erasing clouds

Robert Pollard, The Crawling Distance

review by dave heaton

It’s a strange thing to say about a musician who seems to do the same thing every year – release a ton of music under various names – but 2008 seemed to spark a new energy in Robert Pollard. Maybe it was the move to his own label or the start of his new band Boston Spaceships. He’s starting 2009 off with two new albums; one is the second Boston Spaceships album, more on that soon. The Crawling Distance is a Robert Pollard album, which means, as it generally has in recent years, that it’s a collaboration with Todd Tobias, who plays all instruments and again displays his knack for playing music that sounds exactly like how you imagine Pollard’s music in 2009 would sound. Not that different than Pollard’s music in most of the ‘00s, actually.

The Crawling Distance may not be overly surprising, but like both Boston Spaceships albums it does have a handful of really great songs, songs that would have fit seamlessly on the last few GBV albums. The big power-crunch numbers aren’t the best here; “Cave Zone” drives me batty, though I’m sure others will love it. The trippy final track “Too Much Fun” is a little better, but not much. For me this album is more about the smoother rock/pop songs with terrific melodies, on the gentler side, and lyrics that are surreal but not overly so, touched by melancholy as much as mystery.

The best songs here are the slow-and-dreamy “It’s Easy”, the enigmatic yet anthemic power ballad “The Butler Stands for Us All”, the catchy opening rocker “Faking My Harlequin”, the quite pretty build-up rock number “Red Cross Vegas Night” and “Imaginary Queen Ann”, an almost surprisingly tender, yet triumphant love song (of sorts). There’s sadness in the air throughout many of these songs, but also, in the best and worst songs, that feeling of mighty, strident accomplishment that Pollard excels at. I’m not sure if Pollard has any instant classic albums in him anymore, and this isn’t one. But it is a solid, occasionally breathtaking album. That isn’t bad for someone who releases music at the pace he does.


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