Sunday, April 10, 2011

REVIEW: Mars Classroom - The New Theory of Everything

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.


Michael said...

Being both a die-hard Big Dipper fan, and a GBV fan, I guess it should be no surprise that I couldn't agree with you more. I'd only disagree in that you didn't use enough hyperbole to describe it. Thanks for writing a great review I can share with others, since I go brain dead when I try to write my own reviews.

John Hyland said...

Appreciate the kind word, and the visit, and of course your willingness to share our blog with others. I really have to work hard to tone down the hyperbole, especially with something as uniformly excellent as New Theory.

Anonymous said...

I like your blog (first time I've seen it), and like Michael, I agree 100% with your comments on this album. I think we can all admit without disloyalty that Bob Pollard comes out with some mediocre stuff on occasion. So I kept my fingers crossed as I downloaded it from Amazon. Now, its become a non-stop feature on my MP3 player. Every single song, every damn one of them, is terrific! Congrats and thanks to the artists. They've made me very happy.

SwazzySwess said...

I completely agree with the comments before me. This is an outstanding album. I'm not a Bob fanboy (I think a lot of his solo stuff and Circus Devils is inessential, sometimes even annoying), but this album is FANTASTIC. IMO it's far better than the newest GBV album... my only wish is that it had been promoted more.

SwazzySwess said...

Wait, maybe I am a borderline-fanboy. "Mouseman Cloud" is also really good. Bob is amazing me more and more nowadays...