Music Reviews
Lord of the Birdcage

Robert Pollard Lord of the Birdcage

(Guided by Voices Inc.) Rating - 7/10

One of the most significant American songwriters of the past 25 years, Robert Pollard has gained a reputation for his incomparable ability to release a suitcase of albums at any given time - Lord of the Birdcage is remarkably his 17th non-Guided by Voices release. What’s more remarkable is the consistency and quality of his output, and this his fourth project for 2011 (and there's another double in the pipeline) is no exception.

Continuing to enjoy a productive relationship with long term collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias, Pollard adds a new twist to this one by reversing his songwriting process and transforming a dozen previously written poems into top-drawer rock songs. He’s never written in this fashion before and, while not sounding overly different from the songs he’s always produced, his customary abstract lyrics take centre stage.

Lord of the Birdcage consists of 12 tracks covering familiar territory such as mid-tempo powerpop, glam chugs and psychedelic indie rock. There are two-minute rock-offs such as the crisp Ribbon of Fat and jerky You Sold Me Quickly, as well as epic prog moments like the rewarding four-part mini opera You Can’t Challenge Forward Thinking. There is also lo-fi indie rock territory like the infectious Garden Smarm and strong album opener Smashed Middle Finger plus a notable number of pleasing ¾ waltz-time meters throughout. Better still is the whimsical, soaring ballad In a Circle, an album highlight to rival the might of say, The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory off 1994 GBV rock landmark Bee Thousand. Dunce Codex however is the knockout punch. Sung in a hauntingly ineffectual way and displaying an effortless ear for a tune and turn of phrase, it’s a beautiful song whether he wants it to be or not, and it's certainly the best track on the record.

While not on par with essential solo Pollard fare like Not in My Airforce, Waved Out or From a Compound Eye this cohesive, flowing work motors by and, as always, his stirring songs reveal themselves and their riches through repeated listens.