Monday, February 28, 2011

REVIEW: Lifeguards - Waving at the Astronauts

Lifeguards is Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard, and those two are a match made in pop/rock heaven. Since Gillard first joined Guided by Voices and donated the great "I Am a Tree", they've made great guitar rock together. In addition to the GbV albums from Under the Bushes Under the Stars through Half Smiles of the Decomposed, they've put together some great side projects, including 1999's Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (great advice because, as Bob once opined from the stage, "they just might save your flaming ass someday").

Point is, a Bob/Doug piece is just about guaranteed to make rock fans happy... and Waving at Astronauts certainly does.

Here's the first track, "Paradise Is Not So Bad". Check out the little vocal "hiccup" in the first line... the kind of thing that distinguishes great rock vocalists from the rest of 'em:

She stumbles down a -
Corridor of drunken madness

LIFEGUARDS - Paradise Is Not So Bad by seriousbusiness

It's a Pollard pop/rock tour de force, as are several of the other tracks on the record, but this being a Pollard disc, there's plenty of psych, punk and prog. Check out the restrained guitar solo on track 3, "Doing the Math", and the punk backbeat on 4, "Product Head"... and the overall rollicking rock freakout of track 6, "Sexless Auto".

I don't think anybody synthesizes the disparate influences from the golden age of album rock (say, 1977, the year of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pink Floyd, Television and Judas Priest, The Sex Pistols and Kraftwerk, David Bowie and Neil Young...) like Robert Pollard, while still managing to do new, or at least interesting, things with them.

And then there's the Pollard wordplay. Try not to smile as snippets like "same face the pie got smashed" and "shocking outcomes and hot propositions/from the out of body builders" rise above the mix...

Pollard and Gillard are clearly interested in the concept of the hero: astronauts, volunteer firemen, lifeguards... and I would put them in that category, at least in spirit, for doing their part to save rock's flaming ass from itself. While the industry continues to founder and lurch from one kid-friendly trend to another, there are guys like Pollard and Gillard, working in places like Dayton, Ohio, to deliver rock excellence to folks like us. Speak kindly is the least I could do.

Buy the record: Serious Business Records Website or Ernest Jenning Records Website

Here's a song-by-song account written by Doug Gillard on his Facebook page. I found this very enjoyable for several reasons, not least of which is the opportunity to discover the motivation for some more of Pollard's seeming non sequitir lyrics (check out Doug's explanation of the line "Post modern science is a trip" in "Keep It In Orbit":

Doug Gillard Song Notes for Lifeguards' Waving at the Astronauts

No comments: