Robert Pollard was clearly a big prog rock fan at some point in his life. Dig his convoluted lyrics, surreal album and song titles, and the low-budget but high-concept collages that adorn his album covers, and it's not hard to imagine that the man was deeply smitten with the spacy stuff once upon a time. Pollard is either unwilling or unable to write songs long enough to let prog's tricky musical structures or epic-scale lyrical conceits seep very deeply into his music, but on 2011's Space City Kicks, he comes noticeably closer than usual to embracing the arty side of his musical personality. The oddball and tempo shifts on "Mr. Fantastic Must Die!," the lumbering yet arty twists and turns of "Picture a Star," and the non-straightforward chord structures of "Children Ships" add up to one of Pollard's less accessible and more cerebral efforts of recent memory, and if this isn't quite likely to appeal to your inner Genesis fan, it's not a sure bet to be eagerly embraced by the folks who still spin Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes on a regular basis, either. Given how samey much of Pollard's solo work has been since he retired the GbV banner, the willful eccentricity of Space City Kicks is actually welcome, and more than a little surprising, given that it was recorded and produced the same way most of Pollard's recent albums have been (Pollard wrote the tunes, sang, and played guitar, with Todd Tobias engineering and overdubbing everything else). And while most of the prog rock bands likely to have inspired Pollard had trouble making sense of any musical ideas that lasted less than five minutes, most of the 18 cuts on Space City Kicks last less than 120 seconds, and the whole thing wraps up in under 36 minutes; if this was meant to be an experiment in art rock, it's an admirably efficient one, and it rocks out, too.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming