Here’s a hypothetical: you are given a double album by a band that is a side project created by a founding member of a well-known indie band from the 90s. That person touts the album as “the White Album meets Quadrophenia meets Jesus Christ Superstar.” The graying artist calls it “a subconscious concept album about the sorry state of rock and roll.” What do you do with this information? What would I do with this information?
I took it with a grain of salt. The old guard is always going to complain about the new musical landscape. That is the cycle of things, and it is never going to change – look at Eminem and Snoop Dogg as elder statesmen for the hip-hop community or people calling Green Day “old school punk” while Greg Graffin cracks a smile. These things are going to happen. I saw the other side of it as the 90s was my generation and as such, everything that came out that decade musically was great, right?
Of course it was, if you were in your teens or twenties those 10 years. Listen to the 90s station on Sirius/XM for a day and get past the nostalgia. There were equal parts great and terrible, just like any other decade. So I listened to Let It Beard by Boston Spaceships with a strange curiosity. Was it Mr. Pollard’s opus or was it a rocker’s inability to let the music scene pass him by?
Turns out it was neither. And it definitely wasn’t the White Album meets Quadrophenia meets Jesus Christ Superstar.
Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices) recorded with bassist Chris Slusarenko (GBV) and drummer John Moen (Decemberists) and cranked out a 75-minute indie and classic rock revue. This album is all over the place musically. The record has some Who-like moments like in the title track and the closing track, “Inspiration Points.” There is some Ziggy Stardust space like rock in “Let More Light Into the House.” After collecting my thoughts, the music shifts to the fuzz-punk “You Just Can’t Tell,” “The Vicelords,” and the gloomy “Juggernaut vs. Monolith.”
I applaud Pollard’s prolific writing ability. Listening to the album, I can hear his ability and musical experience. Each song is expertly outlined and written; every note is calculated. If a song has a sloppy section, it is on purpose and adds to the story being told in that three minute span. Every bounce between acoustic guitar and murky distortion, between thematic decades, is well-designed and planned. One needs ambition and talent to pull of something like Let It Beard and the three men do so without a hitch. A special kudos goes to Moen who learned all the songs in the studio, yet keeps the drumbeat like he had a hand in writing each of the 26 tracks.
This was an album created for music fans who want to remember that indie rock sound from fifteen years ago thrown in with some 70s rock sensibility. In essence, it is for rock historians and not for mass consumption.
Based on Pollard’s quotes and musical style, I think he prefers it that way.