Robert Pollard: Blazing Gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen, let us give our thanks for the likes of Robert Pollard. Without him, hundreds of delightfully weird songs would not be released every year in America. This year he’s brought us the LP English Little League and the EP Down by the Racetrack with his band Guided By Voices, and solo he’s released the delightful Honey Locust Honky Tonk. However, this former teacher is not one to rest on his laurels, and he’s out to show the younger acts how it’s done with Blazing Gentlemen.
In a way, Blazing Gentlemen serves as a companion piece to Honey. Whereas the previous album was lighter and in parts country-tinged, Blazing Gentlemen is unapologetic rock music. There’s a relentlessness to Pollard’s writing that demands to be admired: the tracks are short, but there’s plenty of them, with sixteen songs clocking in at just over half an hour. This means a lot of ideas come together and punch you in the face before moving on.
There’s also a sense that wit and sound are valued over earnest expression. Pollard is a lifer, and he makes good songs without having to hand you his heart with every lyric. Title track “Blazing Gentlemen” sounds like a dirtied up version of The Cars with the resigned repetition of “What can I do? I like you.” “My Museum Needs an Elevator” shows off his knack for intriguing lyrics with “Help me, Mr. Space Invader, are you an engineer?” And “Tea People” shows off just a bit of pop with a catchy refrain.
Is this Pollard’s greatest solo offering? No, but the man is consistent with his short, fun music. Few can boast the quality of his output at all, let alone with how quickly he pushes out these albums.