October 2, 2012

Disco Vietnam doesn’t advertise.

Greetings from godless Los Angeles! Disco Vietnam reporting to you from the plush leather couch at Casa de Jeff Weiss on vacation for the Days of Atonement. So far I’ve managed to break his shower curtain, compromise several of his deadlines and cock-block him twice (That would make me the schlemiel and Jeff the schlimazel if you’re keeping score). It’s Day 3. I have discovered, however, that Jeff achieves his luxurious hair through an assortment of seven different shampoos, conditioners and controlled-release follicle treatments. Wish I’d known this before I started going bald. This is 30. Winter is coming.

Beneath the Hollywood Sign’s persistent stare, weed is legal and Scientology is tax-exempt. Needless to say, my suburban Long Island visual aesthetic feels somewhat out of place here in L.A. The shirt I wore yesterday was way too blue; today’s shirt is not quite blue enough. The Angelenos can sense my insecurity and I can sense their hostility.

Robert Pollard has been out of place his whole career. A 4th grade teacher disguised as a rock star (and vice versa), Pollard is certainly among the more unlikely defining cultural figures. Still a radical — rebellious, fearless and uncompromising — his imagination defies our curatorial tendencies. It all counts. Just finish what you start.

For an artist as notoriously prolific as Pollard to be enjoying possibly his most prolific year to date is pretty astonishing. Pollard began 2012 having reunited the “classic” Guided By Voices lineup of the Bee Thousand era. This past February, the band released Let’s Go Eat the Factory, the first GBV album since 2004’s Half Smiles Of the Decomposed, quickly followed in June by Class Clown Spots a UFO, possibly the best collection of Pollard tunes since the band’s celebrated 90s albums. Both records find Pollard maximizing his strengths: the songs are muscular, efficient and unpredictable, ideas developed to their full potential. Like all great Pollard songs, absurdity approaches insight to make wrong notes right.

Last Tuesday, Pollard released his most recent solo album Jack Sells the Cow, the follow up to April’s Mouseman Cloud, another solid, characteristically idiosyncratic rock record, less colorful than its GBV cousins, perhaps, but just as immediate and rewarding. November promises GBV’s third release of 2012, The Bears For Lunch (certainly a title with personality, which bodes well).

Guided By Voices are decidedly ineligible for contemporary critical tastes – there’s no glory to be found in high praise of a 25-year-old band’s 19th studio album — but certainly some attention ought to be paid. After all, cultural relevance as an artistic pursuit is for chumps.

MP3: Guided By Voices – “The Opposite Continues”
MP3: Robert Pollard – “Bats Flew Up”

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