After the excellent Tower in the Fountain of Sparks, Airport 5 (the duo of Tobin Sprout and Robert Pollard) returned in 2002 with Life Starts Here. Whereas Tower in the Fountain of Sparks was consistent in its low key and beautiful ballads, Life Starts Here is more or less all over the place. It has Yellow Wife No. 5 so you must own it if you are a GBV fan, but generally it does not come close to it predecessor's brilliance. This album received some fairly negative reviews on its release, which put it near the end of my GBV related purchases. However, though it is not in any way among Pollard's best work, it does still have its charms...
The Intro sounds like it would be at home on a Circus Devils album, which is a far reach for Airport 5. It is also the first sign that things just aren't quite right. Following the Intro, and hidden behind the bland production, is a nice song in We're In the Business. However, it just does not reach the potential which is within grasping distance.
Luckily, we are treated to an excellent tune with Yellow Knife No. 5. At this point, the album is worth it since this track rocks. From the addictive guitar riff, to Pollard's megaphone poetry verses, and the beautiful chorus ("Save yourself/Stay alive/Yellow Wife No. 5"), this is definately the album's hit. It is followed by another catchy tune (though partially annoying), Wrong Drama Addiction. This track contains the title lyric ("and life starts here") repeated throughout its seven minutes. Well, that isn't exactly true since the final few minutes are nothing but distortion.
However Young They Are may the best argument that Airport 5 still has some of that magic left over from Tower in the Fountain of Sparks. The chorus of "And lead your people/However Young They Are" almost has an epic quality to it. It would not be out of place on Airport 5's previous effort. All is once again lost with the ultimate in Pollard cheese, The Dawntrust Guarantee, an interlude from the future as represented in the Twilight Zone. Forever Since is one of the better songs on Life Starts Here, which is more of a testament to the album's mediocrety within the GBV related discography than a compliment.
Impressions of a Leg brings to mind the new wave era of rock, or even early REM, and finalizes the point that Sprout and Pollard were trying to do something completely different here than with Towers in the Fountain of Sparks (and even Tonics & Twisted Chasers). Not a bad song, and fairly upbeat, yet it fails to cement itself in my head. How Brown? manages to have a wonderful title, and is a fine attempt at an epic ballad. However, it is extremely repetitive and is hurt by the general feel of "lacking" this album has.
Natives Approach Our Plane has the title line repeated throughout, with some Pollard spoken-word vocals layered on top. At times I enjoy hearing this song, and I have put it on various playlists in the past. I think it will find itself on my ultimate playlist sometime in the future, but for now I have it on the "re-visit" list. I Can't Freeze Anymore starts out with some great potential with a layered guitar riffs intro. The riff is instantly memorable, as this is one of the stand-out tracks on Life Starts Here. This track is probably also Pollard's best vocal performance on the album. Finally, Airport 5 end the album with Out in the World, which is part Marchers in Orange, and part [insert song from Mag Earwhig! here]. I think the song would be better without the odd repeated sounds, and simply with more of the heavy guitar.
Overall, Life Starts Here is a disapointment as far as Pollard related releases go. Tower in the Fountain of Sparks may have set the bar simply to high, and perhaps Pollard and Sprout simply wanted to make something a little more off the wall and exciting. A fan may find more to enjoy here than I did, in fact, I know that this album has to be at least a few fans' favorite. It is on the odder side of the track, yet it still manages to be fairly listenable. Perhaps that is the problem; Life Starts Here just does not have the focus which its predecessor's had.
Tracklisting (songs in bold make my ultimate Pollard/GBV playlist/box set):
02 We're In The Business
03 Yellow Wife No. 5
04 Wrong Drama Addiction (...And Life Starts Here...)
05 However Young They Are
06 The Dawntrust Guarantee
07 Forever Since
08 Impressions of a Leg
09 How Brown?
10 Natives Approach Our Plane
11 I Can't Freeze Anymore
12 Out in the World