It was the spring of 2004, and since it had been nearly a month since Robert Pollard had released any new material, the mondo-prolific Guided By Voices leader decided it was high time he released another solo album, and so he turned to his frequent collaborator Todd Tobias -- occasional GBV keyboardist and producer, and member of one of Pollard's numerous side projects, Circus Devils -- for assistance. For Fiction Man, Pollard wrote the songs and handled the vocals, while Tobias was the producer and played all the instruments. If you're figuring the results sound like more of Pollard's smart, arty, and angular pop music, you'd be right as rain -- stylistically, Fiction Man lives in a middle ground between the joyously lo-fi grit of Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand, and the more muscular and rock-oriented approach of Earthquake Glue and Isolation Drills. Tobias' one-man-band arrangements manage to sound surprisingly organic in this context, and his ideas are admirably eclectic, from the graceful float of "Sea of Dead" and the big rock swing of "It's Only Natural" to the frenetic new wavishness of "I Expect a Kill." But while Fiction Man features 14 pretty good Robert Pollard tunes, there aren't any great Robert Pollard tunes, which is of course what always separates the wheat from the chaff in his ever-expanding body of work. In short, if you're a lifetime member of the GBV Army, Fiction Man will do nothing to change your mind about the frontman's genius, but it won't do much of anything to alter the opinions of the unconverted...then again, wait a month and maybe he'll have something else for everyone to listen to instead.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming