For fans who couldn't keep up with the amount of music sneaking out under various names during the days of Guided by Voices, a peek at Robert Pollard's website shows that his penchant for unleashing tons of music hasn't slowed down any, even accounting for the fact that some releases with dates in the past couple years are archival in nature.
He's on a seemingly unstoppable roll since finishing his contract with respected indie label Merge and going off to business on his own in a more serious manner. The Fading Captain label has given way to several new imprints, the main ones being Happy Jack Rock Records and Guided by Voices Inc. For anyone coming late to the Pollard party -- or, like myself, who hasn't maintained a complete obsession with keeping up -- it can all be very overwhelming.
For GBV listeners who haven't checked out much of his recent work, it's time to jump back in. After several years focusing on mostly solo-credited works (and not too many live shows) Pollard is back with more of a full-time band project, the trio Boston Spaceships. In true Bob fashion, the group has already released four albums since its 2008 debut, Brown Submarine. Most of the music for that album was performed by latter-day GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko, with the Decemberists' John Moen on drums and Pollard on vocals. The same lineup is back for their most recent studio disc, Zero to 99, as is the set up of recording the music in Portland and the vocals back in Ohio. This time around there's also an array of intriguing guest players, including Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Sam Coomes (Quasi) and Tommy Keene, but their work blends into the whole seamlessly rather than popping out as a star showcase.
Zero to 99 hearkens back to GBV discs like Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes, albeit with some longer songs mixed in. The jumpy sonic characteristics of those discs occasionally surfaces here, as tracks start and stop awkwardly, segue seamlessly and move between crisp audio and some that sound as if they were recorded on a hand held cassette player.
Even better, that vintage Pollard hook-laden pop songcraft is in full effect, and after only a few plays, songs from this album are beginning to stick in my head. Fans will recognize some of these songs from previous volumes of the Suitcase GBV archive series, but the new songs match up well with the older ones. I've enjoyed all of the recent Pollard albums I've heard -- especially the more experimental Circus Devils releaes -- but none have been as immediately grabbing as Zero to 99. (Guided By Voices Inc.)