Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Check Your Zoo" Review (New Zoo Revue, Heh)



Hard to believe I have already had Psycho And The Birds' latest "Check Your Zoo" for a few weeks now, the days have just been flying by. But to be honest, I have only listened to the EP a small fraction of the many times I have relistened to The Takeovers "Turn To Red" since then. Not a good sign. I'm am finding it more enjoyable overall than the full Psycho And The Birds "All That Is Holy" release from earlier in the year, but that's really not saying much.

Recorded in April 2006, Check Your Zoo is yet more scratchy Bob demos with Todd Tobias instrumentals layered over top. In this way, the process for creating this six song EP was the same as many other recent Pollard collaborations- The Takeovers, the last few solo records, and pretty much every other Tobias project from the last couple years. The only difference is that the base vocal and guitar Bob demos are even more lo-fi than normal, recorded at home on his infamous cassette boombox.



And Tobias' layered instrumentals are particularly melodic and fun on Check Your Zoo, especially when compared to earlier albums like the hard rocking Fiction Man or bizzaro Ringworm Interiors. This light touch lends a frothy air to the album, for better or for worse depending on your point of view. And to my ears, many of the six tracks are starting to sound all too similar to recent Tobias productions as if he is running out of sounds and ideas.

And the Robert Pollard demos Tobias has to work with are not the most memorable or tuneful songs in the catalog. The bouncy and melodic Glorified Ushers leads things off nicely- the only song that will have legs, if you ask me. But You're So New Wave, Nothing The Best and Do Not Devastate all have the meandering unfocused feel that turns me right off. His Master's Reaction has an epic feel with Melotron-like strings rising up beneath the guitar. But again it reminds me a lot of other similar sounding tracks in the Tobias canon. And Organic Comes On is also pleasant enough, with a sunny melody and a breezy vibe but not likely one to burn in my brain as so many other Pollard songs have.

Have heard some complaints from fans that Bob is too incoherent or possibly drunk on Check Your Zoo. I seriously doubt it. From what I understand, the kind of mumbling vocal melodies you hear on the EP are not uncommon on demos. Before the lyrics are anywhere near locked in place, many songwriters will babble nonsense over a track until it starts to cohere, feeling their way through a song organically. And that's exactly what Bob seems to be doing here, figuring out the songs as he goes with no written lyrics at hand.

There is always the potential in Bob's stuff for some serious growth over time in how you feel about it. So that very well could happen for Check Your Zoo. I'll let you know if it does, but in the meantime I will be spinning Turn To Red like there is no tomorrow.

Psycho And The Birds "Check Your Zoo" is now available as a part of the Fading Captain Series and at better record shops around the world.

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