Release Date: Jul 9, 2013
Record label: GBV Inc.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
If you smile instead of feel cheated by a 45-second pop song that ends after one verse, then you probably like Bob Pollard. His 23rd solo record (and 16th since 2004) has a bunch of those. But smooth gems like “Airs” and “Who Buries the Undertaker” offset it with a relatively taut, clean sound that sometimes even recalls major-label-era Guided By Voices.
Robert Pollard has reportedly claimed Honey Locust Honky Tonk is his country album, and there he is on the cover dressing the part (or at least looking he’s visited an old-time dress-up booth atSix Flags). Somebody could stretch their imagination and connect this to country music if they focused exclusively on a handful of lyrical references. There’s a song about an undertaker, one about a woman in black, one about murder (“I Killed a Man Who Looks Like You” could be a country title, maybe) and a few bittersweet relationship songs which spell the story/feelings out more than he often does.
While Robert Pollard may not be as intimidating as The Fall‘s Mark E Smith, in terms of sheer longevity, creativity and output, he’s easily America’s equivalent. Honey Locust Honky Tonk is Pollard’s 38th album when taking into account Guided By Voices‘ back catalogue and, much like MES and The Fall, the end product in each case can be either terrific or patchy. Nevertheless, you can guarantee that once/twice/thrice a year Pollard has something to give to us, as the deluge of decent GBV and solo material in the last 18 months obviously shows.
Do a lot of people make it to 19 solo releases? What about while also boasting about elevendy billion group efforts? Robert Pollard is one intriguing, totally insane dude. Today he offers his 19th stag record, Honey Locust Honky Tonk. According to Rolling Stone, Pollard considers it “a mock country album even though it’s not country.” Because I know this man is a genius, I won’t argue.
I’m starting to worry that melody doesn’t count for much anymore. No, that’s not quite right. I’m starting to worry that melody isn’t really appreciated anymore. There we go. Any music that claims to fall into the nebulous genre known as ‘pop’ – in whatever guise it may take .
“Prolific” has long been the dominant adjective to describe Robert Pollard, and even then it sounds like an understatement. Deep into his fifties, he hasn’t lost a beat or slowed down a bit, but instead churns out album after album after EP after one-off solo thing after album. Already in 2013 he has released a new Guided by Voices album, a full-length under his Teenage Guitar pseudonym, a singles box set, and a 12”, with who knows what all else planned for the next six months.
Robert Pollard's 19th solo outing and second 2013 release (GBV's English Little League bests Honey Locust Honky Tonk by three months) continues in the vein of 2012's Jack Sells the Cow by offering up a fragmented set that looks verbose on paper (17 tracks) but yields a light cache at just over a half-hour long. Frontloaded with a pair of cuts ("He Requested Things," and "Circus Green Machine") that sound like post-Tommy fever dreams, Pollard's fetish for all things Townshend peppers a great many of the proceedings, especially the more abbreviated numbers (of which there are more than usual) like "Suit Minus the Middle" and "Shielding Whatever Needs You. " That said, sifting through Pollard's pop-fueled stream of consciousness hardly makes Jack a dull boy, as his acumen for the genre is almost as impressive as his productivity within it.
If you make an inverted pyramid of all the writing that happens around each new Robert Pollard album, the most important information at the peak basically consists of answers to the question “what’s the best song on the album,” and everything else (critical analysis, comparisons to Bee Thousand, the word “prolific”) fills out the rest of the triangle in random fashion. If you extrapolate that over his entire recording career, it’s basically the same thing, but on the kind of scale that makes the cenotaphs at Giza look like exercises in restraint. Although the guy pretty much functions as a day spa for jaded rock music fans — listen to any one of his top-drawer songs on a day you feel exhausted by stuff like “guitars” or “melodies” and you will be Revived — part of completing the maturation process is coming to the point where you can comfortably leave hacking at yourself to the masochists, and taking your hands off the Robert Pollard merry-go-round until the periodically reoccurring point that it reaches and pulls you back in.
Robert Pollard has been a particularly unrelenting creative force since reuniting the classic Guided By Voices lineup in 2010. The man must think in songs. He writes way more than he can release and releases as many as he can. In the past two years, Pollard’s dropped four GBV albums and three solo records, with Honey Locust Honky Tonk as the latest installment in his apparently infinite discography.