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Album Review: Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

2 min read

Even if Robert Pollard is capable of turning in a mediocre record – which I’m not entirely convinced he is – he hasn’t done so yet.  According to mainstream critics, Pollard’s greatest crime seems to be being too prolific: whenever the Guided by Voices front man releases a new record, it’s often met with a collective shrug. Perhaps we’ve just become used to Pollard releasing music this good: really, we should be going nuts every time this relentlessly versatile, relentlessly inspired rock god turns out a record as good as Faulty Superheroes, his newest album.

Robert Pollard - Faulty SuperheroesFrom beginning to end, Faulty Superheroes is typical Pollard, but the music is fresh and vibrant enough to stop it from ever feeling like a retreat of old material. The man isn’t a one trick pony: his sound is too wide-reaching to ever become narrow or repetitive. A song like album opener What A Man is as good as Pollard’s solo work gets. It’s an anthemic, powerful tune, polished to the point of perfection.

Pollard’s aim, as ever, is to create music that is at once simple and complex in a way that is distinctly his own.  Indeed, Faulty Superheroes is, from beginning to end, relentlessly Pollardian. Songs like the beautiful, brief Faster The Great or the rollicking Mozart’s Throne exist in a world totally of their own, combining as they do instantly accessible instrumentation and an oblique, mysterious tone. They are the kind of rock tunes we so desperately need: at once danceable, and yet organic and complex enough to demand repeated listens.

Pollard’s dense, surreal wordplay is a highlight, as always: the exceptional Take Me To Yolita fuses a “sounds-like” gag with insistent, delightful guitar work, ensuring the song never becomes slight, or one-note. After all, there aren’t many musicians out there who would record a song called Café of Elimination, and there are even less who could make it this good.

Pollard’s knack for crafting blisteringly melancholy tunes is on fine form too. The Real Wilderness isn’t exactly ‘sad’ per se – Pollard would never go for such an obvious, easy to define emotional tone – but the song drips with a deeply human yearning. Similarly, album closer Perikeet Vista, an acoustic number, taps deeply into a vein of complex emotion. It’s useless to pick apart what makes the song as moving as it is: it is music that you feel, rather than think about.

From beginning to end Faulty Superheroes is a delight, and another success for Pollard. Time might be doing terrible things to the rest of us, but Robert Pollard exists in a bubble, his talents untouched by the oppressive weight of the years. This is classic rock from Mars, and it demands your attention.