Compulsively prolific songwriter Robert Pollard has churned out no less than three albums of power pop-leaning indie rock a year (and often a lot more than that) under guises varying from his given name to the much-celebrated Guided by Voices to the slightly different Boston Spaceships. The different projects and monikers have incremental differences to separate them from one another, but Pollard's jumble-minded lyrics and '60s Popsike hooks are at the center of it all with songs shooting out like bits of confetti at a parade. Mouseman Cloud, Pollard's first solo record of 2012 but fifth of the very-young 2010s, is a pretty straightforward collection of the type of truncated short story-style indie rock we've come to expect from the man, and one more segment of his incredibly slow evolution. This means there are 17 songs, three or four of which are stellar (in this case "Obvious #1," "Science Magazine," and the acoustic brilliance of "Zen Mother Hen"), three or four mostly unfinished indulgences of whatever nonsense Pollard's muse had that morning ("Smacks of Euphoria" for instance), and the remaining songs just kind of pleasantly there. While the attention to detail and fidelity in the studio have gone up considerably since the early GbV days, the glossier records haven't always been as interesting as the damaged four-track fare that poured out of Pollard and crew in the mid-'90s. Aided on Mouseman Cloud by producer/multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias, Pollard makes better use of the studio here than on other solo efforts, with tastefully understated synthesizers padding the guitar-heavy tunes. The mood is somewhat spontaneous and rushed throughout, with full-steam readings of short tunes and random breakdowns augmenting Pollard's alliterative, Dadaist wordplay. It wouldn't be surprising to hear the band learned the songs moments before the tape rolled, and then went with the loosest takes, but the process is anyone's guess. Even the lesser songs have enough catchy moments to rank Mouseman Cloud up there with any of Pollard's unending solo material from the decade preceding it, but the strongest songs leave one wondering what kind of masterpieces he could construct if he'd just limit himself to one record a year.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas