Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Boston Spaceships: Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (2010)

TOTAL SCORE: 53, AVG: 3.31

Pollard, Slusarenko, and Moen returned for their fourth album in three years, and managed to create yet another stellar Boston Spaceships album. There is not a bad song on Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (OCSR). After this entry, there was no doubt to me that Pollard found a new band that could easily fill in as his main and replace GBV in that respect. Of course, it was never meant to be as the Boston Spaceships would only have one more album on the horizon...

    I understand that OCSR is often considered Boston Spaceships' best album, and even though I still have to go with The Planets Are Blasted for my personal choice, it is not hard to see why. Every song on this album is good, and even though I didn't choose any to be considered "among Bob's best", I am sure that other fans would have.

    Take for instance my two favorites; the undeniable hit on OCSR, Come On Baby Grace, and the "there's nothing else like it in Pollard's catalog" Freedom Rings. Come On Baby Grace is a straight up pop hit with a catchy verse and an even catchier chorus. Freedom Rings on the other hand is an epic and brooding saga of a song. There was some hint of this style of song on Pollard's From A Compound Eye (The Numbered Head and Conqueror of the Moon for example), but this one-two punch on OCSR truly showcases the various ways the Pollard and his crew can dish out a hit song.

    It wouldn't be a review of a Boston Spaceships album without comparing songs with their previous versions on a Suitcase release. There is a demo of the previously mentioned Freedom Rings on Suitcase 3. Likewise, a demo of Unshaven Bird appears on the original Suitcase. At first, it doesn't seem like the album version is going to break out far from the demo, but that changes part way through as the song is basically repeated with a bigger sound that takes it to another level. I could actually see Unshaven Bird fitting in perfectly on Isolation Drills.

    Other favorites from OCSR include the opener Track Star, which builds to a great finish ("And now he's back in your tracks"), and John The Dwarf Wants To Become An Angel, a pretty song that challenges Come On Baby Grace as the album's most single-worthy tune. Fly Away (Terry Sez) rounds up the group of top tracks on OCSR. It has incredibly catchy verses that sound like they are building to an amazing chorus, but I find the chorus doesn't quite deliver and keeps it from being a solid "gem".

    I'll skip to the worst tracks on OCSR. I See You Coming is mostly Pollard repeatingly droning the same words over and over, though the slow buildup of the guitar behind the lyrics still make this a passable tune. My general indifference to The British And The French is likely mostly due to taste, whereas the British invasion and oldie vibe of the song could appeal to others.

    That leaves a whole bunch of solid tracks that do not really stand-out from each other, but are still unique and fun to listen to. Stunted, Bombadine, and Airwaves all have interesting rhythms and sounds but suffer a bit from repeating the same melody (and the song title) without a true chorus to break it up. Airwaves is probably my favorite of that bunch due to its guitar soloing that is scattered throughout. Trick of the Telekinetic Newlyweds has grown on me over time, and similar to the other songs in this group, there is some more great experimentation with different sounds and instruments going on. 

    Like Airwaves, Dunkirk Is Frozen is a mellow rocker with repeating elements. Also, like many of Pollard's songs, there is a great short piece near the end that is gone almost before it starts. This is both a wonderful and frustrating component to Pollard's songwriting where he is more than willing to take a great song tidbit and hide it somewhere rather than fleshing it out. King Green Stamp has grown on me, and for some reason it reminds me of an Ellie Goulding ballad (I think it is just how Pollard holds on to his words a little longer than usual). The closer In The Bathroom (Up 1/2 The Night) is the album's big rocker, and doesn't do anything to really stand out from other similar tracks.

    Lastly, Saints Don't Lie is similar to Fly Away (Terry Sez), as it has a great catchy verse that is a booming chorus shy of being great. I know a song can be great without a catchy chorus, and the more I listen to Saints Don't Lie, the more I like it. It actually flipped-flopped between "Good" and "Almost Gem" until finally landing on "Good".

    You can't go wrong with any Boston Spaceships album. Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is arguably their best one and it is definitely a must-have album. There is a greater variety of types of songs and sounds on this record, but there is also a consistent high quality production throughout. Here is my ranking of the tracks on Our Cubehouse Still Rocks:

    Among Bob's Best
    -- none

    09 Come On Baby Grace
    10 Freedom Rings

    Almost Gems
    01 Track Star
    02 John The Dwarf Wants to Become An Angel
    04 Fly Away (Terry Sez)

    They're Good
    05 Trick Of The Telekinetic Newlyweds
    06 Saints Don't Lie
    08 Unshaven Bird
    11 Stunted
    12 Bombadine
    13 Airwaves
    14 Dunkirk Is Frozen
    15 King Green Stamp
    16 In The Bathroom (Up 1/2 The Night)

    They're OK
    03 I See You Coming
    07 The British And The French

    Could Live Without
    -- none

    Toss-Offs & Throwaways
    -- none

    Given the scoring above, the album would get 53 points total (and an average of 3.31). 


    jace said...

    Nice to have you back and hope you'll keep it up. Yes, "Freedom Rings" is something special, and I'm anxious to hear your take on LET IT BEARD (and I attempted to review this masterpiece awhile back). Also, I'm beginning to suspect HOW DO YOU SPELL HEAVEN will prove to be top-tier GBV for anyone with ears.

    The Rock Robot said...

    Hi jace. Let it Beard is up next - I have all my notes ready, and I just need to find the time to get the post up. I've listened to How Do You Spell Heaven a couple of times but it hasn't all sunk in yet. Steppenwolf Mausoleum is an instant classic though...