Robert Pollard "Not In My Airforce" CD / "Mag Earwhig!" CD / "Sunfish Holy Breakfast" CD EP / Tobin Sprout "Carnival Boy" CD (Matador)
There are a few lessons to learn from these releases - 1. Bob Pollard is the artistic one. 2. Tobin Sprout is the pop perfectionist. 3. GBV is more than the sum of its parts. Pollard's album is the more experimental of the two solo discs, scuffed and scratched up much like some of the noisier contributions to "Bee Thousand." Sprout's is much poppier and polished, lush and wistful. There's something which lingers in the air after the notes contained within Sprout's songs finish resonating. See, the best way to compare these two albums is by likening them to friends - Pollard's is that younger buddy you have, the one who gets too drunk and does stupid things and then laughs about them later, but somehow always makes it through. Sprout's is that cool older friend you have, the one who clues you in on how to dress and how to talk, how to grin and how to walk. As with the other GBV EPs I've been able to find, "Sunfish Holy Breakfast" is a hit or miss effort. Songs like "Canteen Plums," "Cocksoldiers and Their Postwar Stubble," "A Contest Featuring Human Beings" and "Trendspotter Acrobat" are great, melodic pop songs which wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Alien Lanes." The rest may grow on me, but I doubt it. After all, it's been 10 listens now and while they're catchy and enjoyable, there's nothing on this CD which packs the same emotional punch as the re-recorded version of "Game of Pricks." So what? Get all of it anyway. Finally, "Mag Earwhig!" is probably the single most non-essential work Pollard has recorded. It's not that it's bad or awful, it's just that very little stands out. Cobra Verde as a backing band wasn't exactly an inspired choice because they cohere too much and one of GBV's charms was the differences between the members - straight-laced Tobin, dreadlocked Mitch, drunk Bob, the bassist du jour and Kevin Moon ... er, Fennell, pounding the shit out of the drums. They were all different and it gave the songs, and especially the band, character. Yet with Cobra Verde, GBV is reduced to, as several friends of mine said at the show, a very average band. Frankly, Chavez would have been a much better choice as a backing band. After all, Matt Sweeney already knows the songs.