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Issue #110
By Franklin Bruno

Robert Pollard
Motel of Fools
#26 in the Fading Captain Series

Circus Devils
The Harold Pig Memorial
#25 in the Fading Captain Series

Give a thousand monkeys a thousand years and a thousand typewriters, and they still won't come up with as many songs as Robert Pollard. After 2000's hundred-song Suitcase, and the two Guided By Voices albums (and associated B-sides) released since then, any sane person would rest on their laurels, or at least their empties. But not Dayton, Ohio's gift to logorrhea: In recent years, he's shredded a daunting volume of word salad onto various collaborations, one-off bands, and (often pseudonymous) solo projects, releasing the results via his in-house Fading Captain imprint (with help from Indianapolis distributor Luna Music).

For sheer incoherence, salvos #25 and #26 don't match last year's Tropic of Nipples, a battle of the ids with rock scribe Richard Meltzer. But Motel of Fools comes close. Beginning with a cryptic testimonial ("Truly I saw/The quail and the quasar") and ending with someone (not Pollard) screwing up the words to "He's a jolly good fellow", this is a barely-guided tour through the dark corners of one man's mental broom closet. Some of the parts? Lennonesque piano pounding, a jarring four-song collage-suite and a few band-backed numbers that wouldn't shame an actual GBV release. (A number of past members make brief appearances.) The sum of the parts? Well, a Pollard scholar'd have some theories, but the disc's clearest through-line is a gradual movement from prog-fantasy territory ("The caterpillar's destiny/The cloakmaker learns his size") to the earthbound concerns of "Harrison Adams," with its to-die-for chorus: "You're not happy with me, and I know it." For all its fragmentation, the whole 32-minute trip is satisfying, and curiously complete.

The Circus Devil' disc employs Pollard's favorite collaborative method, letting others record music and later vocalizing the results. The enablers this time out are current GBV bassist Tim Tobias on guitar, and brother/producer Todd Tobias (both of Cleveland's underappreciated 4 Coyotes) on everything else. Their interaction on these 22 tracks is both sharp and varied enough to seem distinct from both the "real" band and Pollard's solo material. As for content: The Harold Pig Memorial is allegedly a concept album revolving around a Vegas biker's funeral, but tracking a narrative through these violently compressed lyrics ("You get the dirty world news/Mainly/Daily/Got in on/No/Me") is like reading Finnegan's Wake without a Jesuit education. The MOR-styled "Soldiers of Love" and the tightly wound "Last Punk Standing" stand on their individual merits, but the production of gemlike pop songs isn't the real point here. If the outer limits of Pollard's hyper creativity seem worth exploring, either release offers plenty to chew on. But casual fans might consider waiting for another full-scale Guided By Voices album - after all, it shouldn't take long.