In 1994, Robert Pollard’s main band, Guided by Voices, released the landmark Bee Thousand, an album that resides with Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted and Sebadoh’s III as high water marks in the lo-fi movement. In the decade that followed Bee Thousand, Pollard would release a ridiculous number of albums. Many were good (Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars) and many, many were bad (the Hazzard Hotrods’ Big Trouble, the Smegma & Antler project). Circus Devils features Robert Pollard on lyrics and vocals and Todd Tobias on all instruments. And its music is just not that good.
To be fair, Bee Thousand is tough to surpass. But since Pollard disbanded Guided by Voices in 2004, there seems to be twice as much of his material in the market. The difference appears to be Pollard’s ability (or inability) to self-edit. The band recorded a boxed-set worth of song for Bee Thousand but then picked the twenty best. But Sgt. Disco has thirty-two tracks, and it really only needs twelve. The other two-thirds sound like you and your friends getting high and fucking around with a four-track. Several of them feature Pollard ranting (not singing), others find him adopting annoying voices, and most feature one repeated phrase. With Pollard half-assing it here, I can’t imagine anybody feeling like there aren’t enough other Pollard-related albums to listen to instead.
“In Madonna’s Gazeebo” stream: http://www.circusdevils.com/inmadonnasgazebo.html
“Swing Shift” stream: http://www.circusdevils.com/swingshift.html