By the time Guided by Voices called it quits at the end of 2004, it was taken as gospel by most fans that Robert Pollard was the band, especially given the notorious 1996 incident in which Pollard fired all his bandmates and replaced them en masse with the group Cobra Verde. With this in mind, it was expected that Pollard's solo career would achieve the same loopy majesty as GBV's best work, but that proved not to be the case as Pollard released an unrelenting stream of pleasant but mediocre albums that made his densely packed pop tunes sound ordinary and troublingly similar. Easily the best work Pollard did after retiring GBV were his collaborative projects with makeshift groups such as Boston Spaceships, the Keene Brothers, and the Circus Devils, making it obvious that Pollard might not need Guided by Voices per se, but he needed a band, spirited collaborators who would give his songs shape and help him separate his wheat from his chaff. In 2010, Pollard was persuaded to re-form Guided by Voices for a handful of live shows which grew into an extensive tour, and having buried the hatchet with the guys he fired in 1996, the "classic lineup" of GBV (Pollard on vocals, Mitch Mitchell on guitar, Tobin Sprout on guitar and keys, Greg Demos on bass, and Kevin Fennell on drums) wandered to Pollard's rec room to make a new album. Or at least that's how it sounds. Let's Go Eat the Factory explicitly steps back from the more professional tone of latter-day GBV albums like Isolation Drills and Universal Truths and Cycles in favor of the rickety lo-fi approach of '90s touchstones Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, and the opening track, "Laundry and Lasers," even sounds like it was recorded on a wheezing four-track cassette machine. Having a real band on board, even one with this level of sloppiness, truly makes a difference, and there's an edge and a scrappy passion to Let's Go Eat the Factory that's been conspicuously absent from Pollard's solo stuff, and the best songs rock while showing off a playful enthusiasm that serves them well. But Pollard and Company seem to have confused cause and effect here, re-creating not just their lo-fi recording technique on several tunes, but the inconsistent pacing and bursts of filler that dogged GBV's pre-Bee Thousand catalog. And while Pollard's songs are fine, the most rewarding moments on Let's Go Eat the Factory belong to Tobin Sprout; the eccentric joy of songs like "God Loves Us" and "Who Invented the Sun," his inspired keyboard patches, and the clouds of noise he adds to several tracks are a reminder of what GBV lost when they stopped being a proper band. Let's Go Eat the Factory is hardly a triumph, but it's a step in the right direction for Pollard, as well as confirmation that this group of friendly reprobates still has some good work left in them.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming