4 New Albums
It's been a while since I checked in with former GBV frontman Robert Pollard's release schedule (June 11th 2008 in fact) and a belated effort to do so now quickly unearths a whopping 4 new records. The kind of output that makes even John Frusciante look lazy. With Pollard's usual hit-rate in mind, I was expecting at least four new tracks for my ever expanding best-of-Pollard playlist.
Boston Spaceships - Brown Submarine - Sept 16th 2008 - 3 Stars
First up is the debut album from Pollard's 'new' band - the Boston Spaceships. A collaboration with former GBV band mate Chris Slusarenko (also featured in The Takeovers) and Decemberist John Moen, the band marks an effort to re-capture that 'full band' sound that has been missing from many of Pollard's post-Guided By Voices projects.
Go For The Exit starts the record with a slice of classic Pollard, as thoughtful lyrics wind over a simple guitar, before exploding into power chords - while Ready To Pop threatens to re-visit the successful magic of GBV's final album, but somehow never quite takes off. There's little in the way of experimentation here, so the simple-but-fun Rat Trap provides a welcome break from the otherwise even footing of much of the album, which is generally operating on cruise control, with only two songs even building beyond the 3 minute mark.
Circus Devils - Ataxia - November 11th 2008 - 2 Stars
The Circus Devils has been a longer-running side-project for Pollard, partnering with producer Todd Tobias and brother Tim Tobias. Ataxia marks the sixth full-length from the project and like a musical desk drawer, the record is packed full of sound bites and ideas while largely remaining a little incomplete.
Not dissimilar to one of Pollard's own art collages, the record has countless moments that catch your attention and a scattergun approach will always hit a few targets. The meandering epic Fuzz In The Street fails to gain any traction, while promising moments appear with the unfulfilled mystical intro to He Had All Day or the Procol Harum-esque spoken word of Stars, Stripes and Crack Pipes.
Just as your patience may be wearing a little thin however, another bonifide gem is polished out of the album's rough diamonds - as the gentle intro of The Girls Will Make It Happen gives way to a pounding drums and hypnotic lyrics that thunder along at a relentless and engaging pace.
Robert Pollard - The Crawling Distance - Jan 20th 2009 - 2.5 Stars
After the excellent albums Off To Business and Normal Happiness, Pollard seemed to be finding his stride in a world without GBV and the hit rate was soaring. Sadly the magic has momentarily gone again and we're back to the plodding middle-lane driving of tracks like No Island or It's Easy. Lyrically, as ever, there's plenty of interest - but without fully developed musical backing there's little to really grab your attention.
With the turbulent peaks and troughs of most Pollard records there's nearly always a killer track but, unfortunately, here the sea is calm and little breaks the surface. As a consequence, there's no real stinkers either, but I'd gladly drop a couple of tracks in return for that one diamond.
Boston Spaceships - Planets Are Blasted - Feb 17th 2009 - 2.5 Stars
A mere five months after their debut, the Boston Spaceships are back with a sophomore effort - Planets Are Blasted. Rather than build on the strengths of the original however, the record unfortunately misses the mark, lacking muscle and falling back into the one-dimensional trap that plagues much of Pollard's projects. Big O Gets An Earful tries to build up a wall of sound before fading away and Canned Food Demons makes a brave effort to bring the album up a notch, but it's too little too late. Sounding like it was recorded in parts, the record again lacks that power generated by a full live band holing up in a studio for 9 months. Or 9 days for that matter.
Circus Devils - Gringo - April 14th 2009 - 4 Stars
Before I'd even finished writing this review (quite literally) details of another Circus Devils album arrived in my inbox - their seventh album, Gringo, due out on April 14th on Happy Jack Rock Records.
It's arrival was not a moment too late. Forget the descriptions ("1970's Morricone-esque with a South Western flavour") and focus on the music, as Gringo is the easy highlight of this current run of releases. The album's more acoustic bias immediately dispels the tinny studio sound that has marred many of the releases cover here and in stark contrast to the Circus Devils' last record there's a full sound with a cohesive approach and multiple layers of interest. The epic Monkey Head takes the prize for album highlight, with a sprawling - almost prog - approach played out through booming acoustic guitars. Thumping sing-a-long Easy Baby ebbs and flows beautifully while Witness Hill wraps up an engaging record with suitable style.
Thanks Bob, I'll check back in six months.
27th Feb 2009 - Tumblr3
Turn To Red
Robert Pollard Is Off To Business
All That Is Holy
Blues And Boogie Shoes
Zero To 99
Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
5th Oct 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Interesting doc following the lives of 3 teens becoming adults, tied together by skateboarding.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Stylish sequel, hampered in places by some authentic 1960s pacing.
30th Jun 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Out-there kids fable with an old school Tim Burton vibe.
16th Jun 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Rock solid 90s style indie movie. Beautifully assembled at all levels.
31st May 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Fairly one-sided Police doc about the seemingly dislikeable trio.
7th May 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent, but slightly muddled parenting indie.
28th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Forgettable re-imagining of a not totally unforgettable Disney classic.
27th Apr 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Solid stop-motion animation that’s light on plot, but high on charm.
12th Apr 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Surprisingly stylish sequel that drops the ball in classic straight-to-VHS style halfway through.
6th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Opaque Alaskan thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, with little regard for convention.
1st Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Low key indie spin on Rambo, as a father and daughter try and live off grid.
28th Mar 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Fun biopic that runs out of steam about when the band did.
25th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
A diminished remake of Deadpool 1. Occasional LOLs.
25th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
High concept sci-fi that stretches its concept a little thin.
19th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Unremarkable, cliche-ridden actioner. Utterly lacking in suspense.
17th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
A disjointed patchwork of homages, nods and rip offs from dozens of other movies, with little to offer of its own.
11th Mar 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Laborious, high-concept alien horror. While the concept is good, the beats are all well telegraphed.
2nd Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Witty, if a little obvious, post-meta rom-com.
1st Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Second Part
It’s literally a re-hash of all the themes of the first one with a few less jokes.
23rd Feb 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Slight, but sometime engaging iPhone feature.
26th Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Decent modern spin on Mary Poppins. Bit uneven, but a nice soundtrack helps things along.
20th Jan 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Bog standard entry into The-Rock-action-movie genre. As much personality as a computer game.
3rd Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
This time it’s really, really serious. Seriously.
27th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
It’s a musical ...but slick direction makes it just about bearable.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Pop-culture bouillabaisse, hampered by numerous terrible accents.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Pacey, emotional, old-fashioned indie pic. Beautifully observed.
15th Dec 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly underwhelming biopic that doesn’t find its feet until 20m from the end.
24th Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Utterly derivative / thoroughly enjoyable ‘Heat’ rip off.
21st Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews