Saturday, July 02, 2011

Robert Pollard: Coast to Coast Carpet of Love (2007)

I have raved about Pollard's solo twosome from 2006 of From a Compound Eye and Normal Happiness, and claimed that they were amongst the best albums in the GBV-related catolog. 2007 saw the release of another combo, the edgy Standard Gargoyle Decisions, and the focus of this post, the mellow and pop-whimsical Coast to Coast Carpet of Love (which I'll abbreviate CTCCOL from here on out). The familiar recording process of Todd Tobias laying out all the instrumental tracks, and then Pollard mixing the vocals would be used here. Though the 2007 offerings do not quite meet the level of awesome of Pollard's 2006 albums, there is still stuff to like here, however, there is something wrong with how the guitar sounds on CTCCOL. I would like to hear other's comments on this, but the way guitar is recorded on CTCCOL prevents me from enjoying it more...

There likely isn't anything you won't like on CTCCOL, but there is a chance that nothing will really stand out either. Where FACE and Normal Happiness assaulted with rocking track after rocking track, with tons of variation thrown in, CTCCOL suffers a bit from sameness (similar to Kid Marine and Earthquake Glue). Part of this is the recording process where Tobias' recordings all have a very similar sound, which sometimes make the guitar sound a bit duller.

The standouts on CTCCOL are those tracks that stray from the overall sound of the album. The opener Our Gaze is an all-out rocker with great drums and driving bass, two components of a song I rarely refer to (or notice sometimes). Penumbra has an ethnic twist which makes it a bit of an original for Pollard, and it is my favorite on the album. Youth Leagues is also interesting with its altering drum and guitar beats, but even it suffers from portions where the song slows down to a crawl. Nicely Now is Pollard's best vocal performance on CTCCOL, and lastly, the choruses of I Clap for Strangers and Miles Under the Skin are too good to ignore, even if the guitar parts mute them a bit.

Rud Fins, Current Desperation, Dumb Lady, Slow Hamilton, Customer's Throat, and Count Us In are all nice songs and all, but they all have that similar dull guitar sound. It may just be me, but there is something about the way the guitar has been recorded that doesn't let the sound come out completely. It is hard to explain, but there is something there just draining the life out of the guitar, and subsequently the songs themselves. Shoo-ins otherwise, these tracks all just barely make the playlist.

Current Desperation is a great example. The opening riffs are exactly the sound I'm talking about. It sounds like a guitar and electric piano have been mixed together, and the effect is that it sounds programmed, and not so much like a human is playing the instrument. It is a beautiful song though, and I'm happy including it on the playlist.

If it weren't for the strong final part, Count Us In would not be on the playlist. Customer's Throat has great vocals and melody, and Dumb Lady has grown on me the more I listen to it. Rud Fins is straight-up pop, a fun ride from start to finish.

There is nothing really special about When We Were Slaves, but it might have stood out as the quiet track on a heavier album. Exactly What Words Mean is slightly disjointed, though the somewhat chorus is fun. Look is What You Have, like every other song on CTCCOL, has its moments but is not strong enough for the playlist. Last of the tracks not making the playlist is Life of a Wife. There is nothing particularly wrong with the song, it simply isn't among my favorites.

In general, CTCCOL is a softer album for Pollard, and is greatly contrasted from the same-time-released Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Overall, it is very good, but the recording process that Pollard and Tobias use shows its weaknesses more on this one than any other. As stated many times already in this post, the guitar is recorded in a way to prevent it from allowing the songs to pop. As an album, perhaps this helps create a theme, and the sum is definitely greater than its parts. However, put on a playlist with tracks from the Boston Spaceships or other solo efforts like FACE, the songs on CTCCOL are smaller, quieter, and generally less fun. 

Tracklisting (songs in bold make the playlist):

01 Our Gaze
02 Count Us In
03 Exactly What Words Mean
04 Current Desperation (Angels Speak of Nothing)
05 Dumb Lady
06 Rud Fins
07 Customer's Throat
08 Miles Under the Skin
09 Penumbra
10 Slow Hamilton
11 Looks is What You Have
12 I Clap for Strangers
13 Life of a Wife
14 Youth Leagues
15 When We Were Slaves
16 Nicely Now


Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for this review!
Yeah it took me a while to get used to this record because the recording does sound rather Middle of the Road. If re recorded in a sharper manner it could be better.
But the songs themselves I really really like.
I do appreciate the mellow tone to this album. Not as great as Waved Out, but it's a nice nice record. I'd say the true rocking counter part to this album is We All Got Out of the Army. Never did get into Standard GERGOYZ or KIDDY MARINE, or ERHTWUAQKE GLUE


Anonymous said...

Some of your blog entries proved to be quite useful in helping me compile this massive Guided by Voices/Pollard playlist, so thanks.
Here's what I came up with.

"Kicked by Genius: The 300 Best Songs of Guided by Voices and Robert Pollard"

1. A Salty Salute
2. Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox
3. The Official Ironman Rally Song
4. Tractor Rape Chain
5. Subspace Biographies
6. Fair Touching
7. Let It Rest for a Little While
8. Game of Pricks (EP Version)
9. The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
10. Quality of Armor
11. Girls of Wild Strawberries
12. Evil Speakers
13. I'm a Strong Lion
14. Now to War (Electric Version)
15. Teenage FBI
16. Waves
17. Chevy Marigold
18. Girl Named Captain
19. Navigating Flood Regions
20. Underwater Explosions
21. I Am a Tree
22. She Wants to Know
23. Yellow Wife No. 5
24. Awful Bliss
25. Shocker in Gloomtown
26. Interest Position
27. A Visit to the Creep Doctor
28. Ate It Twice
29. Cyclopean Runway
30. Cheyenne
[Disc 1 - 74 minutes, 30 tracks]

31. Pop Zeus
32. (I'll Name You) The Flame That Cries
33. The Town That's After Me
34. 14 Cheerleader Coldfront
35. Cut-Out Witch
36. Circle of Trim
37. Postal Blowfish
38. Big School
39. Wormhole
40. Tomorrow Will Not Be Another Day
41. Closer You Are
42. My Kind of Soldier
43. Color of My Blade
44. Hey Hey Spaceman
45. Marchers in Orange (Electric Version)
46. Non-Absorbing
47. Tattoo Mission
48. Smothered in Hugs
49. Yours to Keep
50. Echos Myron
51. Drag Days
52. Avalanche Aminos
53. Twilight Campfighter
54. Make Use
55. Running Off with the Fun City Girls
56. Time Machines
57. Everybody Think I'm a Raincloud
58. The Hard Way
59. 1 Years Old
60. Dust Devil
61. Melted Pat
[Disc 2 - 74 minutes, 31 tracks]

Anonymous said...

62. Jane of the Waking Universe
63. Stiff Me
64. Come On Baby Grace
65. Striped White Jets
66. Skin Parade
67. Bull Spears
68. The Numbered Head
69. Do the Earth
70. Johnny Optimist
71. Sometimes I Cry
72. Mincer Ray
73. Rhoda Rhoda
74. Weedking
75. To Remake the Young Flyer
76. Dayton, Ohio (19 Something and 5)
77. Catherine from Mid-October
78. Ha Ha Man (Long Version)
79. Delayed Reaction Brats
80. Black Ghost Pie
81. I.B.C.
82. Gold Kick
83. Tropical Robots
84. Top Chick Silver Chord
85. The Girls Will Make It Happen
86. Perfect This Time
87. Trader Vic
88. Slick as Snails
89. Liquid Indian
90. Wrinkled Ghost
91. Real
92. Christian Animation Torch Carriers
93. Island of Lost Lucys
94. Tour Guide at the Winston Churchill Memorial
[Disc 3 - 75 minutes, 33 tracks]

95. I Drove a Tank
96. Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
97. Circus World
98. Heavy Crown
99. Auditorium
100. Motor Away
101. Man Called Aerodynamics
102. Little Lines
103. Stifled Man Casino
104. Expecting Brainchild
105. Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy
106. My Thoughts Are a Gas
107. Underground Initiations
108. Get Under It
109. White Whale
110. Taco, Buffalo, Birddog and Jesus
111. Systems Crash
112. Keep Me Down
113. We All Got Out of the Army
114. Captain's Dead
115. Lips of Steel
116. No Sky
117. Surgical Focus
118. Something Strawberry
119. Star, Stripes and Crack Pipes
120. Useless Inventions
121. Portable Men's Society
122. My Son Cool
123. Your Name Is Wild
124. Mr. Ghost Town
125. Blimps Go 90
[Disc 4 - 74 minutes, 31 tracks]

126. Gonna Never Have to Die
127. Wings of Thorn
128. Damn Good Mr. Jam
129. Each Is Good in His Own Home
130. 158 Years of Beautiful Sex
131. Ester's Day
132. Supermarket the Moon
133. King and Caroline
134. Go Inside
135. Twig
136. Choking Tara (Creamy Version)
137. Little Head
138. Learning to Hunt
139. Privately
140. Fly Into Ashes
141. Mannequin's Complaint
142. Tight Globes
143. If We Wait
144. I Am Decided
145. Gold Star for Robot Boy
146. Home by Ten
147. Some Drilling Implied
148. Sheetkickers
149. In the Bathroom
150. Exit Flagger
151. Dancing Girls and Dancing Men
152. Insane/Cool It
153. Skills Like This
154. Beaten by the Target
155. 100 Colors
[Disc 5 - 77 minutes, 30 tracks]

Anonymous said...

156. You Satisfy Me
157. Flat Beauty
158. Everywhere with Helicopter
159. An Earful O' Wax
160. Isolation Drills
161. Zoo Pie
162. Harboring Exiles
163. As We Go Up, We Go Down
164. Gleemer
165. Tabby and Lucy
166. Chasing Heather Crazy
167. Blessed in an Open Head
168. Metal Mothers
169. Canned Food Demons
170. Paradise Is Not So Bad
171. People Are Leaving
172. The Best of Jill Hives
173. (It's Good to Be) Bug Boy
174. Cocksoldiers and Their Postwar Stubble
175. Watch Me Jumpstart
176. Queen of Cans and Jars
177. Lord of Overstock
178. It Is Divine
179. Living Upside Down
180. Two Girl Area
181. Not Behind the Fighter Jet
182. Jimmy
183. Toppings Take the Cake
184. Wrecking Now
[Disc 6 - 76 minutes, 29 tracks]
185. Eye Razors
186. Fly Away (Terry Sez)
187. Chocolate Boy
188. At the Farms
189. Asia Minor
190. John the Dwarf Wants to Become an Angel
191. She Goes Off at Night
192. On Top of the Vertigo
193. Surgeon Is Complete
194. Glow Boy Butlers
195. Bunco Men
196. Whiskey Ships
197. Unbaited Vicar of Scorched Earth
198. A Good Flying Bird
199. Maggie Turns to Flies
200. I Am a Scientist
201. Things I Will Keep
202. Silence Be Destroyed
203. Dusted (Electric Version)
204. Cyclone Utilities
205. Old Battery
206. Freedom Rings
207. Conqueror of the Moon
208. Sleep Over Jack
209. Love Your Spaceman
210. Back to the Lake
211. The Brides Have Hit Glass
212. The Gasoline Drinkers
213. Exploding Anthills
214. Mushroom Art
[Disc 7 - 74 minutes, 30 tracks]

215. On the Tundra
216. Pendulum
217. Wished I Was a Giant
218. Tricyclic Looper
219. Matter Eater Lad
220. Wondering Boy Poet (Piano Version)
221. From a Voice Plantation
222. Acorns and Orioles
223. Hardcore UFOs
224. Dusty Bushworms
225. My Valuable Hunting Knife
226. Unspirited
227. The Vicelords
228. Steeple of Knives
229. Perch Warble
230. Dodging Invisible Rays
231. Janet Wait
232. Optional Bases Opposed
233. Dropping the Bomb
234. Planet's Own Brand
235. Post-Hydrate Update
236. Run Son Run
237. Why Did You Land?
238. Kicker of Elves
239. Big Boring Wedding
240. Cocaine Jane
241. The Who Vs. Porky Pig
242. Sot
243. Let's Go Vike
244. Jar of Cardinals
245. The Right Thing
246. Sister I Need Wine
247. Much Better Mr. Buckles
248. Symbols and Heads
249. The Singing Razorblade
[Disc 8 - 76 minutes, 35 tracks]

Anonymous said...

250. Hot Freaks
251. Make a Record for Lo-Life
252. Beg for a Wheelbarrow
253. Sensational Gravity Boy
254. All Men Are Freezing
255. There Are Other Worlds
256. Your Rate Will Never Go Up
257. Hang Mr. Kite
258. Run Wild
259. Nude Metropolis
260. Her Psychology Today
261. Straw Dogs
262. Announcers and Umpires
263. Dunce Codex
264. Rhine Jive Click
265. I Surround You Naked
266. Wire Greyhounds
267. Downed (Cheap Trick Cover)
268. The Way Out
269. Release the Sunbird
270. The Pipe Dream of Instant Prince Whippet
271. I Wanna Be Your Man in the Moon
272. Spiderfighter
273. Finks
274. Alright
275. The Drinking Jim Crow
276. Stabbing a Star
277. Big Chief Chinese Restaurant
278. The Other Place
279. Garden Smarm
280. Demons Are Real
[Disc 9 - 73 minutes, 31 tracks]

281. Weatherman and Skin Goddess
282. Our Gaze
283. The Closets of Henry
284. Of Mites and Men
285. How Loft I Am?
286. Spring Tigers (Electric)
287. Car Language
288. I'm a Widow
289. Sucker of Pistol City
290. Little Whirl
291. Jabberstroker
292. He's the Uncle
293. Dig Through My Window
294. Supernatural Car Lover
295. Track Star
296. Chicken Blows
297. Glad Girls
298. Redmen and Their Wives
299. Huffman Prairie Flying Field
300. Don't Stop Now
[Disc 10 - 59 minutes, 20 tracks]

-Echos Myron

Anonymous said...

Again I agree, except I don't mind the guitar sound, but do prefer live versions.

On my list:

Our Gaze
Count Us In
Current Desperation (Angels Speak of Nothing)
Rud Fins
Miles Under the Skin - the big hit here
Slow Hamilton
I Clap for Strangers
Youth Leagues
Nicely Now