Robert Pollard - Jack Sells the Cow
Say what you like about Robert Pollard, but to call him lazy would be a lie. Aside from the fact he has three albums coming out this year with Guided By Voices, Jack Sells The Cow is his fourth solo album in two years. With so much material coming out in such a short period of time, you could be forgiven for expecting that Pollard is spreading himself too thinly, or that this album is made up of the scraps that are left over. That this is still a fine collection of songs despite his prolific output is remarkable.
First things first: don't go into this expecting a drastic departure from his day-job. Pollard has a really distinctive voice, slightly nasally with a hint of vulnerability, that is instantly recognisable from the first track. There also isn't too much difference in terms of the sound of the songs. Most of Jack Sells The Cow retains the GBV sound, the album being a collection of short, punchy indie-rock songs, with only a quarter of them breaking the three minute mark. The album opens with a burst of discordant guitars on the menacing 'Heaven Is A Gated Community'. Moving at a deliberate pace, with slightly dirgy guitars, it doesn't really set the tone for what is to follow. Things instantly pick up on 'Takes In'. Far more upbeat than the opener, it coasts along on a wave of janglier guitars. Likewise 'Who's Running My Ranch?' contains a big sunny chorus that radiates with warmth. Standout track 'Pontius Pilate Heart' is the poppiest song on the album, the title repeated throughout the verses making it instantly memorable. That isn't to say the album only works for the poppier songs. 'The Rank Of A Nurse' is stripped down at first, with the first half of the song consisting of just Pollard and guitar, and is a far more tender song than elsewhere on the album, before a shift in volume as the drums kick in and the guitars resonate in a heavier fashion.
The thing is, Pollard has always had the knack for writing a catchy song, and he shows here that the well of inspiration shows no sign of running dry. In fact, with the amount of albums he's releasing this year, it looks like the well runs risk of flooding. Whilst it would probably be true that the songs here don't match the best of GBV's output, that isn't to say they aren't of a high standard throughout. From start to finish, Jack Sells The Cow is a thoroughly enjoyable listen from an alt-rock veteran who is still bringing the goods.