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Pollard Returns to Lo-Fi Form on 'Waved Out'

Guided By Voices frontman crafts eclectic batch of pop-rock for second solo album.

It's almost comical that Robert Pollard, the singer/songwriter/guitarist

behind Dayton, Ohio's Guided By Voices, releases solo material that he

doesn't feel comfortable recording in the "confines" of GBV.

The band is, after all, a prolific, ever-changing entity known to record in

whatever pop music style that strikes Pollard's fancy.

With so much of the band's sound coming directly from his own ingenuity, it

only makes sense that Pollard might want to retreat and record without the

expectations created by the band's moniker. Now stepping out of the shadows

of GBV, Pollard has created his sophomore solo effort, Waved Out,

due to be released June 23.

Diehard fans who lamented the studio polish of the most recent GBV album,

Mag Earwhig! (1997), will rejoice in the decidedly lo-fi aesthetic

that binds Waved Out's 15 songs.

As was the case on his 1996 solo debut, Not In My Airforce, Pollard

recruits once-and-future members of GBV to back him on a handful of tracks.

In this go-round, they include ex-Breeders drummer Jim MacPherson and the

lone member of the Earwhig! crew still playing with the band,

guitarist Doug Gillard. Gillard, who wrote Earwhig's powerful "I Am

a Tree," co-penned the haunting yet beautiful "Caught Waves Again" on

Waved Out.

The lyrics on Waved Out are some of Pollard's heaviest and most

taciturn. Betrayal, abandonment and insecurity are fairly-consistent themes

throughout the album.

Here, then, is a track-by-track preview of the songs -- two-minute gems all:

"Make Use" -- A song that could have easily been an outtake from

GBV's Vampire On Titus album, with a pounding verse that bleeds into

a majestic, distorted chorus. It comes complete with vocals recorded

backwards a la some of Hendrix's more-psychedelic meanderings. Builds into

a "Maggie Turns to Flies"-like chorus that immediately sets the tone for

the album.

"Vibrations in the Woods" -- A staccato number with odd, start/stop,

oompah rhythms and chants about "heading north." The official elfin rally

song.

"Just Say the Word" -- Pollard produces some trademark, sludgy,

distorted guitar sounds at a midtempo pace. The first dark lyrics of the

album appear as well: "We create no perfect sword/Imagine the table where

I'm bleeding."

"Subspace Biographies" -- If a Bob Pollard album could ever produce

a single, this would be it. A glorious, rollicking ode to stamina, with the

refrain, "There is nothing worse than/An undetermined person."

"Caught Waves Again" -- Hands down the most melodic number on the

album, featuring Pollard weaving his lyrical wizardry ("Rattle man buzzing

made it through customs/Into the void and over the goalpost/Went up north

to where the city lights shine/Like strokes of aurora on bottles of

wine") over Doug Gillard's classical guitar-picking.

"Waved Out" -- The title track deals with a theme that Pollard

examines on the album, the idea of sensory overload from too many waves

(microwaves, radio waves, TV waves, new wave, etc.) filling the air.

Pollard infuses the message with irony, for this is the most new

wave-sounding song on Waved Out.

"Whiskey Ships" -- As anyone who's ever seen GBV live could tell

you, Pollard's no stranger to the sauce. This song, utilizing what sounds

like computerized drums fed through a fuzz filter, shamefully admits that

there's a dark side to sailing on "whiskey ships." Revelatory line:

"Without them, I'm not brave at all."

"Wrinkled Ghost" -- A brief, light, airy song that completely belies

its title.

"Artificial Light" -- One of Pollard's darkest songs: "Tell my folks

I'm captain tonight/Tell my folks I'm dead/I don't want to see them."

"People Are Leaving" -- Co-written by L.A.-based singer/songwriter

Stephanie Sayers, this is a rare, lilting, piano-based number that sounds

like a rainy-day jaunt through London. Dual-level vocals create odd

syncopation over lyrics such as, "The angels are making circles/The gift to

every naked fat baby/But everyone's leaving to look for a new place to

dance."

"Steeple of Knives" -- Pollard harkens back to straightforward punk

sounds, reminiscent of the Ramones, save for a left-field chorus. Should be

a kicker in concert.

"Rumbling Joker" -- An aimless, minor-key draft, dabbling in "Moby

Dick" themes.

"Showbiz Opera Walrus" -- Don't be alarmed that Pollard is 40 years

old and has now written his first waltz. This one's chock-full of enough

psychedelic circus imagery and canned applause to assuage any fans' fears

that the old man's getting soft. Best line: "The road to excess is a time

bomb/The kids in back wipe snot on the tail of the tuxedo."

"Pick Seeds From My Skull" -- Not a stoner's boast, but a simple,

acoustic guitar-based track cranked through the Pollard filter and returned

with computerized, high-pitched vocal harmonies.

"Second Step, Next Language" -- If there was ever any doubt that

Pollard was heavily influenced by The Who, this song will put it to rest.

Though not nearly as bombastic as The Who in their glory, "SSNL" replicates

Pete Townshend's guitar riffing, and Pollard offers up his best attempt at

a Roger Daltrey wail.