Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk – LP
Honey Locust Honky Tonk is a compact wonder and so varied, tuneful, graceful, magnificent and ebullient that you’ll be forgiven for thinking that Robert Pollard has saved his best for his own album. Slicker in some ways than recent Guided By Voices efforts, though not without its own down-home charm, its seventeen songs still whiz by in 34 minutes, stridently showcasing Pollard’s songwriting mastery with some of the best tunes he’s ever penned.
The longest, the semi-stately album closer Airs clocks in at just over three and a half minutes, but most are in the two or two and half minute range typical of Pollard’s attenuating genius. “I’m not afraid to be immature, to make a fool of myself,” he recently offered as a reason why he’s been able to continue writing music at such a high level for so long. “I’m not afraid to look insane.”
The only thing crazy about a song like It Disappears In The Least Likely Hands (We May Never Not Know) is its slightly loopy title. The song itself, a chugging Heroes-era Bowie anthem whose entire lyrics are contained in the title, is a marvel of both concision and affect, featuring the full force and range of Pollard’s voice, which has never sounded better. Sure, it’s an over-used trope of rock bios to say that such-and-such or so-and-so “has never sounded better,” but that doesn’t make it not true. (Two can play at the double negative game!)
For any other guy whose reunited band has just finished putting out four full albums and an EP in eighteen months, the release of yet still again another solo album might seem excessive, to say the least, but Honey Locust Honky Tonk sees Pollard on top songwriting form. For example, The four song run that begins with Suit Minus the Middle and concludes with She Hides in Black not only includes object lessons in Pollard’s life-long obsession with what he calls the “four Ps: pop, punk, psych and prog,” but long-time-fans will also be rewarded with a reference to a beloved character from early solo effort Kid Marine.
In truth, Pollard never holds anything back, and always seems uncannily able to pull any number of music tricks from his magic sleeve. He’s done it again, folks. Honey Locust Honky Tonk is as sweet and as sharp as anything Robert Pollard and friends has ever produced. Bite it and see.