The lyrics on Robert Pollard's new solo album sound like what psychologist Carl Jung and surrealist Andre Breton might have come up with had they drunk a lot of absinthe and ended up playing word games together. "Corroded lime I chased/ From my old window world / Seeming like an ancient demon / Waking up and waved out," begins the album's title track. Hmmm.
Musically, the album is what one has come to expect from Guided By Voices' Pollard -- fun, not very polished, and always pushing the envelope. Continuing the trend of
recent GBV releases, Waved Out wasn't recorded on a four-track. Large
stretches of the album don't even bring the phrase "lo-fi" to mind, and
despite what purists might think, this is not a bad thing. Not to say that
Pollard sounds professional: he's still not a very good musician, which
works fine, because he makes no effort to be. But he does know what he
likes, and isn't afraid to engage in some bold experimentation.
The album begins with charging, jangling guitars on the anthemic opener "Make Use." The riffs are the musical equivalent of Pollard's lyrics: catchy, instantly recognizable, and
weird enough to remind you that you haven't heard them anywhere before. When
a pair of buzzed-up synth lines make a brief appearance about two-thirds of the way
through the song (which, by the way, breaks the two-minute mark), you can't
help but smile at the sheer beauty of it all. With fifteen songs (a low number for Pollard), there's very little filler. Some of the slower songs drag a little, but most, like
"Wrinkled Ghost," are bouncy and infectious. But the uptempo numbers, like "Subspace Biographies," with its slashing guitar line built over incessant, churning rhythms (a la Sonic
Youth) are truly wonderful songs.
The best song on the album may be the moody "People Are Leaving," on which Pollard sing-speaks over himself. The melody is made up of a simple,
four-note bass-line set under an occasional triplet of guitar notes, and the
overall effect is eerily moving. (Stephanie Sayers plays all the instruments
on "People Are Leaving." It is her only appearance on the album, on which
Pollard takes at least a turn playing almost everything, and which also
features Tobin Sprout on a tune.)