Robert Pollard

Blazing Gentlemen

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AllMusic Review by

In the advance publicity for Robert Pollard's album Blazing Gentlemen (only the second solo effort he would release in 2013), the once and future Guided by Voices leader and tireless tunesmith declared that with this set, he "finally figured out how to write a song after 55 years." In this case, what that really means is that Pollard finally settled on a set songwriting technique that he applied to all 16 tunes on this album: he would hit upon a good idea for a title from overheard conversations, common phrases, or lines from movies or TV shows, and then let that title dictate the shape and content of the lyrics, after which Pollard would match them to a melody. A quick spin of Blazing Gentlemen suggests that Pollard now lives in a world where everyone and everything communicates in a manner that recalls the surreal wordplay of the literally thousands of songs he's written since the mid-'80s, since the tunes on Blazing Gentlemen don't sound especially different from his usual work. But if the basic form of his output hasn't changed much, the quality has -- Blazing Gentlemen is one of the most consistently solid albums Pollard has made since emerging as a solo artist, and one that rocks with force and genuine authority. From the buzzy opening chords of "Magic Man Hype," Blazing Gentlemen is dominated by mighty blasts of six-string thunder and crashing drums; Pollard and his studio partner Todd Tobias have conjured the sound of a powerful rock band on these sessions, and the result is one of the best exercises in hook-laden hard rock Pollard has offered us since GbV's Isolation Drills. With titles like "Triple Sec Venus," "Professional Goose Trainer," "Faking the Boy Scouts," and "Lips of Joy," you can be forgiven for thinking Pollard's claims of new breakthroughs in songwriting are just his way of pulling our leg, but the melodies are beefy and forceful throughout, and when his repeated cries of "What can I do? I like you" finally gives way to a shout of "I love you!" on the title cut, it represents that rare moment when Pollard has expressed a recognizable emotion and made us believe it, and it's a kick. However he arrived at Blazing Gentlemen, Pollard truly delivers the goods with his album, and he's advised to follow this method more often, since it sure seems to work for him.

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