CD Review of Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions by Robert Pollard
Recommended if you like
Guided by Voices, Circus Devils, Airport Five, Robert Palmer,
Vintage R.E.M.
Label
Merge
Robert Pollard:
Coast to Coast Carpet of Love
Standard Gargoyle Decisions

Reviewed by David Medsker

()

O
ld rockers never die – but sometimes we wish they'd fade the hell away. Old, prolific songwriters are a particularly troublesome subset of the old-rocker clique, possessing the ability to write really, really bad songs and thrust them upon their respective fan bases as misunderstood art.

Oh yeah: Robert Pollard, the crown prince of all that is right in recent indie rock, whose voice has evolved into a dead ringer for Robert "Addicted to Love" Palmer's, turned 50 on October 31?

While Pollard's prolific output necessitates a shotgun approach to his catalog -- and sometimes makes for thin records -- this time around he got it right. The label's promoting the two simultaneously released albums thus: Carpet shows Pollard's Beatles side, while Gargoyle, his Stones side. It's kind of accurate, and better than nothing. Such a pigeonholing gives us a familiar context with which to listen, something that many Pollard albums suffer from the lack of, but it's also a risk: Does it try to justify twice as much music that could have been whittled down to one decent record if they tossed out the weaker material?

If we accept the premise that the first album is "Beatlesque," certainly Pollard takes more from Lennon than McCartney. His sometimes cryptic lyrics hang on melodies that take interesting chordal routes to resolution, as opposed to Sir Paul's big, straightforward hooks. "Our Gaze," "Rud Fins," and "Miles Under the Skin" definitely caught some of Revolver's tailwinds – they’re rich midtempo productions dripping with pop chords that any sensible rock fan can't help but adore. Other rockers, such as "Pnumbra" and "I Clap for Strangers Now," they share more in common with Pollard's own Guided by Voices back catalog than the Beatles, but that's a good thing--because GbV sounded great a lot of the times, and his prodigious solo output's been more meandering and spotty at times than that of the beloved underground band he authored.

Gargoyle sounds different, an evil twin of Carpet. Pollard mischievously starts off with "The Killers," his interpretation of Jagger's bad-ass persona, a pretty greasy little uptempo track that his faithful fans will totally dig. "Pill Gone Girl" comes next, evoking the perverted street style of post-Exile Stones style that made Jagger exciting in his late 20s and 30s but turned disgusting right around Tattoo You. On the record, ironically, Pollard's at his best when he's ripping off Richards' raunch rock; "I in the World" is a banging, bouncy blues that sounds fresher than most anything he's done since "Hank's Little Fingers," and the frenetic "Accusations" -- an awesome cut -- recalls the roiling groove of "Shattered." Still, if Gargoyle ripped off the Stones anymore, it'd be annoying. Pollard rides the fence well, giving us a fresh-sounding platter without being annoyingly derivative (see Styx's and Smithereens' pathetic recent Beatles cover projects if you really want to know what that sounds like).

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