This is the first release to find Robert Pollard, director of Guided by Voices, in a group context since his self-inflicted demise of that band. "Beaten by the Target" is a solo album-like starter, as it deals with Pollard's attempts to propel Guided by Voices into the big time with more commercial records like Do the Collapse and Isolation Drills. The Moping Swans prove to be a solid band right from the start, and Pollard's own guitar calisthenics are on display during "Shame Me No Further," where his jagged, Andy Gill-like riffing dances with Tony Conley's melodic leads. The ever-so-strange world of the Circus Devils creeps into a couple of the tracks: in "The Moping Swans Are Home" producer Todd Tobias, Pollard's co-conspirator in the Circus Devils, manipulates the keyboard as if he were channeling Damien, while Pollard plays the role of ringmaster, spouting mysterious slogans to the paying customers; and the hypnotic epic "Lightninghead to Coffeepot," like the best work of the Devils (or the Doors, if they'd been creepier), will effectively cast a shadowy spell on you. "Keep the Gutters Fresh" resembles latter-day GBV, and lines like "I was in the moan of a fire's eye" further the solo record-like reflection. But that doesn't mean the material is any less rousing for it, as "Look at Your Life" rocks the most here. "I got beaten by the target," Pollard sings in the opener, and though the pursuit of the brass ring and having to handle all the nonsense that goes along with it has left him woozy, the lyric turns into a defiant battle cry by song's end. As he repeats "Almost beaten by the target," it becomes clear the experience hasn't left Robert Pollard unwilling to continue. In fact, after writing thousands of songs, and the demise of GBV, it appears he's just beginning.
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AllMusic Review by Bart Bealmear