Was it not for the recommendation of my friend, musician and reviewer Jeff Elbel, I’d never have listened to Space Gun, one of the 2018 albums from Guided By Voices. I say “one of” because bandleader Robert Pollard is presently in a tontine with Ryan Adams over who can put out the most number of records at any given time. Aside from GBV, Pollard also releases as a solo act, as Lifeguards, Circus Devils, and more. He’s even released a couple of “standup comedy” records comprised of between-song banter from live concerts a’la the infamous Having Fun With Elvis Onstage album.

Thus was the case for why I ran far and fast from nearly every GBV/Pollard-related release post 2004’s Half Smiles of the Decomposed. It was even difficult to take a victory walk down memory lane when Glen Campbell (kind of) covered the 1999 GBV track “Hold On Hope.” I was thoroughly burned out on Pollard.

Not that I enjoyed being out of the loop. I would have preferred to have been able to soak in one great record after another, if in fact that regularity was assured. When he’s on and focused, Pollard is a gifted rocker, but more often than not, his coherence is out the window. Two winning tracks here, then a couple of beer-bong chants that resolve into nothing, some songs recorded on an old cheap cassette recorder, maybe another good-to-decent basher, and on, and it all becomes exhausting. Again, I wasn’t going to step back in…but Elbel said, no, give this a shot.

Fortunately, this is one of those Pollard efforts that sound like there’s a true through-line at work. Sure, his lyrics are as inscrutable as ever, the Venn diagram center blob between William S. Burroughs cut-up poetry and a stream-of-consciousness brain fart. But he’s always been that way and, at his best, the melodies force you to adopt some wild gibberish and sing along unashamedly.

Need evidence? Space Gun’s “I Love Kangaroos” is pretty silly, but the melody sees you through. “Colonel Paper” and “Ark Technician” also rise to the top as memorable tracks. The majority of the tracks are short – another GBV custom – but seldom feel incomplete. I simply don’t know what more could be done with “Hudson Rake” without the addition sounding tacked-on just to be a proper length.

The band on this album – and membership as ever is a fluid thing – consists of mainstays Pollard, Doug Gillard, Kevin March, and include Mark Shue and Bobby Bare Jr. They keep things solidly in the “rock records” aisle and make Space Gun easy to love. It’s not an intellectual effort nor an anthemic one. It’s the kind of album that you turn up loud and let fly.

The big question is will this bring me back into the Pollard/GBV fold? I don’t know. Two GBV records are already slotted for 2019: Zeppelin Over China and Rise of the Ants, purportedly. There will be more from his other units and entities as well. I recommend Space Gun and will tentatively wade into the critical waters to see if any of the rest will pass muster. That one needs to be so cautious is, in itself, a negative aspect and a drag, but at least there’s one recent effort I can vouch for.

By Dw Dunphy

Dw. Dunphy is a writer, artist, and musician. He has contributed many articles that can be found in the MusicTAP's archives. He also writes for New Jersey Stage, Popdose.com, Ultimate Classic Rock, Diffuser FM, and Looper. His interview archive is available at https://dwdunphyinterviews.wordpress.com/