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: The Planets Are Blasted

On The Planets are Blasted, Robert Pollard and company concentrate their eccentricities into a more potent dose of quirky rock music that can be as affecting as it is goofy.


Boston Spaceships

The Planets are Blasted

Label: Guided by Voices, Inc.
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2009-03-03
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

"Headache Revolution," the lead single from The Planets Are Blasted is not new, and amateur Guided by Voices historians -- of which there are many -- know that. The song first popped up on a bootleg website that came with the release of Isolation Drills. On the site, a video of Bob Pollard featured him at home sitting on his couch, playing a song he wrote that morning. That song was "Headache Revolution."

But the song's inclusion on this new Boston Spaceships record isn't arbitrary. And it isn't Pollard struggling to fill out an album, because we know he doesn't ever have that problem. Instead, it is a re-imagining of his past, and not even necessarily his past with Guided by Voices. Pollard has clearly used Boston Spaceships to mine a vein of youth still inside him, and the music that has come out has been energetic and sometimes goofy -- but always compelling. Last year's Brown Submarine was silly and catchy and all over the map and excellent; however, on The Planets Are Blasted, released just five months after its predecessor, Pollard and company concentrate their eccentricities into a more potent dose without losing any energy or stylistic range, and then they thicken up the songs even more with light but affecting string arrangements. The album proves itself to be as intricate as it is immediately catchy and much bigger than its 35-minute running time would indicate.

"Headache Revolution" works not only as a time capsule but also as a single representative of the Boston Spaceships' sound. The song has transformed in the eight years since Isolation Drills from an acoustic demo into a towering, albeit brief, piece of pop rock. The nuanced chorus gets bookended by towering rock theatrics, as drummer John Moen plays a bracing, barely in control Keith Moon to Pollard's acrobatic, Daltrey-esque vocals.

In fact, Pollard's love of prog and classic rock appear all over The Planets Are Blasted, but he smartly filters them through his brilliant knack for quick, punchy pop songs. "Big O Gets an Earful" is tumbling, moody and builds to arena-sized keening from Pollard on the bridge. The head-bobbing rock of "Tattoo Mission" lines itself with dark and weighted flourishes of strings. "UFO Love Letters" is a muddy and menacing track, dragged out of its own muck and mire by Pollard's to-the-rafters singing. It comes as a nice shadow to the sunny, orchestrated pop of songs like "Catherine from Mid October."

And Pollard revisits his old sounds on moments outside of "Headache Revolution," too. The chord rundown at the outset of "Queen of Stormy Weather" can't help but put you in the mind of Bee Thousand's "Echoes Myron," and the vocal melody on "Heavy Crown" has more than a passing resemblance to "Everywhere with Helicopter" from GBV's Universal Truths and Cycles. But these echoes of the past are just that and used here to lead into Pollard's current sound. These days his vocal melodies categorize as a little looser, a little more drawn out and experimental.

This looseness fits Pollard and Boston Spaceships well. It shows Pollard, while he does peek over his shoulder once in a while, isn't interested in walking backwards, and he looks all the better going forward with John Moen and bassist/guitarist Chris Slusarenko pounding out the tunes behind him. Sure, it is easy to hear a knockout, goofball pop song like "Canned Food Demons" or the swaying lilt of "Sylph" or the intricate orchestration of "Lake of Fire" and call to mind different periods in the Guided by Voices discography, but direct comparisons never quite fit because Guided by Voices is over. And Boston Spaceships is not a side-project. It is Pollard's excellent new rock band, with their own wide swath of sounds, their own loose-limbed, wild-eyed sound and their own pure pop joy. And The Planets Are Blasted proves quite a statement for a band just getting started.

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
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.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


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.