It truly sucks that the man who delivered us the near-perfect Bee Thousand almost 20 years ago is the same man who now is the butt of so many jokes. Robert Pollard is a classic example in confusion with quantity versus quality. Or maybe we’re just missing the point.
A friend recently explained his GBV frustration to me. “Too prolific. It’s hard to know which ones to pay attention to,” he texted me.
There’s some truth in his statement. Pollard expects a lot from his fans. And if you’re one of the diehard variety, it’s likely you could blow your whole monthly record budget only on his stuff.
English Little League, like most of Pollard’s crop from the past decade, holds a few really great tracks, but is mostly missable. There are few cringes, but there are also few HOLY SHIT moments.
I am still very thankful that I drained my barely 16-year-old (likely Velcro) budget to see GBV on their “final tour” in 2004. It was a shaping experience during which I almost melted into putty, especially when “Hot Freaks” happened, even amidst all the chord stumbling at the Beta Bar. However, I wish I’d known better when dishing a painful $30+ during my unpaid intern days in 2010 Atlanta to catch their much-hyped reunion tour. The cynic in me wonders if Pollard may unintentionally be exploiting the band’s rocky past among the rabid fan base.
Now Pollard has a new home studio. So expect even more. And more and more—probably exceeding the three GBV albums per year he promised in 2012. Most of English was recorded there.
English does, though, present a handful of gems. “Know Me As Heavy” trudges at an appropriately slow pace with jagged vocals. Wild, sparse guitar and thudding nonsense lyrics wedge “Noble Insect” into pleasantly strange territory. “Taciturn Caves” and “W/ Glass In Foot” make for another two solid listens, with a quiet spiral quality to them.
But that’s about it for this one. Nothing to hate here, but not a whole lot to love, either.
I wonder if the same sort of fate would meet Sufjan had he kept to his ambitious 50 States project.
Jessica Hopper said, “I cannot think of a single act that I would like to get a new song… from every week…” Although she’s addressing a small local band and GBV doesn’t promise “content” every week, I think the sentiment might still be true. It’s the anti-MBV route. However, if a single artist were to make worthwhile art at such a conveyer-belt pace, it’d be Pollard.
Perhaps the next one will be pure gold. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for English.