Monday, March 06, 2006

Robert Pollard: Kid Marine (1999)

Kid Marine's main role in the history of Guided By Voices is being the first release under the Fading Captain Series. Personally, I consider this album to be among Pollard's least interesting, though there are a few tracks that stand out among the rest. However, any visit to Disarm the Settlers will reveal that Kid Marine is often a fan favorite, and sometimes even considered Pollard's best solo effort. I however, simply cannot agree with that, especially considering the greatness of both Waved Out and Not In My Airforce. Us GBV fans for the most part run all over the spectrum when considering what is Pollard's greatest music, and what should be included in, say, a greatest hits package. If I were making a single disc of my favorite GBV/Pollard songs, however, I doubt anything from Kid Marine would make the cut...

The album starts off with an epic length-wise for Pollard in Submarine Teams, which almost makes the five minute mark. It is a fragmented odd-ball of a rock tune, with a constant echo effect throughout, and is also one of the better tracks on the album. The track finishes off with an acoustic outro, and is followed by the acoustic Flings Of The Waistcoat Crowd, which features layered vocals and a campire sing-a-long mentality,
and uses the word "insectrocutioner".

The Big Make-Over features one of my least favorite GBV related guitar riffs, though I'm sure that there are many who disagree with me. Riff-aside though, the track is worthy of inclusion in my ultimate playlist for its general catchiness. I guess for the most part, Kid Marine to me is an album full of those songs that round out a better album. They are not bad, but they are in no way spectacular either.

The next track, Men Who Create Fright, is the gem of Kid Marine. Hands down, this is the albums best track (though White Gloves Come Off is pretty cool too). It starts out sounding like it may be one of the more experimental toss-offs, and all of a suddenly turns into an in-your-face rockathon, which may be a bit repetitive, though still rockin'.

As of now, Television Prison is not on the playlist, though it is on my re-visit list. It is a heavier track which ends with about a minute of guitar wailing. Strictly Comedy has a neat intro; the way the songs simply kicks in. It sounds as if we have entered the song midway through, and like Television Prison it is on the edge for making the playlist (and in this case, is currently being included).

Far-Out Crops makes the list. After a slow start, the song kicks into a groovable riff and far away vocals . It definately hits its greatest moment when Pollard sings out "far-off crops" repeatedly. So at this point, six of seven of the first tracks have all made the playlist. This may seem against what I was saying about the album earlier. It may be a bit deceiving, granted that these songs did make the list (and Television Prison almost did too), but I should still stress that the majority of them are on the border on making the playlist.

Living Upside Down is split into two parts, the second a more interesting instrumental. Snatch Candy fails to stand out in any way, though it does for about half a second sound like Chance To Buy An Island at the beginning. White Gloves Come Off is a fairly original and decent song, with a beautiful chorus, and I would classify it as one of the best reasons to own Kid Marine.

Enjoy Jerusalem! has a repeating riff throughout, and it never really goes anywhere. It may be my least favorite track on Kid Marine. You Can't Hold Your Women explodes into a distorted ballad halfway through for a couple of seconds and then ends with some fizzled-out lead. For now I'm putting it on the re-visit list, since I need to hear it a few more times before making a judgement. Town Of Mirrors has an extremely non-exciting first half, but then turns into a completely different animal half way through where it becomes one of the best moments on Kid Marine. The guitars kick in and Pollard sings "Oh, alright" and "mutilation" over and over again until the fade-out.

Powerblessings is an acoustic track with multi-layered vocals, and also reminds me of a campfire-singalong type of track. It is a pretty little tune which would have made for a nice closer. However, Island Crimes gets that spot instead, and it teases you until the very end with what sounds like an oncoming rock and roll storm. However, the storm never comes, and it finishes the album fittingly; by being simply "okay".

I picked more than half of the tracks on Kid Marine to make the playlist, though many of them could have went either way. It is an album full of okay songs, without anything truly great. This has been the hardest album for me to review thus far, as most of its songs seem to be hinting at great moments, but end up never really reaching their full potential. I definately need to listen to it more often, and maybe some of the hidden moments will become more apparent. As for Pollard releases, Kid Marine is nowhere near my favorites and I don't see it being there anytime soon. However, take my word for it that there are many fans of this album, and that maybe it might also be an okay starting point for a new fan.

Tracklisting (songs in bold make my ultimate GBV/Pollard playlist/box set):
01 Submarine Teams
02 Flings Of The Waistcoat Crowd
03 The Big Make-Over
04 Men Who Create Fright
05 Television Prison
06 Strictly Comedy
07 Far-Out Crops
08 Living Upside Down
09 Snatch Candy
10 White Gloves Come Off
11 Enjoy Jerusalem!
12 You Can't Hold Your Women
13 Town Of Mirrors
14 Powerblessings
15 Island Crimes


Guerilla said...

couldn't agree more with your assessment... a very BLAND album compared to NIMA or WO.

Anonymous said...

Count me among those who regard Kid Marine as one of Bob's finest. My recollection is that he intended it to be something of a concept album about an ordinary blue-collar guy. And, to me anyway, the album evokes this. And it does so in way that's abstract, as opposed to heavy-handed Bon Jovi-esque working class cliches. It evokes the joys and loneliness of the regular American guy, in a way that's not pinned to a specific time period, but could be anytime. (Forgive me, Strong Lions who've heard this all before.) In that sense, it's as if "Dayton, Ohio -- 19 Something and 5" had been expanded to album length. And, for what it's worth, I think Powerblessings and The Big Make-over are two of the prettiest songs he's sver written.

The Rock Robot said...

Hi whoever you are anonymous. You are definately not alone with your claim that "Kid Marine" is among Bob's finest. This is definately an album that that will run the full spectrum of expectations for fans of Pollard. It is not my favorite by a long shot, though I still listen to it from time to time. And yes, "Powerblessings" is an extremely pretty song.

Anonymous said...

the big makeover has one of the most beautiful gbv related riffs ever. it's such a strong melody and the intro riff matches the melody perfectly. definately up there with nima.

strabber, norway

The Rock Robot said...

I knew that my comment about the riff in "The Big-Makeover" was going to get a reaction...which of course is a good thing. For more comments about the track, as well as Kid Marine, check out these threads over at DTS Here and Here.

Thanks for the comment.

Danny Lindsay said...

Powerblessings is a heartbreaker. Unbelievably gorgeous tune. I don't like this whole record, but that tune is solid gold.

Anonymous said...

It took a few listens but now I'm hooked. I agree about the beautiful melancholy mood a la Dayton Ohio overall. Also, it's got many highlights but none with that particular "Pollard hit" quality, which I goes for that song too. Powerblessings comes closest to something a proverbial Joe would actually dig, I suppose. Snatch Candy was the first to hit me but I'm a bit tired of it now.

My list:

Submarine Teams - killer on live tapes
Flings Of The Waistcoat Crowd - wonderful; glad this made Crickets
The Big Make-Over - completes what is perhaps Bob's finest opening trilogy for me. Maybe Airforce beats it.
Men Who Create Fright - the last one I fell in love with; didn't get this for ages
Television Prison - bit of a Fall groove here; & what about that shriek!
Strictly Comedy - love the feel and sound of this as well as its unusual structure
Far-Out Crops - another live fave; great arrangement
White Gloves Come Off - Crickets turned me on to this
You Can't Hold Your Women - a grower, this one
Town Of Mirrors - excellent beginning of the home run
Powerblessings - the heart of the record
Island Crimes - the fact that the awaited climax never comes is part of the record's thematic success.