Graded on a Curve: Boston Spaceships,
Let It Beard

Anybody who expected Robert Pollard’s post-Guided by Voices band, Boston Spaceships—which I will hold to my dying day is a salute to Boston album covers, and not a type of Krispy Kreme donut as Pollard claims—to sound in any way different from GBV is bound to be disappointed. Boston Spaceships is just GBV by another name, and the pleasure you take in listening to their epic 2011 LP Let It Beard will depend wholly on how fanatical a GBV fan you are in the first place.

That said, Let It Beard is a different critter from most of the miraculously prolific Pollard’s previous 2,142 LPs, in that he called a whole parcel of big talent into the studio to lend a hand on separate tracks. (The band’s 2009 release, The Planets Are Blasted, also featured a few guest musicians.) J Mascis, Colin Newman of Wire, Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate, Mick Collins of Dirtbombs, Dave Rick of Phantom Tollbooth, and former GBVer Mitch Mitchell all make cameos, and that’s a prestigious bunch for sure. And as albums go Let It Beard is cool, not Pollard’s best but damn good nonetheless.

Twenty-six songs in length, Let It Beard is definitely Boston Spaceships’ magnum opus, and there’s no way I’m talking about every song. It opens with the multi-sectioned “Blind 20-20,” which grows on you like a flesh-eating virus before segueing into “Juggernaut Vs. Monolith,” which is every bit as primitive, loud, and raucous as you’d expect. “Tourist U.F.O.” is as characteristically Anglophilic a Pollard song as you’ll ever hear, and includes a J Mascis solo that will blow your earth shoes off. “Minefield Searcher” is a melodic tune featuring strummed guitars and Pollard repeating, “Wild child.” When he sings, “I’m the searcher” his Who fetish comes to the forefront, and I can think of few things cooler than a Pollard-Townshend collaboration.

“You Just Can’t Tell” is a rocker, with Colin Newman from Wire contributing one mean ass guitar riff. Meanwhile Pollard repeats the song title over and over, while Newman and the drums create an Old Testament din. “Chevy Marigold” is a sweet tune featuring Pollard singing with one Tahoe Jackson, whoever he is. “That’s the woman,” they sing over and over, while the inexorable riff pounds away and Jackson ends the song with some “Dark Side of the Moon” ululations. “Earmarked for Collision” features some great guitar, while the rambunctious “Toppings Take the Cake” includes some distorted Pollard vocals and a great series of guitar riffs that might as well be car crashes, gratis the guitar of Mick Collins.

“Tabby and Lucy” is classic GBV, with Pollard singing, “Something to know/Something to say/Something to take my blues away” while backed by one natty guitar. It ends on a raucous note, and is followed by a pair of so-so tunes, although the confounding opening of “A Hair in Every Square Inch of Your House” is righteous, as is the epic sound of the song that follows. Steve Wynn solos on “I Took on the London Guys,” a perky number that explodes in your ear holes, with Pollard singing, “Push comes to shove me around” before Wynn’s guitar, sounding strange as they come, takes over, inexorably cool. Gordon Withers’ cello adds texture to the short and initially slow “A Dozen Blue Overcoats,” which goes ballistic at the end. As for “Pincushion,” it’s classic GBV at its fastest, while “Christmas Girl” is a lovely number, as lovely as flowers and shit.

The title track cracks me up, with Pollard singing, “Let it beard/Let it beard/Let it beard/And get all weird.” Not thrilled by the song, unlike “The Vicelords,” which roars along as does follow-up “German Field of Shadows,” which is more metallic and crazy cool, with a big hook that comes at you over and over again.” No Steamboats” is pretty, and features the additional guitar of John Moen, whose playing is lovely indeed. “You in My Prayer” starts slow and goes epic on your ass, and features a great Pollard vocal and one fantastic distorted guitar by Mitch Mitchell, who burns the damn song down. Finally there’s “Inspiration Point,” a bitchin’ rocker that’ll kick your ass, only to slow down before Dave Rick lays down one righteous solo, then another, and this baby is crankin’ cool, especially when Rick returns to take the song out on a rambunctious note.

Let It Beard—which proved to be Boston Spaceships’ swan song—is proof that Pollard’s immense talent has not dissipated, but also that he’s got one sound and he’s sticking to it, no matter what the name of the band he happens to be fronting. He’s a remarkably prolific fellow and that has worked against him, in so far as only the most fanatical Pollard fans feel the need to keep up with his frenetic slew of new releases. No doubt about it, the man is a drunken genius with an unnatural work ethic. The trouble lies in keeping up with his hyperactive LP release schedule. I lost track a while back, and I love the guy. But as far as Pollard LPs go, Let It Beard is a humdinger and well worth your ear time. The man is a juggernaut, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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