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.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Takeovers - Bad Football Review

I will never be a professional music critic. There, I've said it. Snap judgements on anything, especially music, are not my forte. To listen to an album once or twice, then sit down and cast judgement upon it is the height of irresponsibility, in my humblest internet opinion that no one cares about. What if the critic's dog just died or he had a bad burrito that day- wouldn't that factor in? What if, like many critics, they had a natural bias against Robert Pollard for being too prolific / too old / too drunk / not making another Bee Thousand / fill in the blank?

It's a rare day in magic land when I listen to even the most anticipated release and love it right away (and if I do, that's usually a good sign that I will become obsessed with it for a lifetime). Music grows on me, like a fungus in the YMCA's mens locker room. I can't tell you how many records or songs left me feeling "meh" at first, and then became my favoritest (not a word) thing ever.

That said, I decided to take my sweet ass time before reviewing The Takeovers' latest rock record Bad Football. I figured at least 10 listens and I would begin to get a grip on the newest Pollard / Slusarenko (with Pacific Northwest cronies) collaboration. Compounding the problem, the first few times I played the CD was in the car, on a hot day and my air conditioning was broken (still is). It didn't seem fair that I began to associate Bad Football with being stuck in traffic with a sticky shirt. So here we are, 3 months later...

I still brazenly declare that 2006's Turn To Red is Robert Pollard's best post-GBV album. For me, it has the perfect mix of pop creaminess, cosmic weirdness, Waved Out-like darkness and good old-fashioned fun. And former GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko's production and musical contribution was nothing short of brilliant- showing impeccable taste, tons of energy and a dynamic sonic range (including lots of piano and tambourine) that Pollard's melodies had never seen before.

Bad Football is a surprisingly different record. It feels much more traditionally "rawk"- very guitar-centric and stripped down- with buzzing and fuzzing electrics, screeching through their solos, and crashing drums underlying nearly every track. The awesome gun in yr face cover collage and blood red splattered jacket hint at the music within. Slusarenko and his collaborators tear through the songs with abandon. The only breath of fresh air comes from the contemplative but still creepy "Molly & Zack" and the lo-fi "The Year Nobody Died". So in that way, its a much more intense and assaultive rock record than Turn To Red.

Providing unexpected contrast to the heaviness, Robert Pollard's vocal stylings can only be described as extremely raw in a nearly comical way. Pollard growls, whoops, and hollers throughout. B-side track "Music For Us" is particularly insane. There are a few moments of gorgeous harmony ("Father's Favorite Temperature") and vocal creaminess, but for the most part, Bob is hilariously loose and freaky on Bad Football. And the lyrics, when not straightforward and emotionally brazen, are more nonsensical and distant than ever, adding to the silly vibe.

Highlights of the Bad Football include the barnstorming lead-off "You're At It" (with a yummy Malkmus solo and the memorable lyric "this form of suicide's not quick enough, what else ya got?"), the country-fried nurturer "Father's Favorite Temperature", the noncommittal heavy-duty anthem "Pretty Not Bad", the rollicking "I Can See My Dog" and the chugging sing-along album closer "My Will".

And in keeping with Takeovers tradition, Rockathon's own Rich T appears as the narrator in the aforementioned intensely weird "Music For Us". And another lovely old Pollard demo gets redressed in new musical layers with "Smokestack Bellowing Stars" (as "Be It Not For The Serpentine Rain Dodger" did on Turn To Red).

So upon reflection, The Takeovers' Bad Football does indeed sound like being caught in traffic on a hot summer's day with no air conditioning, but in the best possible way! An album of sharp contrasts and heavy guitar flavored rock, fans of raw rockist Robert Pollard have yet another instant classic to sink their teeth into. Though not surpassing the mighty Turn To Red in my eyes, Bad Football does receive a solid 4 everlasting big kicks through the paper-football goal posts, out of a possible 5.

And look out for The Takeovers' Little Green Onion Man EP, coming in late fall from Off Records. It will feature 3 unreleased Bob tracks in a more Turn To Red vibe, with a sick new cover collage. More news as it arrives!..


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