Friday, October 02, 2020

Boston Spaceships: Let it Beard (2011)

 TOTAL SCORE: 76, AVG: 2.92

This would be PollardSlusarenko, and Moen's final album as the Boston Spaceships, and what a way to go out. Let it Beard is Boston Spaceships at their sprawling best, with 26 mostly good tunes that, though not reaching the highs of The Planets Are Blasted or Our Cubehouse Still Rocks, is still surprisingly consistent over that large quantity of songs. 

    With 26 tracks, Boston Spaceships run the range from short and heavy punk-inspired tunes to soft ballads, and everything in between. Placed throughout the album, and with good effect, are four ensemble-like songs that give the album its weird-vibe or double-album story and thematic feel. The opener and closer are part of this group (Blind 20-20 and Inspirations Points), and mixed in the middle are A Hair in Every Square Inch of the House and the title track, Let if Beard. All of these feel like different songs mashed together to some extent, with Inspiration Points and Let it Beard being the most connected and enjoyable. The first part of Inspiration Points is so good that I felt it would have been a better album opener, and there's a part in the middle that is just perfect, with Pollard saying "‘Cause I want my pills / and I want my thrills / and I want my kills / and I want my thrills / and I want my spills /  and I want my fill / Alright", which could be an explanation for what we get on this album. But overall, there are not that many "spills" or toss-aways. Let More Light in the House, for example, is not in itself a great tune with its five minutes of slowly ramping up brooding, but as part of the album as a whole it is an interesting diversion.

    Other songs just get lost in the shuffle of such a large album. Let it Beard has a bunch of heavier and rocking tunes, and Red Bodies just isn't as good as the other ones. Pincushion is fine, but the punkier and one-minute-and-done take is done better elsewhere (Toppings Take the Cake or Juggernaut Vs. Monolith for example). And Speed Bumps is another casualty of the sheer quantity on Let it Beard, unable to stand out to better examples of the lighter and poppier side of the album represented by the likes of Minefield Searcher and Make a Record for Lo-life. Speaking of those two songs, them, along with Tourist U.F.O. would feel right at home at 2007 era Pollard solo albums where every upbeat and mid-tempo song hit the mark for being pretty good, but not necessarily standing out. 

    So what does stand out on this giant of an album? For me The Vicelords is alone worth the cost of admission. The Vicelords belongs amongst Pollard's best, and might be among my top 10. When Pollard first sings "the Vicelords they come down on a string into your life", it is the greatest moment on the album (hidden at track 21), but that guitar solo then kicks in over the driving rhythm to finish the song and it becomes one of the best GBV-related moments, period. It is songs like this that make you feel bad for all of those that have not had a chance to discover GBV, Robert Pollard, or through some odd chance come upon the Boston Spaceships first.

    It is hard not to tap Tabby and Lucy as the album's certified hit, with its anthem chorus that belongs on the radio. But just check out these lyrics:

    To teenage Miss Sorrow I loan my ladder 
    And do climb over but know thy limits
    A true magician will grow on top of a tomb
    To little lord Chuckie I bump my uglies
    And own unbeknowst do start over
    A blue musician will blow right out of the womb

    How does Pollard even make this work in a song, let alone a really great one? I don't know, but even when Pollard is at his most radio-friendly he still manages to be off-kiltered in some way or another.

    As good as Tabby and Lucy is, Christmas Girl stands out as a unique song that's elevated beyond most every other song on Let it Beard (besides The Vicelords of course). It has a neat riff, beautiful vocals and melody, and just feels "big". I remember not really giving it a second thought on first listen, but over time it has become a favorite. Other stand-outs include You Just Can't Tell with its bit of "We Didn't Start the Fire" mixed with GBV swagger, and Chevy Marigold, where Pollard's smooth melodies are laid on top of backing vocals chanting "that's the woman". 

    Finally there are some other good songs too, because it is the Boston Spaceships and its an album with 26 songs! The Ballad of Bad Whiskey is a pretty song that sounds exactly like what a ballad of bad whiskey would sound like. Like many Pollard tracks, Earmark for Collision is a straight up rocker until the end where it becomes something greater, and No Steamboats is a decent slower track. I also like I Took on the London Guys, German Field of Shadows, and You in My Prayer since they all offer something a bit different, and all could be gem-worthy with a bit more time a care, but they are totally fine as is.

    Overall, Let it Beard is a great album. The average score of 2.92 seems a bit lower than how I feel about it. I'd say with an album of 26 songs you are going to likely get that settling near the middle, but GBV pulled it off with the amazing 24 song Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Let it Beard manages to be consistently good and cohesive, but I would agree with the average rating that it is probably Boston Spaceship's third, fourth, or fifth best album depending on my tastes that day, but I can totally understand why others would call it their very best. I also understand that I don't give enough credit to Slusarenko, and Moen's contributions in general when talking about the band. This is primarily a Robert Pollard-based blog and I tend to give him all of the credit regardless of his bandmates, so I do apologize for that.

    Here is my ranking of the tracks on Our Cubehouse Still Rocks:

    Among Bob's Best
    21 The Vicelords

    11 Tabby and Lucy
    19 Christmas Girl

    Almost Gems
    07 You Just Can't Tell
    08 Chevy Marigold

    They're Good
    01 Blind 20-20
    02 Juggernaut Vs. Monolith
    03 Tourist U.F.O.
    04 Minefield Searcher
    05 Make a Record for Lo-life
    09 Earmarked for Collision
    10 Toppings Take the Cake
    14 The Ballad of Bad Whiskey
    15 I Took on the London Guys
    20 Let it Beard
    22 German Field of Shadows
    24 No Steamboats
    25 You In My Prayer
    26 Inspiration Points

    They're OK
    16 Red Bodies
    18 Pincushion
    23 Speed Bumps

    Could Live Without
    06 Let More Light in the House
    12 I'll Make it Strong For You
    13 A Hair in Every Square Inch of the House
    17 A Dozen Blue Overcoats

    Toss-Offs & Throwaways
    -- none

    Given the scoring above, the album would get 76 points total (and an average of 2.92). 

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