Even if From a Compound Eye is not as thoroughly ablaze with the inventive melodies and hissy genius of Robert Pollard’s best work with Guided By Voices (or any of his other pseudonymous pet projects), it confidently proves that the forty-eight-year-old Fading Captain still carries the same spark from the grinder’s wheel that set the indie world reeling in the early ’90s.
Clocking twenty-six songs at just more than seventy minutes, From a Compound Eye is longer than any other single-disc release of his career – a fact that should give deserved pause to those familiar with Pollard’s steely reluctance to embrace an(y) editorial process. The hesitation proves unjustified. In both material and performance, From a Compound Eye quickly reveals itself to be classic Pollard. Anachronistic melodies prop his trademark instant poetry through a psych-pop, tape-hiss snowstorm of overdriven guitars and cheap synths. Amplified to rock? Always.
“I’m a Strong Lion” runs just more than a minute and recalls the jangly enthusiasm of R.E.M.’s best, and “Hammer in Your Eyes” channels Bakesale-era Sebadoh. “A Boy in Motion” echoes Townshend and Daltrey with surgical clarity but aches for a liftoff that never ignites. Tossing aside precision, “Kensington Cradle” comes across as a codeine-fueled “Crimson and Clover” built on broken guitars and no clear time signature. More exuberant, the bouncing piano of “Dancing Girls and Dancing Men” makes the shortlist of From a Compound Eye faves, along with the pastoral pop of “U.S. Mustard Company,” which soars in its final minute on the repeated suggestive lyric: “Contain yourself.”
The glorious truth is that, even with his scattershot genius concretely confirmed, Pollard still sounds like an impassioned fan, spinning gold from Hi-Bias tape in a Dayton, Ohio basement, wholly unconcerned with any world outside his record collection and imagination. Excepting, of course, the choice hops and malted barley that go into every cool and refreshing Miller Lite.
Prefix review: Guided by Voices [Earthquake Glue] by Sara Farr