Guided By Voices (TVT)
Raise your hand at a Guided By Voices concert and, out of old habit, bandleader Robert Pollard just might call on you. Until five years ago, Pollard, who began churning out little-heard albums of catchy pop gems in the basement of his Dayton home back in the late 1970s, supported himself by working as a fourth-grade schoolteacher. He quit after the Voices were signed by a major label in 1994. Since then, Pollard has achieved cult status as a prolific and pop-savvy auteur. Here, on the Voices’ 11th full-length album, guitarist, singer and songwriter Pollard eschews his former rudimentary lo-fi sound and teams with producer Ric Ocasek, the former Cars driver who encases the album in his trademark wall of booming sound. Joined by longtime Voices bassist Greg Demos and newcomers Jim MacPherson (on drums) and guitarist Doug Gillard, Pollard, now 41, pays homage to the 1960s and ’70s pop music he was weaned on with these 16 two-and three-minute symphonies. Blessed with an appealing voice to match the unwavering melodic sensibility that guides him, Pollard sweetens his basic guitar-bass-drums sound with some studio flourishes that seem more of a salute to Sgt. Pepper than a surrender to modern electronica. Pollard also has a gift for inventive lyrics, as displayed in titles like “Teenage FBI” and “Optical Hopscotch.” Just hope that the last tune, “An Unmarketed Product,” does not forecast the fate of this album.
Bottom Line: Former teacher scores high marks