Release Date: May 31, 2011
Record label: Guided by Voices
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop
One of the biggest failings of Robert Pollard's ever-expanding body of solo recordings has been that the sizable majority of them follow the same template: Pollard writes a new batch of tunes, throws some words on them, records the vocals and acoustic guitar tracks, and frequent collaborator Todd Tobias does the rest. Not surprisingly, these albums tend to sound and feel very much the same, and most of the strongest albums from Pollard's post-GBV repertoire have found him switching up his formula by working in different ways with other people, most notably on his Boston Spaceships, Keene Brothers, and Lifeguards projects. Now Pollard has found another way to upend his routine; while he has traditionally written music first and then added lyrics, for Lord of the Birdcage he's taken ten poems he'd previously authored and set them to music.
As far as I’ve witnessed, the main criticism of Robert Pollard’s post-Guided by Voices work has been laziness. He uses old lyrics, does albums where other people write all of the music and he just sings over it, and he puts out too much music without editing himself. I find the notion of Pollard as lazy antithetical to reality. How can someone who has released four albums already this year, with another double album scheduled, be lazy? Perhaps it’s just that listeners haven’t adjusted to the clear switch in direction he made, in spirit if not style.
The more Robert Pollard churns out post-GBV records -- and there's no sign of him stopping-- the more it seems he's island-hopping from muse to muse. While the quality had been consistently high for the most part, the albums themselves tend to be all over the place. Space City Kicks harkened back to early-GBV ramshackle records, a sound which coincided nicely with the "classic" line-up's reunion tour.
One of the most significant American songwriters of the past 25 years, Robert Pollard has gained a reputation for his incomparable ability to release a suitcase of albums at any given time - Lord of the Birdcage is remarkably his 17th non-Guided by Voices release. What’s more remarkable is the consistency and quality of his output, and this his fourth project for 2011 (and there's another double in the pipeline) is no exception. Continuing to enjoy a productive relationship with long term collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias, Pollard adds a new twist to this one by reversing his songwriting process and transforming a dozen previously written poems into top-drawer rock songs.