A better title might be Sketchbook, or Scraps, as Robert Pollard turns more minimal with each solo LP. Unlike Not in My Airforce, half of which was as inspired as his Guided by Voices work, and a third of Waved Out, little on his third outing, Kid Marine, could be considered for a Pollard historical best-of tape. It's not the fault of the playing, as hot old/new GBV bassist Greg Demos returns, and GBV drummer Jim McPherson rocks solid. Nor is it recording, as there are few trudges through lo-fi murk, muck, and mire. It is a matter of material, and of focus/intent. While Pollard carries on his whimsical ride as the progeny of the young Pete Townshend and Wire's Colin Newman, it seems as if the former has been AWOL. Outside of a blatant "I Can See for Miles"/Tommy snippet at the end of "Submarine Teams" and the onset of "Island Crimes," 1967 Who-quality hooks are in short supply here, in favor of more esoteric writing. Kid Marine is more like Newman's OK but lesser post-Wire solo LPs, from A-Z to Not To, where the melodies seemed too secondary to intriguing textural priorities. Whatever, Kid Marine is only for devotees. Viewed that way, it yields multiple flashes of great moments -- if rarely whole songs. Even Pollard's lesser goods remain stocked with fragmentary delights, as melodic tidbits stubbornly crash out from imprisonment within odd chords and often repetitious, ringing tones: see the see-saw riff and hazy snake-charming hypnotic quality of "Strictly Comedy"; the stop-start, hiccuping explosions of "Submarine Dreams"; the jagged, flickering stomp of "Far-Out Crops"; or the sweetened acoustic track "Flings of the Waistcoat Crowd." Pollard is endlessly teasing with the promise of a tune so good it will knock everyone out as in the past, only to stop short, as if to say, "gotcha." Like the alluring flirt in high school, he keeps you coming back for more even as he no longer satisfies. Perhaps your shaggy-haired 40-something anti-hero is just stockpiling his premium material for the next GBV album. Hope so. For in Kid Marine, Pollard is content to merely experiment with his own considerable abilities.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid