Release Date: Mar 20, 2012
Record label: GBV Inc.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop
On Mouseman Cloud, Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard is up to his same old genius. Lyrics and hooks circle and lend each other energy as the songs move forward—strange ones with clunky titles like “Picnic Drums” and “Obvious #1” gain fluid sense in the confident trill of Pollard’s unique voice. The guitars could gut a pachyderm, or make it head-bang anyway, the afterwash sneaking around its ears and into its heart.
With Guided By Voices back releasing records -- one in January, with a second already planned for June, along with a bunch of singles -- you may assume that Robert Pollard's solo material will return to its side-project status, as something lesser than the main thing, as another curious release to tide us over. Mouseman Cloud, however, makes a case that Pollard has been making for years now -- that his solo work is the main thing, and that, like much of Pollard's recent work (see Lord of the Birdcage), this is the album casting the shadow, not the the one hiding coldly within another's shade. On Let's Go Eat the Factory, the latest Guided By Voices record, Pollard delivers solid tunes, but sounds workmanlike as he resumes his role as frontman.
Compulsively prolific songwriter Robert Pollard has churned out no less than three albums of power pop-leaning indie rock a year (and often a lot more than that) under guises varying from his given name to the much-celebrated Guided by Voices to the slightly different Boston Spaceships. The different projects and monikers have incremental differences to separate them from one another, but Pollard's jumble-minded lyrics and '60s Popsike hooks are at the center of it all with songs shooting out like bits of confetti at a parade. Mouseman Cloud, Pollard's first solo record of 2012 but fifth of the very-young 2010s, is a pretty straightforward collection of the type of truncated short story-style indie rock we've come to expect from the man, and one more segment of his incredibly slow evolution.
I realize it’s trite beginning any review of a Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard solo or Pollard-associated record with a comment on the composer’s mythic prolificacy, but, honestly now, can you believe this guy is human? Only a couple months after the release of Guided By Voices’ “comeback” album Let’s Go Eat the Factory—and a couple of months away from the release of a follow-up, Class Clown Spots a UFO (remember that disfigured elementary school reminiscences are Pollard’s lyrical specialty)—he finds time to write and record the seventeen-track Mouseman Cloud. And the clincher is that it’s better than his group’s latest effort. Robert Pollard’s pop tune virility is a mixed blessing for both his listeners and himself.
What Let's Go Eat the Factory, the January comeback album from lo-fi godheads Guided by Voices' self-appointed "classic lineup," may have lacked in the blackout-savant consistency of the band's salad days, it more than made up for in recaptured camaraderie. More than anything, it nailed that feeling of getting a couple-three beers in you, flipping on the four-track, and watching the results roll in; in other words, not bad for a bunch of old guys. Mouseman Cloud is the beyond-prolific GBV frontman Robert Pollard's first solo LP since Factory, and comparisons between the two are inevitable.
Robert Pollard’s output for the past decade and a half has been nothing short of copious, steam-pressing rock albums together year after year like a machine. On Mouseman Cloud, his fifth solo album in the past two years, Pollard’s craft runs a bit stale, impressing more with quantity of ideas than actual substance. With the reunion of Guided by Voices, Pollard could have easily slowed down with his solo work, but it seems the band’s reformation only further empowered the frontman to continue penning lengthy, sketchbook-like LPs.