How does one review something written by Robert Pollard? You know there are going to be some amazing tunes, but you know there will probably be a few that you can toss away, especially when there’s 26 tracks. But, in the case of Let It Beard, the latest release by Boston Spaceships, the majority of the trucks are solid, and you’ll hardly find any throw-away tunes.
“Blind 20-20” kind of gave me a start, building up towards its machine-gun drumming. Bob’s entry changed the dynamic of the track, and when he hits that renown Pollard pitch, it’s a great moment–all before the song subsides into itself. Clearly, Boston Spaceships is still under the songwriting of Pollard, as evidenced by “Tourist UFO.” Sure, the guitar has that angular chug, psychedelically walking in and out of the track, but the voice of Bob dominates in the forefront. It’s incredible thinking about his persona (the drinking, the shows, etc) and his ability to still pull off warm vocals that grab even the most casual fan.
The construction of “Make a Record for Lo-Life” grabbed me immediately, like riding up and down on some sort of indie rock roller-coaster. Crashing cymbals and chugging guitars give a bit of bounce to the track, and we’ll call the solo in the middle a bit of a racing moment on straight-away. Of course, song construction, and self-importance might account for the weaker moments on Let It Beard. “I’ll Make It Strong (for you),” for instance, just doesn’t hold up to the energetic tracks. Like several of the tracks present, they appear to come from a different, almost unplugged guitar sound, taking a bit of the bite out.
Still, even with moments that come off softer, slower moments do have the ability to win out on this latest Boston Spaceships effort. “Christmas Girl” sticks out, as the guitar itself begins slow, then almost seems muted, but again, Pollard’s voice has this capacity to propel the song into this blissful pop moment. It’s quite possibly the standout moment of the entire record, if I had to pick one (I mean, there are horns!). Similarly, “No Steamboats” sort of trickles along, begging to be pushed to the limit of maximum rock n’ roll, but it never quite goes there, not until the end. You’ve got to appreciate appropriate use of restraint.
In the end, Let It Beard is a mixed bag of various touches of Robert Pollard’s legacy. While a great deal of the tracks have Boston Spaceships focusing on a more raucous garage sound, there’s still elemental dabbling in the studio with visible “lost sounds” tossed in just for the sake of it. There’s just something about listening to anything penned by Pollard that eventually finds its way into your soul, haunting you passionately, secretly whispering for you to skip this track, love the next one, repeat that one, and then go back through it all over again. It’s a sort of magic most people wish they had in their songwriting, but so few seem to possess.
Download: Boston Spaceships – Christmas Girl [MP3]