We should probably be thankful this record wasn't titled Cleveland Steamer, huh? Not a qualitative criticism, mind, merely an observation: Robert Pollard's sense of humor can be both ribald and juvenile at times, though he's muted this dimension of his personality in recent years. In Boston Spaceships, Pollard—whose run-on laundry-list of one-off bands, solo projects, and Guided By Voices lineups need not be rehashed here—is joined by Chris Slusarenko (ex-GBV) and John Moen (Decemberists, ex-Jicks). Pollard recorded vocals and sketched out tunes in Dayton, Ohio, then handed the compositional skeletons over to multi-instrumentalist Slusarenko and drummer Moen, who added flabby, scabby flesh in Portland, Oregon.
Thus Brown Submarine comes off a bit slapdash, as one might expect by now, recalling all those mid-fi who-cares discs and 7-inches Bob seemed to issue every damned other week in the late 1990s. There's a lot to mildly savor here if you're down with that kind of thing: the pair of iridescent, flaxen chords that power sobriety promise "Ready to Pop"; the jangling, mid-tempo-to-nowhere strum "You Satisfy Me"; the Kinks-y chicken-scratch strut of "Ate It Twice"; and "Go for the Exit," which manages to feel like a minor triumph despite its slightly out-of-tune, fuzzy-tinny guitar onslaught. It's all pretty much par for Pollard's course—though the embedded shout-outs to Guns N' Roses and the Dambuilders come out of left field. If there's a bona-fide keeper here, it's "Soggy Beavers," a tune as sluggish and saturated as its namesake. There's an obvious post-coital pun that Pollard toys with there, but he leaves open the possibility that he's singing—in his inimitable Midwestern brogue—about exhausted everyday folks drifting beyond middle age: "Soggy dreamers/All over town/Tragic dreamers, sideways/Up and down."
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