To recap, it's 2011, roughly six years since Robert Pollard decided to retire Guided by Voices and launch a proper solo career, and Pollard's work under his own name has been prolific but for the most part disappointing, rarely capturing the heady joys of his work with GBV and suggesting he can't tell his good tunes from his so-so tunes on his own. However, Pollard has also been collaborating with other musicians on a variety of side projects, and this is where Pollard's game remains sharp --- listen to his recordings with the Keane Brothers, Circus Devils, Lifeguards, and particularly Boston Spaceships, his project with John Moen of the Decemberists and Chris Slusarenko of the Takeovers, and you'll find Pollard is still one of the great pop tunesmiths of indie rock. The message is that Pollard works best when he has worthy partners with him in the studio, and the fifth Boston Spaceships album, Let It Beard, certainly bears this out. Let It Beard is the most ambitious album of Pollard's career, a sprawling, 70-minute roller coaster ride through hard rock, indie pop, lo-fi psychedelia, low-key prog rock, and anything else that careens through Pollard's musical imagination, and while anyone familiar with Pollard's music would expect a barrage of small-scale tunes, most of the 26 tracks on Let It Beard are real songs, not fragments, and the best songs here rival the energy and craft of GBV's later-era classics such as Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue. But while Pollard's work with Moen and Slusarenko has been great in the past, here he steps up by inviting a number of top-shelf guitarists to sit in with Boston Spaceships, including Colin Newman of Wire, J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and the Miracle Three, and Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs. While the guests add a good portion of energy and brawn to the sessions, the core trio is more than up to the challenge they present, and the result is not only the biggest and most impressive album Boston Spaceships have delivered to date, it's one of the most coherent and hard-hitting offerings of Pollard's entire career. If many of Pollard's post-GBV albums have suggested a man tossing out whatever tunes he came up with this week, Let It Beard is an ambitious, clearly focused attempt to create something out of the ordinary, and it succeeds well enough to feel like a game changer for Pollard and his partners.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming