Robert Pollard released a small mountain of material between 2005 (when he launched his proper solo career after dissolving Guided by Voices) and 2011 (when GBV resumed their recording career), but the majority of it was curiously unsatisfying, as Pollard seemed to have a hard time making sense of his own prolific output as a songwriter without bandmates on hand to sort it out and give it focus. Given this, it makes sense that among the very best material Pollard recorded during this period were a handful of albums he made with a band, the ad-hoc ensemble Boston Spaceships. Boston Spaceships found Pollard working with John Moen of the Decemberists and the Dharma Bums, as well as Chris Slusarenko of Sprinkler and the Takeovers; while their music was stylistically on the same page as Pollard's other work, the albums featured stronger songs and fewer throwaways than his solo efforts, and the performances were livelier and rocked harder than the albums Pollard was releasing on his own. The reunion of Guided by Voices led Pollard to retire Boston Spaceships, and Fire Records has assembled an impressive look back at their body of work with the collection Out of the Universe by Sundown: The Greatest Hits of Boston Spaceships. Narrowing down their five albums to just 15 songs gives short shrift to the band's debut, 2008's Brown Submarine (represented with just one tune, "You Satisfy Me"), but if the collection favors the Spaceships' ambitious finale, 2011's Let It Beard, it certainly skims the cream from what was the Spaceships' best album, and this is a remarkably cohesive career overview. These songs may have been recorded over the space of four years, but if you weren't previously familiar with Boston Spaceships' music, you might not have guessed -- these songs are tough, lively, and filled with energy and purpose, and the music achieves the melodic flights of fancy associated with GBV's best work but without their sloppiness or tendency to meander. The Planets Are Blasted, Our Cubehouse Still Rocks, and especially Let It Beard deserve to be heard in full, but for casual observers wondering what Robert Pollard was doing before re-forming Guided by Voices, Out of the Universe by Sundown confirmed that he could still write great songs and deliver the rock action when he had the right guys helping him out.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming