Robert Pollard – Jack Sells the Cow – LP
Even for a guy whose famously abundant output makes a joke of the word prolific, this has been a spectacularly prolific year for Robert Pollard. Jack Sells The Cow is his second solo album in a year that has already seen the release of two reunited Guided By Voices records and will see yet a third before it’s done, along with a fair amount of touring.
So what makes this a Robert Pollard record as opposed to a Guided By Voices record? The best answer is that it’s just a matter of nomenclature, but the absence of contributions from other members of the reunited GBV is probably the easiest way to put Jack in its box, if putting things into boxes is your thing.
“I’m as true as true can be,” Pollard sings on the pithy pop anthem “Big Groceries,” from which the album at least obliquely derives its title (in the sense that one verse, at least, seems to refer to the old English “Jack and the Beanstalk” folk-tale, or something like that), and much of Jack seems preoccupied with larger themes: “Pontius Pilate Heart” with judgment, “Winter Comes To Those Who Pray” with the faith/doubt schism, “Big Groceries” with objective vs. subjective truths, and on and on and over and out.
At least, that’s our reading. That reasonable people might disagree on the precise meaning of Pollard’s lyrics doesn’t mean they make no sense, as those who take the trouble to handle with care will likely discover. And if not, hey, that’s cool. The superabundance of melody and densely-packed stylistic swerves and flourishes on Jack rival anything he’s recorded recently, and while five albums in a year might strike some as overkill, you have to imagine Pollard’s relentless output is a less than calculated move – a smarter businessman would hold back product so as to build demand, but Robert Pollard has never been a businessman. He’s an artist, full stop, at a time when it seems that every artist/musician is expected to have an M.B.A. He puts out records because he likes the records (Bogq knows he’s scrapped enough proposed albums to fill many another group’s entire discography). And he hopes you’ll like them too.
Jack Sells The Cow sails over the moon of your heart in a snappy thirty-two plus minutes, and despite its relatively heavy subject matter comes off as perhaps the sprightliest, most light-footed music Pollard has recorded this year. Of the quincunx of Bob-related releases this year, we’d suggest you put this one in the centre, and hold tight. These suckers move.