Since 2005, a new Robert Pollard record has meant you're either getting 20 scattershot songs or 12 solidly built, traditionally structured ones. His new album, though, Jack Sells the Cow, doesn't fit into either of these camps. Or it fits into both. It's only 12 songs long, but those songs clock in at just a half-hour, and the songs do jump around to a number of different pop stylings.
While Jack Sells the Cow is the second solo album of 2012 for Guided by Voices main man Robert Pollard, it's set apart from its predecessor, Mouseman Cloud, by its lack of collaboration with any of his GbV bandmates. Initially, Pollard going it alone sounds more or less the same as not. The songs are a little more prog-leaning and a little less pop, more akin to the bloodshot psychedelia of side project Boston Spaceships than the melody-centric fare of the reunited Guided by Voices.
There were times when Robert Pollard seemed to dream of playing to packed stadiums. As is part of indie-rock folklore by now, back in the late ‘90s the ragged group of musicians who played with him in Guided by Voices were disbanded, replaced by a tight, competent backing group. Pollard and this new version of Guided by Voices worked with former Cars lead Ric Ocasek to produce a glossy, punchy, and generally unloved album (Do the Collapse) that was meant to be the band’s major label debut.
Robert Pollard doesn’t need three minutes to make a song stick in your head for the rest of your life. Hell, sometimes he doesn’t need a minute. It’s what separates him from so many others, and he’s been doing it for decades. Time is never an issue for Uncle Bob. Time, as a wise man once ….