PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard

Let It Beard excels for the fact that it sprawls but also punches, that it feels both careful and ragged.


Boston Spaceships

Let It Beard

Label: Guided by Voices, Inc.
US Release Date: 2011-08-02
UK Release Date: 2011-08-22
Amazon
iTunes

As Robert Pollard’s attention shifts, at least partly, back to Guided by Voices (who, post-comeback tour, have two studio LPs due next year), he has brought his trio Boston Spaceships to a close. The chief, but definitely not only vehicle for Pollard’s creative impulses the past few years, Boston Spaceships consisted of Pollard, John Moen, and Chris Slusarenko. Their hallmarks were the use of older castoff Pollard songs and compact, energetic, tuneful pop-rock. All four of their albums before this one have meandered less than a lot of Pollard’s other post-GBV projects, though they were just as driven by his surrealist streak, collage impulse, and sense of humor.

Where their others were all 40 minutes or so, Let It Beard is a 70-plus-minute double album. The promotional talk and reviews have made it sound like a tightly constructed epic, but it feels more like a reservoir of everything left, a junkyard of new ideas and familiar Pollardisms. There are several melancholy slow songs and a variety of slightly warped, somewhat feel-good rock songs that sometimes blast away, sometimes give you something to hum along to, and sometimes drift off. There are joke lines (“Jason ate a lot of meat from cans”), surrealist ones, and the usual mix of heavy guitar riffs with pop melodies and oddball imagery. There are also guest stars: J Mascis (contributing an on-fire guitar solo at the end of “Tourist UFO”), Colin Newman, Steve Wynn, and others.

A few songs do feel like fresh territory for Pollard. “Chevy Marigold”, with backing vocals from Tahoe Jackson, is like Pollard’s version of Exile in Main Street, but deep down still a pop song. “German Field of Shadows” gets especially thick with dark atmosphere, like the Circus Devils’ mania channeled into more driven rock.

The most remarkable thing about Let It Beard is how it feels both excessive and restrained. Like the other Boston Spaceships albums, it has the demeanor of being brisk and focused, even while it’s 26 songs long and certainly lies fairly far off any conventional rock'n'roll road.

The songs that make the strongest impression are those where the melodies seem the most driven and carefully crafted, closest in feeling to the later GBV albums (but not, perhaps, to the next one, judging by the sound of the first single “The Unsinkable Fats Domino”, which self-consciously looks further back in the band's discography). There are several of those here: the single “Tabby and Lucy”; the Who-like “Minefield Searcher”; “Make a Record for Low Life”, a great tune that sinks its way into your brain; and “Christmas Girl”, which has a melody that soars but is also sad, Isolation Drills-ish. “Speed Bumps” adds to Pollard’s recent trend towards songs about everyday life, in this case people’s driving habits. Other songs similarly allude to garage sales, cooking, and getting the mail. Pollard is, at the end of the day, a 50-something-year-old Ohioan.

There also are moments of true spaciness, be it spooky or wistful, that reveal a lot of strange beauty, whether it’s the five-minute “Let More Light into the House”, the 90-second “A Dozen Blue Overcoats” (which explodes right at the end) or, my candidate for the song that sneaks up on you the most, the two-and-a-half-minute “No Steamboats”. Let It Beard excels for the fact that it sprawls but also punches, that it feels both careful and ragged. In its imperfect corners lie a lot of interesting things. The album’s breadth of ideas mimics Pollard’s career these days -- all over the place, but still remarkable.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.