Fading Captain Series)

1999 found Cobra Verde guitarist, Doug Gillard, in the midst of the late '90s Guided by Voices roster as lead guitarist, and all around string virtuoso in the greater Ohio state area. This potential Pollard solo release marks the first properly annotated collaboration between Pollard and Gillard.  This comes 4 years prior to the two striking out again on '03's Lifeguards LP, Mist King Urth.  The brilliantly named LP strikes up a few brilliant moments in this early Fading Captain Series release. 

Frequent Weaver Who Burns- 4  Light, British-tinged pop.  Acoustic driven, and cheery.  Melodies flow like a saccharine river. Just don’t listen to the lyrics.  Pretty ridiculous there.

Soul Train College Policeman-  3  Moody and deserted sounding.  Sparse, minor-chords fiddled with over buried drum bursts.

Pop Zeus- 5  Irresistibly good lead guitar lines that completely make the song. Driving, pogo-pop. Hell of a collaboration. Get on your fucking roof and yell this at the postman or neighborhood dog walker, because it’s that good.

Slick as Snails- 2  Long, run-of-the-mill, small stadium rock snoozer. Almost epic, but can’t seem to get out of its mid-fi way. Always boarders on having a good hook, but always seems to fall short.

Do Something Real- 2  Post-punk tinged pop with starts and stops, and awkward, fairly annoying chorus.  Crunchy, industrial sounding. File under forgettable.

Port Authority- 2  Layered guitars and vocals make up this weird, over-long track. Poor guitar effects that meander on too long while tumbling drums bang away in unison.

Soft Smoke­-  2 Acoustic chord strums while Pollard talk-sings some crazy avant-garbage.  Under a minute of forgettable poetry. Spills into the even more surreal…

Same Things- 3  Space, prog vocals echo into the recesses of your brain over creepily plucked, darkened acoustic patterns. Moody and effective.

And I Don’t (So Now I Do)- 4  Mid-tempo, acoustic driven GBV sounding song. Sounds like it could have been amped up enough for Isolation Drills. Decent, lone sung melody in the chorus. Vintage radio-pop “ohhhs and ahhhs” included at no extra charge.

Tight Globes-  4 Unmemorable guitar palm-muting, with Pete Townsend grand strums, and rolling drums. Eventually breaks into full-on late era GBV style jamming.  Pollard pens a great vocal melody over this fairly forgettable music giving the song some pop-credibility.

I Get Rid of You- 1  Tremolo shellacked guitars and heroin-rock, guitar noodling. Dark and dripping bad dream in the land of Prog.

Life is Beautiful- 2 Open room vocal sound is amazing!  However, this song is not.  Verses seem to show promise, but the rest of the song is Pollard singing along to every weird guitar rhythm that’s hit. The sullen, airy “Life is Beautiful” part is pretty but also kind of unnervingly sappy.

Messiahs- 2 The lead line is so silly that it’s pretty awesome. Sounds like a warped kids toy. But beyond that, the song is dismissible. Not much in the way of melody, song goes nowhere, and it sounds unmixed.

Larger Massachusetts- 3  Electric guitar with Pollard vocals. Folky, pop complete with small melodic vocals lines and decent lyrics to make it fairly effective.

And My Unit Moves- 3 Piano pounds away as Pollard deeply croons.  Seems like they ran out of other instruments to carry the last two tracks of this thing.  Mildly catchy, mildly depressing closer.


  1. strange, i totally disagree with you on this one, i get rid of you is one of the best songs, and pop zeus one of the worst.... nevermind, great blog ;)

    1. "And I will not pretend to be
      extending a hand that holds the key
      unlocking a plan that can consider you"

      I too love I Get Rid of You... I also love Pop Zeus.

      Also I really love Slick as Snails! It took me a while to even pay attention to it, but, man, I love how it comes across as kind of straight forward but then the melodies start sliding around. What's the chorus? What's the verse? Structurally it's so unusual. (I'm no musician, though)

      Sorry. Just had to jump on and rep for those songs. Great work!

    2. Over the years, I've been reading fan reactions to this LP in particular that make me continue to want to listen with fresh ears. I go back from time to time, but still stand with most of my reviews on this one, although, I could elaborate more on songs, or might describe them differently today. I'll say, I'm not nuts about "I Get Rid of You" but perhaps it does not deserve a 1. I'm willing to say it's worthy, even bumping it up to a lower 3 nowadays. Maybe one day I'll wake up to this record with a clearer head. Thanks Dustin for the input!

    3. I wouldn't say you need to reconsider any of it or change a thing. It's one of the things I enjoy about being a fan of Pollard. You can meet other fans who are into totally different songs and albums than you. There's so much there that you can form a personal relationship with it.
      I've had friends that I've desperately tried to get into GBV who just weren't having it. I'm not friends with them any more but my point is, I'm happy to know anyone who COULD shout Pop Zeus from a rooftop. Whether or not they like "I Get Rid of You" won't matter at all when we're on that rooftop.

  2. Love Pop Zeus, the rest of the album is interesting, but nothing really leaps out at me. I think Mist King Urth and Waving at the Astronauts are better albums.

  3. Pop Zeus is genius. Slick As Snails is genius. And I Don't (So Now I Do) and Frequent Weaver Who Burns are wonderful. Do Something Real and Tight Globes are up there too. This is Pollard's best solo(ish) album. The two Lifeguards releases are crushing disappointments in comparison.


    1. Totally agree with you on Lifegaurds' LPs, Jules. Some folks love them. I don't see it.