Guided By Smotroff: A Pollard Primer

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By now many of you know I’m a big fan of the band Guided By Voices (GBV) and their lead singer and main songwriter, Robert Pollard.

Prolific really doesn’t accurately describe the output of Pollard and his bandmates — just this year alone GBV issued two albums (the last one was fabulous!), with a third to come, while Pollard has a second new solo album on the way.   Not surprisingly, many find it daunting keeping up with all these releases, especially Pollard’s solo stuff.

Beginning in the mid ’90s, and escalating a bit in the mid ’00s when GBV were on hiatus, Pollard has put out 20-30 albums (depending on how you count ’em up) separate from the band. And then there is the Fading Captain Series, including multiple box sets (“Suitcase” series) of demos an outtakes and such.

Daunting doesn’t really accurately describe the level of fear even the most seasoned and passionate of musician feels when approaching Pollard’s work.  Said a guitarist/producer friend to me one time when discussing this: “I mean, its like, really?  Its a little ridiculous already.  I can’t keep up with it!”

And frankly… neither can I.

Imposing really is the word that best describes Pollard’s output.  But that’s not a bad thing — bless his heart and soul and fanbase for letting him put out what he wants when he wants.  Bit by bit, I have been trying my best to keep pace, picking up about 18-20 of these solo and side project releases new or used when I can find them.  They are, mostly as expected, a mixed bag of rock and folk infused pop, usually a bit longer and sometimes heavier (in a classic rock sense) than GBV material. But what a groovy mixed bag they are, and in those bags are occasional bona fide gems that somehow didn’t make it onto GBV albums or eventually did creep into the GBV oeuvre.

I gotta say, the most recent Pollard solo album, Mouseman Cloud, was a bit of a letdown, especially when compared to the majesty of Moses on A Snail (reviewed here) and some of the other albums he’s put out in recent years.  I  like to think this is not a sign of him burning out, but more a reality that the best songs ended up on the GBV albums.

Accordingly, I have decided to create a playlist of sorts of the “best” tracks from the batch of solo Pollard albums I own.  These are the tracks I might put on a mixtape for a friend who I am trying to introduce to Pollard’s work, or to create a mix to play in the car (actually, that is what I am doing with it now).

Here’s the list so far — and make no mistake: it will evolve.  Note that I’ve included links to versions I found  online to make it easy for you to click on and listen to the tracks.  Of course, if you like the tracks, please — support the independent artist — head over to iTunes  or Amazon to buy the tracks from Mr. Pollard.

 Guided By Smotroff: A Pollard Primer

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