Mars Classroom – New Theory of Everything

January 01, 1970



Two legendary songwriters – Guided by Voices Robert Pollard
and Big Dipper’s Gary Waleik — join together here in one more swing for the
fences. They’re a natural pair for a whole lot of reasons, the kind of
forehead-knocking combination that makes you blurt out, “Why didn’t I think of
that?” Both are more cultish than mass popular, both are prone to submerging
sharp hooks in soft fuzz, both unnaturally obsessed with sci-fi imagery. Both
are also long-time appreciators of each other’s work. Pollard is said to have
been instrumental in getting Merge to reissue Big Dipper’s catalogue via the
wonderful Supercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology.
One of Big Dipper’s rare recent live appearances was on a double bill in Boston with one of
Pollard’s other projects, Boston Spaceships.


Yet more to the point, both Pollard and Waleik are blessed
with songwriting credits on a string of artfully tailored, sloppily played
songs that, in some alternate universe, are massive, massive hits. (Imagine
Casey Kasem counting down and hitting “She’s Fetching” and “Hot Freaks” in the
top ten. Yeah, I want to live in that world.)   New
Theory of Everything
extends this list by a couple of songs, tempering
Pollard’s natural Who-like power-chord bluster with an unexpected sweetness and


“New Theory” opens up with disc, with a rain of guitars and
a promise to “ring out the old break up the bland.” The song is classic
Pollard, a folk-ish modal melody braced up with rackety, aggressive guitar, but
uncharacteristically inward looking. The song is not about really about string
theory, as the title suggests and as Pollard’s Ed Wood-ish preoccupations might
suggest, but about his and Waleik’s struggle against obsolescence. The final
verse follows an incandescent guitar solo, even that bright certainty leading
into rueful contemplation of how things are and how they should be. “With all
the glittering concepts/all the myriad headtrips now in demand/the kids are not
going to try it/the public’s not going to buy it/they won’t understand,” sings


New Theory of
is more lyrical, romantic and personal than most of Pollard’s
recent efforts – with Lifeguards, Boston Spaceships and on his own account –
which may reflect the influence of Waleik. “There Never Was a Sea of Love”
jangles on wistfully, its pretty melody shot through with melancholy and
recognition of missed opportunities. “I Am an All-Star” is likewise reflective
and subdued, and “It Had to Come From Somewhere” is the kind of song that could
only be written by a dad, its lyrics littered with all the things that have to
be paid for.


There are, naturally, some rockers, too, as prickly and
strident and electrified as anything in the GBV catalogue. “(It’s Good to be)
Bug Boy” is, perhaps, the best of these, its sharp-edged riffs running
roughshod over abstract imagery (“It’s good to be bug boy/freedom and madame
psychosis” whatever that means). “Pre Meds A Trip” is a good blast of friction,
too, its distortions howling in waves as Pollard sets off couplets and
quatrains of rhyming absurdity. Yet even here, in the loudest, most
rock-friendly cuts, there seems to be a bit more mellowness behind the edge.


New Theory of
sounds a lot more like Pollard than it does like Big Dipper, but
you can sense the influence of Gary Waleik in a thread of lilting pop
melancholy and personal reflection that runs through these songs. No one should
expect Pollard to ditch his electric and head out on the stool-and-coffee-shop
circuit, but it’s nice to see him show some vulnerability once in a while.


Theory,” “I Am An All-Star”, “(It’s Good to be) Bug Boy” JENNIFER KELLY




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