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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 09:43 am

Guided by Pollard

In a parallel reality, the former Guided by Voices frontman is a rock god

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Robert Pollard From a Compound Eye (Merge)

Robert Pollard
From a Compound Eye
(Merge)

Nestled in a black hole somewhere in the unobservable universe, there is a parallel reality in which Robert Pollard is a rock god. In this realm of total awesomeness, there is only one radio station (FM and album-oriented, natch), the human liver is eternal, and no one ridicules you simply because you’re pushing 50 and still doing onstage high kicks. Here the former Guided by Voices frontman sells out football stadiums, not just indie-rock clubs; here his boozehound heroics, flagrant Daltreyisms, and ability to crank out genius pop melodies by the thousands are admired by everyone, not just mildly maladjusted alternageeks. What Pollard calls the “four Ps” (punk, psych, prog, and pop) rule the airwaves, and the inhabitants never get bored because, as luck would have it, they’re all headphone-crowned guitar fiends, stoned immaculate and perpetually primed for the Pollardian playlist (e.g., the Who, Genesis, T. Rex, lots of Guided by Voices). The iPod, the CD player, even the humble cassette deck will never be invented here, and no one will care. It’s no accident that From a Compound Eye, Pollard’s first solo album since Guided by Voices disbanded, was conceived as a double album. Even on the CD, the track listing is helpfully divided into four “sides,” a cheekily reactionary gesture that allows plenty of room for his arena-sized ambitions. Although there are enough instances of lo-fi experimentalism to appease fans of early GBV, the bulk of the album’s 26 (!) songs are professionally rendered, perfectly conceived examples of the four-P paradigm, from the hook-happy pop of “Dancing Girls and Dancing Men” to the bombastic prog of “Love Is Stronger than Witchcraft” to the Humbert Humbert-meets-Bon Scott psych-punk of “I’m a Widow.” Few artists could fill 70 minutes in such a satisfying way; few are brave enough to try. Beam us up, Robert.

Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3
. . .Tick . . .Tick . . .Tick
(Down There/Red Eye)

Over the past quarter-century, Steve Wynn has preached the curative powers of filth, beckoning his followers to a promised land located somewhere between Neil Young’s Zuma and the Velvet Underground’s Chelsea. The former Dream Syndicate leader combines the grimy grandeur of Nuggets-era garage bands and the ragged glory of Neil Young with the lyrical virtuosity of Television, crafting a singular style that doesn’t change with each passing fad. In the Miracle 3 — drummer Linda Pitmon, bassist Dave DeCastro, and guitarist Jason Victor — Wynn has found the ideal accomplices, as anyone who’s caught one of their rare stateside gigs can attest. (When I saw them headline Twangfest a few years ago, 40-year-old men were actually crowd-surfing.) . . .Tick . . .Tick . . .Tick, recorded in 10 days at Tucson’s Wavelab studios, may be the closest approximation yet of these incendiary live sets. The opening cut, “Wired,” sounds a bit like the Stooges covering one of Bob Dylan’s talking-blues songs, pitting Wynn’s distorted sneer against a furious dual-guitar fracas, and “Killing Me” sounds like a train made of knives, grafting the classic Bo Diddley beat to roaring, buzzing riffage and a trippy overdubbed slide-guitar figure. Co-written by crime novelist George Pelecanos, “Cindy, It Was Always You” resembles a lost outtake from the Dream Syndicate’s untouchable Medicine Show, its squalling harmonica, punishing drums, and interlocking hooks serving as a kind of objective correlative to the narrator’s inner stalker. According to Wynn, the goal for Tick was to sound “louder, harder, sicker, freakier, more hopped up on goofballs than what we had done before.” Mission accomplished: With its stinging leads and fuzzed-out riffs, its apocalyptic snarl and feedback crackle, Tick is all white heat and white light, jittery psychedelia for a fractious new millennium.
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