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Moen, Pollard, Slusarenko (Boston Spaceships)

BROWN SUBMARINE • Boston Spaceships

Robert Pollard is said to have 1000 songs registered to his name at BMI. He has released two multi-disc Suitcase box sets, named after the bulging valise in which he carries his demo recordings. People who want to trace his discography must master not just Guided by Voices and solo material, but dozens of semi-fictitious alter egos and hypothetical band names. You wonder how, in all the years and all the projects, he has managed not to write the same song twice...and, if you keep thinking about it, you also wonder whether he would realize it if he did.

Boston Spaceships is Pollard's newest project, a real life, flesh and blood band, whose members include ex-Decemberists drummer John Moen and frequent GBV collaborator Chris Slusarenko. It is quite good--and quite reminiscent of the great GBV records, Bee Thousand in particular. (See if you can listen to "You Satisfy Me" without hearing echoes of "Gold Star Robot Boy".) These are short, absurdly hooky songs, as casually ear-wormy as advertising jingles, but as surreal as Magritte's head-scarfed kiss. From the first slanting, sly guitars of "Winston's Atomic Bird" through the jangly, lo-fi "Go for the Exit," Brown Submarine is all fizzy pleasure.

Pollard borrows freely all along the rock idiom, and not just from himself. Skittery "Ate It Twice" is the best Bo Diddley tribute I've heard since the man died, and pounding "Psych Threat" rampages along like a lost cut from The Who Sell Out. (It sounds a good bit like "Jaguar.") Elsewhere you may pick up whiffs of the Bevis Frond, the Lemonheads, Syd Barrett, and the Pixies...which is to say, Pollard has set up tent right in the middle of pysch-tinged, pop-bouyant rock history.

None of this, however, conveys exactly how much fun Brown Submarine is or how good it is to hear Pollard filtering his way-out-there sensibility through the contours of straight-up, good-time rock and roll. "Listen to this hit, Bobby," someone says midway through the album, before breaking into frenetic, pop-tinged strumming--and though none of these songs may ever be a conventional "hit," they sure sound like them. Along with the excellent Robert Pollard Is Off to Business, this new project marks a return to form for one of indie rock's best songwriters. It's maybe even time to order another case of no-name beer to celebrate. • Jennifer Kelly

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bostonspaceships.com        rockathonrecords.com



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