Although they split up in 2004, the ghost of Guided By Voices hangs over everything Robert Pollard does, and his latest effort is no different. Looking at the cover it’s hard not notice the “GBV” sticker and that the record was released on “Guided By Voices Inc”, Pollard’s new home after a two year tenure on Merge. What separates Robert Pollard Is Off To Business from past GBV/Pollard-related releases is its shocking “solidness”. I’m referring to the sensible 10 song/35 minute duration, and consistently professional production values. Is this the same guy who regularly released albums with more than twenty songs, many of which were recorded on a boombox? Yes it is, and he hasn’t sounded this clean and sharp since GBV’s Isolation Drills from 2001. I give a lot of credit for this rediscovered focus to collaborator (and ex-GBV member) Todd Tobias, who played all the instruments and handled recording, mixing and producing duties.
While the consistency may indicate a slight shift towards orthodoxy, the songs are still 100% Pollard, still 100% weird. There’s plenty of his trademark obtuse lyrics laying on top of musical references to The Who, Wire, and early prog-rock, but there’s also more memorable songs here than on anything else he’s released in the past few years. Very few guys over 50 release new songs that can ignite a fan’s passions as much as their older work, but Pollard (soon to be 51) adds to his already sizable canon with such soon-to-be classics as “Gratification To Concrete”, “Western Centipede and “Weatherman and Skin Goddess” (yell out for this one the next time he plays your town), and unlike most of his recent albums, you don’t have to sift through endless amounts of lesser material to find these increasingly rare gems – the entire album is good from start to finish. Add in some great artwork (also by Pollard, an under-rated visual artist) and you’ve got a return to form from an American original.