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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Silverfish Trivia Review

Thanks to the good graces of Rich T at Rockathon Records, pre-orders for Robert Pollard's Silverfish Trivia were shipped early! And I have been listening and thoroughly enjoying this mini-LP since Friday, April 6th (nearly 3 weeks before the official release date of April 24th, which was pushed back due to an issue with the distributor). So its about time I shared my thoughts on this petite masterpiece.

Historically, Guided By Voices and Robert Pollard EPs have been a goldmine for classic Bob material, often experimental in nature but never disappointing. And that tradition continues with Silverfish Trivia. Robert Pollard wisely decided to cherrypick the "more somber and strange" tracks from the previously longer and thematically varied Silverfish Trivia LP project and fuse them into a more cohesive package.

The effect of that decision is nothing short of amazing. Like those previous EPs, there is a symmetry and flow to Silverfish Trivia which the longer version of the record may have lacked. The darkness and melancholy of Circle Saw Boys Club, Touched To Be Sure and Cats Love A Parade (the three songs from the old Silverfish Trivia) compliment each other brilliantly.

And the unusual (for Pollard) and bold bridging element that ties Silverfish Trivia together are string arrangements by Chris George and Invert. These bookends add a cinematic, almost rock opera feel to the album- both stately, dramatic and yet still humble as all things Bob tend to be.

First off is Come Outside, a driving string arrangement of an old Acid Ranch song Lie To The Rainbow (off of this year's The Great Houdini Wasn't So Great release). The track kicks things off nicely- the "happiest" sounding song on the EP, setting up the listener for the gloom to come. And wrapping things up is Speak In Many Colors, a melancholy Bob melody made even more heartbreaking by Invert's strings.

Sandwiched in between are a lovely collection of sad songs that say so much, including 2006 tour favorites Cicle Saw Boys Club and Touched To Be Sure. If you came for the "rawk", Silverfish Trivia brings it only in little bits and pieces. But that is not to say that the album doesn't posses a quiet power of its own.

Circle Saw Boys Club's (the preview MP3 track) nostalgic lyrics are carried by a typically beautiful Pollard tune. Touched To Be Sure is more obtuse but the track still resonates with a palpable tension, amplified by Todd Tobias' brilliant production and playing. Wickerman Smile is a previously unknown song recorded in the Psycho And The Birds style (producer and collaborator Todd Tobias' studio instrumentation layered over scratchy Bob demos), complimenting its creepy feel.

But if there is one song on Silverfish Trivia that makes it a "must have", it is the epic eight-minute Cats Love a Parade. The intimacy and emotional honesty (both loving and menacing) of Instrument Beetle, the majesty of Conqueror Of The Moon or Christian Animation Torch Carriers- so so good. It has been my anthem, my theme song since I first heard it.

And the most incredible thing about Cats Love A Parade is how Pollard and Tobias seamlessly cobbled together three previously released and unrelated songs to create it- Frozen Vegetable Fiction, His Master's Reaction, and Hello Forever with a funky rockin' part in the middle. Only Bob could create a masterpiece from three interesting but unremarkable song sketches.

Part of me is jealous of listeners who had no exposure to the three songs before hearing Cats Love A Parade. To them, the final version must simply be a kick ass anthem with several tonal shifts. But there is a special joy for us dedicated fans in hearing something deeply familiar yet completely transformed and elevated. And this sort of peek into the songwriting process is rare indeed and deeply satisfying.

This is all to say that Silverfish Trivia is a great jumpstart to 2007's coming flood of new Robert Pollard music. Sometimes its necessary to dwell in the dark places. And Silverfish Trivia brings you there, casting quite a powerful spell over the listener. Out of a possible five everlasting big kicks, I give it four.

Peace, my bothers and sisters in rock!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

For The Love Of All That Is Unholy, Go See Grindhouse!

I am baffled. After an expectedly stinky Easter weekend opening box office take (the most holy of Christian holidays may not be the best time to release a vile horror/exploitation film... plus its three and a half hour running length means less shows per day, less money per theater), Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez' Grindhouse had an even worse second weekend. The film lost more than half of its audience from opening weekend. And it has only brought in 20 million bucks total so far, a fraction of its production budget. What's the f is up with that, America?

Grindhouse was the most fun I've had at the movies in years. Yes, it is gory. Yes, it is violent. And yes, it has sexy ladies. But its all done so cleverly that you laugh the whole time and think afterwards. I am a unabashed Tarantino fan from way back, so I do admit a predilection to liking Grindhouse. But nearly everyone I've spoken to who has seen the film have loved it.

So please- run, don't walk to go see Grindhouse. If you consider yourself a serious film fan, you have no excuse. Don't wait for the DVD. Don't wait for the illegal download, you cheap bastards (joking). Don't! As with all things in our lovely uber-capitalist country, Hollywood listens when you vote with your dollar. Let's stop encouraging the "creative executives" in LA LA Land to make lame-ass sequels to lame-ass movies like Are We Done Yet (not even dignifying that with a link) and push the film envelope a little. (stepping off my soapbox...)

In other news, I had a great weekend and got some serious drawing done on Pop Zeus. Feeling more confident in that realm as I go. Unfortunately my scanner here at home is not interfacing with my ancient laptop. So it may be a while before I get some art up on the blog.

Had another black belt pre-test on Friday night and I kicked ass! Best one so far- feeling more and more ready. And that feeling is certainly helped by all the free time I have for burn-out recovery and additional weekday classes.

Oh, and I will post my Silverfish Trivia review soon- sorry for the delay. Cheers!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Unemployment Is Good For Art (Pop Zeus Status Update)

No news is good news, kids.

LOTS of stuff happening since I spoke to you last about my personal life and Pop Zeus. As of March 31st, I have officially been on hiatus (aka unemployment/the dole) after three and half long and hard years in production of a preschool animated program for the Disney Channel. Its a well-earned and desperately needed break. Looking back, I seriously believe that I have been suffering from extreme burn-out for at least a year (those who work in tv and/or film will understand this is no exaggeration). Coincidentally, I have been working on Pop Zeus for a year, which explains why its not nearly finished yet.

The good news is that I have nothing but free time to dedicate to Pop Zeus! I should be able to survive for at least a month or so with my savings plus unemployment (which sadly equals the pay rate of several retail jobs I have had). And work on one of the Pop Zeus chapters is full steam ahead as I write this. With any luck, I should be spending less time blogging and more time creating the comic!

Plus, with my black belt test on the horizon, I really need this time to recover from my exhaustion and get in as good shape as possible. I feel mentally prepared. But the physical aspect needs some work. I am already stepping up my classes, working toward three or four a week.

The dark side of all this is that I had a very exciting, almost dreamlike, perfect job opportunity in tv production fall in my lap a couple months ago (I am being purposefully vague just in case this opportunity pans out in a different way). But it was not to be. I did very well in my interview, my resume was aces. But in the end, one other candidate for the position had more related experience than me.

But transitioning right into a new job might have very well killed your fearless author. So its really for the best that I find myself on the couch, watching The View with Cheese Doodle orange painting my fingertips...

I should be back here later this week with my review of Silverfish Trivia, which I have been enjoying since Friday, when it hit my mailbox. Until then, excelsior my brothers and sisters in rock!