Robert Pollard once kissed me on the cheek on New Year's Eve and changed my luck for a year.
It's true: we had made a decision to move north and things were looking pretty grim that night at Maxwell's. I was working a job I hated, Thers was adjuncting, I'd miscarried that summer, and we were beyond broke. I asked Pollard for a kiss for luck and in the next year I had a baby, Thers got a tenure-track job, and things changed pretty dramatically.
Been thinking lately that I need another Pollard kiss to get things moving again, but no matter.
But I always feel funny writing about Pollard. So much hipster ink is spilled on his brand of nearly psychotic genius, his frenetic, prolific catalogue, that it's almost pointless to try and say anything new, to suss out an Album You Need from the rapidly growing pile. And yet...
Waved Out is, I think, definitive for a number of ways. It's technically solo Pollard, though even when GBV was a going concern, he pretty unconcernedly drew from the solo catalogue as well for live shows. "Wrinkled Ghost," one of the most gorgeous songs from Waved Out, made its way onto the GBV stage at least once, to my delight, as did "Subspace Biographies," though Pollard sang the opening synth part himself. It features some of his finest songwriting, and some of his most professional recording up to that time. (This was before Ric Ocasek and the violins.) Not your standard lo-fi GBV outing, by any means. It's just a beautiful, melodic pop record (if the clunky "Showbiz Opera Walrus" be excepted). It's moody and thoughtful. Trust me; have I ever lied to you?
I mean, what can you say about this track list?
1. Make Use
2. Vibrations In The Woods
3. Just Say The Word
4. Subspace Biographies
5. Caught Waves Again
6. Waved Out
7. Whiskey Ships
8. Wrinkled Ghost
9. Artificial Light
10. People Are Leaving
11. Steeple Of Knives
12. Rumbling Joker
13. Showbiz Opera Walrus
14. Pick Seeds From My Skull
15. Second Step Next Language
An album which just had "Waved Out," "Make Use," and "Wrinkled Ghost" would already be a must-have. And that's not even cracking the transcendence of something like "Subspace Biographies."
From the Matador site:
Okay. As Dayton, OH¹s Guided by Voices moves ever-closer to Head Voice Bob Pollard¹s dream of re-making the first Cheap Trick record, he releases a (second) solo album showcasing the more eclectic side of his songwriting. Fine. It¹s all here, too: Wire, early Genesis, Nilsson Schmilsson, Beatles¹ White Album (Lennon only), Blue Oyster Cult (mainly Eric Bloom¹s haircut and Meltzer¹s song titles), XTC, Captain Beefheart, blah blah blah.
Waved Out (you know, like too many microwaves, radio waves, TV waves, New Wave) is a magnificent fucking record, maybe the best example yet of Bob¹s ability to compress a bunch of ideas that should by no means work together--drawing from prog, psych, and postpunk, mostly--into a two minute pop song that blows past most of what¹s out there like one of his ninety-mile-an-hour fastballs (Bob was, after all, the first to throw a no-hitter in the history of Wright State University).
A lot¹s been made of Pollard¹s spontaneous and prolific songwriting methods, and most of that¹s true, though he works much harder on his songs than even he likes to admit. Judging from Waved Out, he's growing increasingly comfortable and ambitious in formal studio-type settings, so that anyone who carps about ³unfinished arrangements² and ³shitty production values² ought to be pretty happy with this record. This doesn't apply, of course, to ³Caught Waves Again,² where he sings into a boombox over a tape of GbV guitarist Doug Gillard¹s noodling, or ³People Are Leaving,² (a really touching song, by the way, about a few recent Dayton tragedies) where he puts two separate melodies over an instrumental tape from LA-based songwriter Stephanie Sayers.
Let's see. A couple members of the latest Guided by Voices lineup (version 23, at least) played on the new record--Jim MacPherson (ex-Breeders drummer), the aforementioned Gillard. But the bulk of the record is pure Pollard, even a bunch of the drumming (his brother Jimmy helped out, too, as usual). Waved Out's extended musical reach is a much different matter than Pollard's first solo run, 1996's Not In My Airforce, which had a more spontaneous, DIY feel. The new one combines NIMA's self-indulgent bent with the better (i.e. more thoughtful) aspects of Bob's well-honed pop instincts.
What more to say? We're proud of the old coot, and despite his continued threats to move on to the ³porch rock² phase of his rock/drinking career, hope he continues to provide us with quality rock product of which Waved Out is the latest and one of the best.
Other reviews here and here. And an interview with Pollard from that period here.
Anyway, you need this record. Trust me: there is nothing worse than an undetermined person.