CD Review of Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks by Cosmos
Cosmos: Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks
Recommended if you like
Guided by Voices, Cardinal, The Moles
Label
Happy Jack Rock Records
Cosmos:
Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks

Reviewed by Jim Washington

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A
former teacher, Robert Pollard really knows how to juggle assignments.

Just this year, the ridiculously prolific rocker and Guided by Voices founder has released the solo album Crawling Distance and another album with side project the Boston Starships, not to mention a book of his artwork, as well as starting a label and going on tour. You would think between all that -- plus other active side projects including Circus Devils, Acid Ranch, Airport 5 and the Takeovers – Pollard would be running out of creative juices. If so, he must have plenty to spare.

Cosmos is a collaboration between Pollard and slightly lesser-known indie rocker Richard Davies of the Moles and Cardinal. Between them, they probably know or have worked with everyone in the indie rock world (Aussie Davies once went on tour with the Flaming Lips as his backing band, for Pete’s sake), but on Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks the spotlight remains on the two singers (the band does include members of Sugar and Neighborhoods).

Pollard and Davies split the vocal duties on this album of charmingly lo-fi acoustic pop which basically sounds like they got together and banged it out in someone’s living room one night. The album manages to marry the two artists’ love for catchy pop tunes and indie strumming. Following a short, atmospheric intro track, the album trades back and forth between those two poles. On "Don’t Be a Shy Nurse," the first full-length track, Pollard croons "let me sing a song with you," which kind of sets a friendly tone.

"Nude Metropolis" (I’m not sure where these titles come from) ups the ante with shimmering guitars and backing piano, and things build from there. The album is short and sweet at 14 tracks, two of which are less than a minute long, and none are longer than three and half.

I guess it’s natural that the pop tunes call more attention to themselves – songs such as "Westward Ho" and "Grapes of Wrath," which calls to mind David Lowery and Cracker, plus the one-two punch of "For the Whiz Kid" and "The Neighborhood Trapeze."

But after repeated listens, it just may be the softer side, including "Sudden Storms are Normal," "Just by Pushing a Button," and "Hail Mary," sung by Davies, that stick with you like homework that actually teaches you something.

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