The Buddha Den

Everything you wanted to know about the Dayton music scene and more but were afraid to ask

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

REVIEW: Boston Spaceships "Brown Submarine"

"You know what the deal is dude..." -from "Big Chief Chinese Restaurant" Alien Lanes (1995)

Since Robert Pollard issued his first solo disc in 1996, it quickly became apparent that this was a songwriting talent of immeasurable proportions. By the early years of this millennium, Pollard established the Fading Captain series to cater to his unending number of releases. As the catalog bulged, however, the ratio of chaff-to-wheat also skyrocketed. It quickly became apparent that with each new release would contain a certain number of gems, it would also be filled out with tracks that were destined to become skippers...

...enter the latest shot fired from the Pollard cannon: the Boston Spaceships debut, Brown Submarine. With a half-dozen releases already out this year, it would seem as if there couldn't possibly be much more left in the pot at this point. Well, you're only half-right. From the kickoff of "Winston's Atomic Bird" it's apparent that Pollard still has a few tricks left. His unending ability to mutate his pop/punk/prog/psyche sensibilities is in full display on this track as the fuzzed out opening riff gives way to a fist-raising chorus. No sooner do expectations raise than they are quickly sobered as the title track offers yet another in the myriad melancholy acoustic ditties that are part of Pollard's oeuvre. Another pair of this style drag the disc down, "North 11 AM" and "Still In Rome", although the latter raves up just enough to almost salvage some character.

The finest moments on the disc, however, are when the Spaceships (Pollard, along with ex-GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko and The Decembrists' drummer John Moen) delve headfirst into the anthemic post-punk that hold the album up. Easily the most engaging track on the album, "Zero Fix" proves that Pollard can still rock harder than virtually any act going. Album closer "Go For The Exit" rehashes one of the lost gems from the Suitcase collection, delivering on the potential of that delicate acoustic demo. Sadly, the track ends with a rather unelectrifying conclusion. Pollard & co. serve up a solid pop serving with "Ready to Pop" that perpetuates his well-documented fixation with The Who.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Brown Submarine lies not in the songs themselves, but in the production value. For years now, Pollard has championed this "mid-fi" production value. After attempting to escape the lo-fi tag that followed the band as they ascended to indie rock god status and subsequent failed attempts at making the big rock record, Pollard settled into a niche that seemed perfect for his aesthetic. The result is a musical limbo in which the faithful call for a return to lo-fi and the unconverted are simply left scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss is about. Throughout Brown Submarine, the arena-sized anthems seem to fall flat, never fully arriving at their destination. Certainly, this is a dilemma that should be rectified in the live setting, but seems to hinder the finest points on the album.

As is almost always the case with each successive Pollard release, his idiosyncrasies will leave listeners with a handful of tracks that will inevitably lodge themselves into psyches everywhere and leave a stack of non-essentials behind...

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the gem to shite ratio is much better than most his recent releases. It's good to hear him working with other musicians than Todd Tobias, too. Don't get me wrong - Todd can do some great stuff, but it's nice to have a few more chefs making the stew from time to time. Can't wait to see them at DMF!

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Circus Devils is where he's doing his best stuff anymore. It's a completely different personality, but he's equally as good at it as the pop stuff he's been doing for years. Incredible shit.

8:16 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home