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!