Boston Spaceships Let It Beard album review
Forget about the Guided By Voices reunion that’s been taking place at music festivals around the U.S. this year.
While Robert Pollard conducts a final go-round with his beloved indie-rock outfit, the songwriter’s other life as a recording artist is way more interesting. Already this year has seen a number of Pollard releases, including his collaboration with former GBV guitarist Doug Gillard as Lifeguards, a collaboration with Big Dipper guitarist Gary Waleik under the name Mars Classroom, and at least one solo album.
Crazily, each one has been worthwhile, and each has offered up several songs that stand up with the very best of Pollard – an astonishing claim, considering the literally hundreds of songs he’s written and recorded, including what is perceived as his heyday with the ’90s versions of Guided by Voices.
Let It Beard is the fifth and arguably the most ambitious album by Boston Spaceships, comprising Pollard and former GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko, as well as drummer John Moen. A 26-song rock album, Let It Beard stretches Pollard’s songwriting and adds to his sonic arsenal; usually a guitar-bass-drums traditionalist, for Let It Beard Pollard opens the recording studio doors to allow in a cellist and even what sounds like a banjo (“Let More Light Into the House”).
The album also features guest appearance from Wire‘s Colin Newman, J. Mascis (guitar solo-ing up a storm on “Tourist UFO”) and Steve Wynn. It’s been advertised as “a subconscious concept album about the sorry state of rock ‘n’ roll” but, thanks to Pollard’s willfully obscure and colourful metaphors, you can listen to Let it Beard and happily think it’s about facial hair growth, mayonnaise or the joy of pushing together two inherently opposite words (“Chevy Marigold”).
In the past, Pollard has shown himself to be a master of Who-like anthem-rock, Beatles-esque pop, and even ’70s prog and glam, and Let It Beard is firmly in the rock/prog camp, but with enough melodic finesse to please pop fans. I’m only on the third listen, and the record is still offering up its treasures; it’s all immediate in its own way but a few more spins will be required before the classics are outed.
However, I can unreservedly recommend Let It Beard to Pollard and Guided by Voices fans; the album also makes another strong argument that, far from behind him, Pollard’s best moments are happening right now.