The New Theory of Everything finds Robert Pollard working with a new team in a power trio that plays everything from angular pop/punk to wistful jangly ballads, and plays it as well as anyone working today. The band consists of Gary Waleik of Big Dipper and Volcano Suns on guitars, bass, keyboards and Robert Beerman of Pell Mell on drums.
The first song, "New Theory", is a power pop masterpiece... the drumming, the guitars and of course Bob's way with a chorus all combine to kick off the record with a winner, and they never let up. "Man, Wine, Power" drives along a little faster and, again, the drums and guitar are terrific, as is the insistent chorus lead-in - "Every day of the year" - where the vocals and a guitar riff are on the same beat, tension is created by repetition the first two times it's played and then on the third repetition it's released into a soaring guitar solo.
"There Never Was a Sea of Love" has a wistful quality that Pollard fans will recognize from previous collaborations with Tommy Keene (The Keene Brothers) and Mac McCaughan (Go Back Snowball). If those aren't familiar to you, you've got another treat in store. "Pre-med's a Trip" is one of those wonderful Pollard conversation songs with lots of changes in a short timespan... "It's Good to Be Bug Boy" combines the goofy title and lyrics with Wire-style pop/punk music...
This record's got a little bit of everything, including Bob's wonderful wordplay, instantly catchy melodies and some excellent musicianship from Waleik and Beerman... and I do mean excellent. While instantly recognizable as Pollard's music, this is a different combo with a different sound, and the whole thing comes together so well it's hard to believe they haven't been a band for years. Just goes to show, I suppose, that the Four P's are something of a universal language.
I won't go song-by-song, although I certainly could. The record can be sampled (and bought in digital format) here.
But the final song deserves your attention. It's a beautiful ballad with reflective lyrics:
Without a smile or a frown
these kids don't want to go down
and that's the difference between
you and the cyclone machine
they say you're too tightly strung
that's why you're not having fun
but that's not what it's about
you're trying to figure things out
too many obstacles flung
I guess you wish you were young
And here's a nice video someone did on YouTube, combining the song with some footage from a family reunion. I think it's inspired, really:
Buy the disc at Factory of Raw Essentials.