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Brown Submarine 

By Boston Spaceships. Guided By Voices, Inc.

"Prolific" suggests "fruitful" or "productive." Former Guided By Voices bandleader Robert Pollard is beyond prolific. The 51-year-old songwriter from Dayton, Ohio, has been busy. Aside from the 16 full-length records released by his band GBV, Pollard has released 20 solo records under his own name, and he has released 25 additional records of "side projects." Well, make it 26. This new "project," Boston Spaceships, includes GBV bassist and guitarist Chris Slusarenko (also part of Pollard's side project, The Takeovers) and Decemberist drummer John Moen. Also this year, Pollard's collage work, which has been featured as cover art on most of his various projects, was compiled as a book entitled Town of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery of Robert Pollard.

When Guided By Voices released Bee Thousand in 1994, Pollard nearly invented the term "lo-fi," recording in basements using primitive equipment. And for the most part, this has been Pollard and GBV's blueprint for recording. He's achieved an intimate and unique sound, especially for vocals (sung in a faux British accent). The result of Pollard's overwhelming output of songs is the equivalent to throwing pasta against a wall: Some noodles stick, others do not.

On Brown Submarine, Pollard forgoes guitar-slinging aces used on early projects, such as Cobra Verde's Doug Gillard or Tommy Keene, and instead opts for a strong drummer, John Moen. Not to say that Chris Slusarenko doesn't provide excellent, spare guitar and bass parts. He does. But Moen provides the most solid drumming behind Pollard since he worked with former Breeders stickman Jim MacPherson. The Boston Spaceships provide the proper backdrop for what Pollard does best: eccentric pop gems, filled with surreal lyrics, catchy melodies, with equal amounts of psychedelic and bubblegum influences. And yes, as usual with Pollard, there is the odd prog-influenced song -- in this case, "Still in Rome."

Songs such as "You Satisfy Me," "Ate It Twice, "Psych Threat," "Ready to Pop" and "Go for the Exit" burst with a jumpy, head-bopping vibrancy. You can't help to sing along with Pollard when he shouts, "Try on her shirt/ It's so my size ... She's so my size/ She's so my size/ She's so my size," at the crescendo ending of "Ready to Pop." The exuberance is contagious.

And that is Pollard's gift. Even after the staggering amount of releases he is responsible for, he's still got a lot of kick inside of him. And this time, with the Boston Spaceships, the pasta, for the most part, sticks.

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  • By Boston Spaceships. Guided By Voices, Inc.

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Mark Shikuma

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