Keeping up with Robert Pollard is a full-time job. Review
even one of his records, and you can count on hearing from his people about
twice a month, each time with a new solo outing or a collaboration with any of
a half-dozen compadres. (For instance, this one came in the same package as
projects with Gary Waleik of Big Dipper and yet another excellent Boston
Spaceships full-length.) Still, it’s
hard to mind, when even Pollard’s discards are more fun that the rest of your
The Lifeguards disc pairs Pollard with fellow Buckeye, Do the Collapse-era GBV-er, ex-Cobra
Verde axe-man and all-round power pop mainstay Doug Gillard. It’s the second Lifeguards’ disc proper,
following by nearly a decade the debut album Mist King Urth (released on the Fading Captain series in 2002). The
two artists worked remotely to create Waving
at the Astronauts, with Gillard composing the instrumental tracks, then
sending them off to Pollard for lyrics and vocals.
Even so, there’s an explosive live energy. You’d never know that guitar-exuberant
“Sexless Auto” was composed in vitro. Despite its mail order origins, it cries for
a vast, sticky-floored, communal experience. You’ll be hard-pressed not to
bounce up and down to it, even if you’re on the bus with headphones and
everyone looks at you funny.
If anything, separating the instrumental from the vocal
writing allows for a bit more complexity and variety. “Paradise Is Not So Bad,”
the album’s top track, is a classic arena-ready anthem, punctuated by fuzzy
power chords and embellished with Pollard’s catchily surreal lyrics. (“Now I am
ready for the hit,” he says, and it does sound like a hit, regardless of what the charts say.)
Yet there’s a multiplicity of guitar ideas, a constant shifting in the
instrumental background, now blistering, now jangling, now bell-like and
By releasing three, four or five records at a time, Pollard
invites this sort of comparison, so I’ll say that Waving at the Astronauts is not quite a wonderful as the
Spaceships’ Our Cubehouse Still Rocks.
But it’s pretty damned good regardless, and anyway, if you don’t like it,
Pollard will have a dozen more for you by the time the year closes.
DOWNLOAD: “Paradise is Not So Bad,” “Sexless Auto” JENNIFER KELLY