Monday, November 27, 2006
Robert Pollard - Bowery Ballroom - New York - Nov. 13th
Who is Robert Pollard?
Robert Pollard pretends that he's not here to bullshit anybody. He wears a sky blue gas station attendant shirt that harkens back to his youth in America's heartland, but, upon closer inspection, the shirt has "U.S. Mustard Company" written on its back (from a song off From a Compound Eye, released earlier this year) and is for sale at the merch stand downstairs. Seems he's as much of "straight shooter" as Mr. Bush. Is this the schoolteacher who founded the seminal Guided by Voices twenty years ago or is this the megalomaniacal control freak who disbanded them in 2004?
Pollard rips through a case of beers (on ice in a tub in front of the drumset), half a pack of fags, and the Democratic majority of a bottle of cheap booze at the Bowery. He also tears through over forty songs and close to half of them are shit. Two minutes long, hammering and headbanging one minute, dead the next, no hook - most of Pollard's solo songs can't stand up to the neuvo-classic Guided by Voices tracks laid down on hallmarks Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes (although new numbers from Normal Happiness - released in October - sound more promising).
On what he says is his hot hit (his sloppy verbosity gets him into some sticky situations), "Towers and Landslides," Pollard's vocal dexterity exemplified in his GbV days – oh, the days - is evident. In a Joe Cocker stance, he clasps a beer in one paw and the mic in the other, bellowing from Eddie Veddar lows to Jack White highs. One wonders why he doesn't tone down his prolificacy (BMI has him as the author of 924 songs) in favor of discrimination.
The "ex-jock" doesn't touch any instruments; he leaves that to the other boys. He high-fives and fist pounds the rowdy audience, encourages surfing, and gets utterly smashed.
All hail Robert Pollard, head of his own frat party.
And what would a fraternity be without some hazing? During a few of his drunken rants, he rips everyone from The Strokes to Lou Reed a new asshole. In a particularly poignant Pollard moment, he suggests a title for The Who's new release: Who Gives a Fuck? I would ask the same question of Mr. Pollard.