Monday, November 16, 2009
Robert Pollard: Motel of Fools (2003)
After getting Suitcase 3 in the mail, I realized that I once again let a fairly decent amount of time go between posts. I decided to go over an album I honestly do not spend too much time with, Robert Pollard's somewhat experimental Motel of Fools. I've heard somewhere that this album was meant to sound like a movie soundtrack, and from the album notes, a few regular Pollard contributors show up for this one (Jim Macpherson, Greg Demos, Chris Slusarenko, and Tobin Sprout included). What I tend to do, when planning to write up an album I do not know too well, is listen to it while driving for a little while. Songs seem to imprint themselves on my brain easier if I hear them while driving. Over the course of listening to Motel of Fools a few times, I went from having only 1 of the 7 songs making the playlist, to 4...
The album kicks off with Pollard, minus any other sounds, chanting for a minute, and then followed by a psychedelic and breezy tune called In the House of Queen Charles Augustus. I have a lot of trouble when deciding if songs like this (the ones that seem merely "ok") are a keeper or not. The problem is that I know there are tons of tracks I would rather listen too, however, it still bothers me that I will not get to hear it semi-regularly if it is not on the list. Breezy may also describe Captain Black, as Pollard goes for mood with Motel of Fools, an album which appears meant to be listened in full instead of having its parts plucked away onto a mix disc.
After a long trippy intro (basically, the song in reverse), the albums cuts into its "hit", Red Ink Superman. You can tell some songs mean business once the guitar kicks in, and Red Ink Superman is a wonderfully dour epic which finishes with a sudden explosion of noise and Pollard repeating "We'll even the score in World War IV!"
In The Vault of Moons, a lead guitar from what sounds like an entirely different song keeps intruding on a an acoustic ditty. Other effects are thrown in as well, but I find it is the weakest track of the bunch. Saga of the Elk continues the brooding atmosphere, and has grown on me each time I listen it. It also has some of the strangest lyrics, for example "Fort mold may feather / Personal grain in the heartache" and "Stain at calvary / Racehorse and deadness" are a sample of some of the seemlingly disassociated lines.
The Spanish Hammer is a four song musical consisting of She Drives Camaro, Lift, Love Set, and Wildlife Energy. Whereas She Drives Camaro, Lift, and Wildlife Energy are similar to effect-filled Circus Devils snippets (in sound and in title), Love Set is actually a beautiful piano tune which covers roughly a minute and a half. Both the melody and Pollard's vocals are perfect, and this is a great moment of clarity in an otherwise often fuzzed-out and psychedelic album.
Harrison Adams is the closer of this dark, weird, and short album, which ironically ends with a (relatively) up-beat pop song. Granted, it has the Motel of Fools minute or so of randomness, which is saved for the end of this particular track. That being said, the chorus of "You aren't happy with me / And I know it / And you are the world to me / But it's all gone now" slightly betrays its joyous sound.
Overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with Motel of Fools. Red Ink Superman does stand out on this album, which focuses more on overall theme and not individual success, and may not stand out so much on another GBV-related album. I feel that all of the other songs I picked for the playlist could have not made the list depending on when I wrote this entry, for example, if I waited a few months after the period I played it over and over again while driving around. This time, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Tracklisting (songs in bold make the list):
01 In the House of Queen Charles Augustus
02 Captain Black
03 Red Ink Superman
04 The Vault of Moons
05 Saga of the Elk
06 The Spanish Hammer *
07 Harrison Adams
* The third part of The Spanish Hammer, Love Set, would make the list if parts of songs were allowed to.