Eccentricity and amateurism might be virtues typically associated with the English, but Robert Pollard, singer with Ohio's Guided By Voices is no stranger to either....
ECCENTRICITY AND AMATEURISM MIGHT BE virtues typically associated with the English, but Robert Pollard, singer with Ohio’s Guided By Voices is no stranger to either. To the rest of the planet, though, he probably appears very strange indeed – a 42-year-old ex-primary school teacher whose mind sprouts from that damp patch of ground first seeded by Syd Barrett.
Preposterously prolific, writing songs like the sane write shopping lists, Pollard seems destined to spend his days on the far shores of the collective consciousness. This solo album is supposedly more linear than GBV’s sublime psychic splinters – which is true enough if the line in question was through a join-the-dots puzzle of the Milky Way. Otherwise, ‘Waved Out’ is another disorientated wander through a state of confusion.
Possibly because he’s American, Pollard avoids the Teddy Bears’ Picnic whimsy of much post-psychedelia, preferring to rummage through the sticky squalor left by The Stooges and H|sker D|. When it’s sung by a man with the voice of Paul McCartney if he’d tuned in rather than just tuned up, it’s never going to be as simple as alt-rock thrashing. The wired ‘Make Use’ and ‘Vibrations In The Woods’ have the panicked logic of Kristin Hersh, while the soft-in-the-head rock of ‘Whiskey Ships’ triggers delightful images of Steven Malkmus in Francis Rossi’s denim.
Yet for all Pollard’s undoubted strengths, self-censorship isn’t one of them. At times, ‘Waved Out’ sounds like he’s just hooked up his brain to a machine and let the songs ticker tape out in a squall of electrical impulses. “I am quail and quasar/I picked you up on radar”, he croons through the brassy thud of ‘Subspace Biographies’, coming within a government letter of being placed on the Addled Lunatics Register. That he can follow it with a line as pristine as, “There is nothing worse than an undetermined person”, makes you realise that there is sense lurking inside that skull after all.
Visit the inside of this man’s head before they make it into a theme park and another area of great natural oddity is lost for ever.