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Issue 12 Fall 2003
By Greg Barbera
Beard of Lightning
So you take a lost classic from an overlooked and underrated indie rock band (PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH), erase the vocal tracks and give the album to one of the band's biggest fans, GUIDED BY VOICES' Bob Pollard. First off, I'm surprised I learned about this record from an ad in a music magazine (note to Off Records: those advertising dollars were well spent), and not from the legions of GBV-obsessed audiophiles. I mean Bob Pollard takes a shit and his fans listen in. He could sell bootleg b-sides of him burping like hotcakes on eBay. Needless to say, this was a brilliant concept: Slip Pollard and his schoolteacher-cum-Beat poet lyricism over top of the jazzy, spazzy, art punk of PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (often compared to THE MINUTEMEN, early MEAT PUPPETS or HALF JAPANESE), and BAM! pure gold. I don't need to tell you how fucking sublime Pollard's words are - that's expected. But for those GBV fans who may have been too young to fully appreciate the genre-bending that was going on with PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH and other independent rock bands toiling away in the college radio world known as underground or alternative music back in the late `80's/early `90's, this is a great primer and an awesome way to get a dose of the way it was before the corporate shilling got out of hand.
Thanks Bob. Anyone want to buy a copy of "Bee Thousand" with me on vocals? Anyone?