Motel of Fools

Robert Pollard

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Motel of Fools Review

by Bart Bealmear

Billed as a mini-LP, Motel of Fools is Robert Pollard's sixth solo record since 1996, and his most experimental release yet on his own (but one shouldn't be frightened by the "e" word here). Perhaps inspired by the Tobias brothers' creativity exhibited throughout one of his many side projects, the Circus Devils, workhorse Pollard produced a fresh addition to his vast discography, incorporating backwards guitars, tape manipulation, noise, television and radio sounds, a classic rock sample, drunken conversations, and even the brief use of a vocoder into the mix. He also draws on his past, reprising musical themes found in Guided by Voices classics like "Dying to Try This," "King and Caroline," and "I Am a Tree." But the main focus is on melody; the disc begins with a lo-fi a cappella vocal from Pollard (as nature intended, if you will), and with such striking results, it's a wonder he hadn't explored the effect previously. Lyrically, there's the type of impenetrable wordplay he is often known for (acknowledging "the free association" in the opus of fragments, "The Spanish Hammer"), the notable exception being album-closer "Harrison Adams," in which he expresses the type of heart-on-your-sleeve emotions felt on Isolation Drills. Though it's largely missing the majestic choruses sought after by fans, Motel of Fools is evidence that Robert Pollard, nearly 20 years into his recording career, still has some surprises for the zealots.

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