Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard Is Off to Business

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In the final years of Guided by Voices' existence, it became clear that the band was for all practical purposes Robert Pollard and whoever else he decided was a member of GBV (confirmed after Pollard fired the rest of the group and hired Cobra Verde to take their place prior to the recording of 1997's Mag Earwhig!), so when Pollard retired the band at the end of 2004 and relaunched himself as a solo act in 2006, it shouldn't have made much of a difference. But it did -- where once Robert Pollard albums were idiosyncratic detours from Guided by Voices' exercises in lo-fi pop genius, now the "real" albums and the chaff were all mixed together, and as Pollard's stack of solo albums grew, they became increasingly unfocused, covering the same stylistic territory over and over again with the law of diminishing returns taking its inevitable toll. In 2008, Pollard seems to have finally realized he'd taken a wrong turn and needed some fresh directions -- he parted ways with Merge Records, the primary label for his post-GBV work, formed a new label called Guided by Voices Inc., and released his first album for the new imprint, Robert Pollard Is Off to Business. While there's clearly a dash of wit in the title, it also feels like a statement of purpose, as Off to Business is a more potent and strongly unified album than Pollard has made in quite some time. Oddly enough, this album doesn't represent a change in Pollard's working habits -- like nearly all his post-GBV work, the album was produced by longtime studio cohort Todd Tobias, who also plays all the instruments while Pollard handles the vocals. But instead of tossing out 20 or so half-formed tunes, as has often been Pollard's habit, Off to Business features a mere ten songs into which he seems to have put some genuine thought, and the album has a coherent flow and melodic grandeur that suggests the latter-day Who, bolstered by Tobias' intelligent use of keyboards and forceful but well-punctuated guitar figures. In most respects, Off to Business doesn't break much new ground for Pollard, but what is different is that he's clearly put a great deal more thought and care into this disc than anything he's put out since From a Compound Eye, and the result is an album that sounds like an album rather than the latest bunch of tunes Pollard banged together, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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