Robert Pollard – Lord of the Birdcage review

These days it seems all you need for a bit of lo-fi indie acclaim is some spray-on jeans and a set of half-arsed tracks drenched in fuzz courtesy of GarageBand. Extra bonus points are up for grabs if you throw in a gorgeous frontwoman oozing west coast cool in a pair of Ray-Bans.

If former Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard doesn’t fit the mould the one thing he’s always had over younger upstarts is tunes and creativity in abundance. In their pomp GBV could chuck away more ideas in 90 seconds than the average indie band will have over a whole album.

A focus on high output without fussing over the subtleties of recording processes has also made Pollard one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation.

Like much of Pollard’s vast back catalogue Lord of the Birdcage isn’t immediate but grows on you with every listen. He made the record – his 17th full-length solo album – by writing poems first and then setting them to the music. While still exploring new approaches to songwriting, many of the usual hallmarks are here – including his unpolished vocal style and impenetrable lyrics. “Ash Ript Telecopter / Helium Cuisine…”, anyone?

It’s a highly enjoyable record though. Garden Smarm is the catchiest song you’ll hear all year on the subject of putting a lawnmower away for the winter, and Aspersion sounds like the sort of thing Mark E. Smith would produce if he could hold a band together long enough to bash out something decent. Another standout track is the shimmering acoustic In a Circle which reveals Pollard’s knack for delivering the big choruses with as much as confidence as a throwaway two-minute pop song.

Lord of the Birdcage is unlikely to win over hipsters or mountains of new fans – but it’s a fine record nonetheless.

Review by Andy James