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Last summer, Robert Pollard released Honey Locust Honky Tonk, a solo album of grace, poise, wit and melody which was praised widely by reviewers. It contained two of his best songs since the Guided By Voices reunion ('Airs' and 'I Killed a Man who Looks Like You') and seemed to signal a more contemplative direction for his songwriting. However, long-time fans of the man's work (are there really any other kind these days?) will know that Pollard doesn't really do direction. Or rather, he does. But it's every direction, simultaneously.

The rejuvenated GBV have released six albums since 2012 (two this year already, with another on the way), and Pollard's solo work has been no less prodigious; it seems that before most fans have had a chance to absorb his last offering, another one lands in their laps. That would be fine, welcome even - if the material was in any way consistent. For the record, this is the second Teenage Guitar album in two years, and is a Pollard solo album in everything but name - he sings, writes all the songs and plays all the instruments. So why the name change? Well, as demonstrated by last year's 'debut' Force Fields at Home, Teenage Guitar is home to some of his more experimental meanderings.

Let's be clear about this: even Pollard's greatest songs are not for everyone. But even his die-hards may struggle with More Lies from the Gooseberry Bush. It starts promisingly enough, with 'Go Around (The Apartment Dwellers)', 'Spliced At Acme Fair' and 'A Guaranteed Ratio' evoking the triumphant spirit of Under The Bushes Under The Stars-era GBV, defiantly lo-fi and wonky. The latter is fabulous; a high point which unfortunately comes far too soon.

From there, things become less palatable, the worst offenders being 'Skin Ride' with its tuneless, one-note chorus; the inert 'Full Glass Gone'; and 'All You Fought For', whose plinking banjo can't disguise a fatal lack of structure. After that gruelling mid-section, 'Matthew's Ticker and Shaft' comes as a relief. The song's lengthy full title suggests some sort of prog suite, but is in fact a bright sound collage reminiscent of Propellor's 'Back To Saturn X Radio', using the same 'snatches of songs that might have been' technique. 'Normalized' is another highlight, a slow-burner with more than a hint of his band-mate Tobin Sprout about it. Closer 'A Year That Could Have Been Worse' sums up the album's problem perfectly: it has a lot of intent, but goes nowhere with it.

Teenage Guitar might have been an exercise in the exuberance and spontaneity that seems to have eluded Pollard for a long time now; in some ways it is, but it also seems forced, and badly lacking in melody. What made his great songs so powerful was the collision of a bludgeoning lo-fi aesthetic with astonishing choruses, reeled off like shopping lists. Those pop songs seem to have mostly dried up now, and we are left to deal with the reality that Pollard's mediocre material now vastly outweighs the good. Nevertheless, there is still no-one around like him, and the good news is this: if you didn't like this one, you won't have to wait long for another.

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