I'm a Strong Lion - Robert Pollard
Do Something Real - Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard
Motor Away - Guided By Voices
Lo-fi. Sloppy, shambolic, amateurish, lazy, unfinished, underarranged and underproduced. And often intentionally so. What an absurd conceptual framework for a subgenre of rock music. As much as simple economics initially drove the aesthetic, it became studied style more than anything. That said, I'm usually a sucker for this highly suspect stuff. But I never "got" Guided By Voices. My reservations are multiple: I don't like Americans who assume faux English accents, I don't like constant, unfiltered flow of product and I don't like unfinished songs--short is great, just not unfinished.
Save your lecture GBV fans. I've heard it, I took notes and I decided to toss them.
On the other hand, I've warmed to Robert Pollard compositions here and there, even fallen in love with a couple. "Motor Away," is such a fresh, unpretentious burst of sheer joy that it makes me want to steal a car, drive straight through the night and settle in the first friendly little town I hit. And I spent weeks seeking "Do Something Real" after hearing it in the Steven Soderburgh film Full Frontal. I had to buy the whole LP, Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, for that one track, but oh, so worth it.
Now Pollard's got a new solo album (US, UK). Normally this wouldn't cause a ripple in my little pond, but I heard "I'm a Strong Lion" on Sound Opinions a few weeks ago and it grabbed me. It's a bright, ringing tune that reminds me how few have the gift to peel off a melody with such expertise and nonchalance. The album cover? Early contender for ugliest of 2006.
You can find another album track and a bunch of demos on Pollard's Web site.