Still capable of surprises; songwriters bow ye heads in penance.Fire Records, 2016
7.5 / 10
Scratch the introduction here. If you don’t know who Robert Pollard is, go back and listen to all things Guided By Voices. If you do, then you are probably very aware of his prolificity and his nearly unmatched abilities as a tunesmith. Needless to say, his latest solo album, Of Course You Are, specializes in the same riff-heavy, melodic rock and roll that has been his bread and butter for over three decades.
Though Pollard could have certainly just chalked this up to business as usual and made all the songs sound like his particular strain of Who/Beatles/Kinks influences, here he actually takes some time to branch out, with some almost brand new, unheard sounds popping up here and there. The orchestral “Come and Listen”, comes as a sweet surprise, and the backing track could have been buried in The Soft Bulletin somewhere. It sounds like almost nothing else in his catalogue (I am wary to say with absolute certainty, because, for all I know, he’s recorded an entire album of Pet Sounds covers). This change could be attributed to the new addition of Nick Mitchell, who played all of the instruments and produced the record, and his playing here is tight and varied.
Then there are the requisite pop nuggets that come with any Robert Pollard album like presents on Christmas. “My Daughter Yes She Knows” is a solid kick-off, though it feels like one good idea was never fleshed out. “Little Pigs” has a nice little hook, but the real keeper is “I Can Illustrate”. Sounding like any of the Mag Earwhig! highlights, it cycles through hook after hook until ending with a spiraling prog whirlwind of a coda. “That’s the Way You Gave It to Me”, a relaxed charmer, sounds like the worn, but no less vital, man that Bob must be, having turned 58 last year.
It remains to be seen of what will come of this latest iteration of Guided By Voices, and whether it will last. Let’s hope that, freed from the constraints of the nostalgia-peddling “classic lineup”, Pollard will be left to create in peace, no heaping of expectations piled on each show and release.