Mist King Urth

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Unlike Robert Pollard's unfocused throwaway Motel of Fools, or his unsatisfying postal collaborations, Mist King Urth is actually of some worth to casual fans. The real question is why he chose this new name, Lifeguards (say what?), when Mist King is more properly the second (and second straight good) Pollard and Gillard LP. As in Doug Gillard, his Guided by Voices guitarist/mainman of the last several years, and co-maker of the invigorating Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department. Maybe it's because this Mist King is a deeper excursion into Pollard affection (and Gillard's, apparently) for early-'70s art rock and prog with an edge, as opposed to the better-known kind of ceaseless meandering and time changing, and pretentious concept LPs jiggery-pokery. Gillard's four- and eight-track beds are both clear and direct (no lo-fi here), like you're right there in the room at Cleveland's Harpoon House. True, Gillard plays all the instruments and wrote all the licks, in the same "You write and record some backing tracks and I'll then write some lyrics and sing them" mode that Pollard used for those LPs with Tobin Sprout and Superchunk's Mac McCaughan. Only this feels more in sync and put together, somehow. If not of the accomplishment of the more finished, more cohesive Speak Kindly, there are in fact no shortage of tracks that really do the business, especially "Shorter Virgins" which (likely unknowingly) lifts the riff from Wipers' "Now Is the Time" and pretty much the whole of their 1983 Over the Edge LP. Pollard is at his catchiest here, especially on the range-testing "No Chain Breaking" and "Starts at the River." Every now and then the willy-nilly Fading Captain series actually generates an LP worth the purchase. This is one of them. (

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