Zero To 99
Zero to 99 is the third album in two years from the Boston Spaceships - a side-project of US indie's Mr.Prolific, Robert Pollard formerly of Guided by Voices. Much is made of Pollard's voluminous output - something like 1000 songs registered - so by this point, two decades into his recording career you might wonder if the ideas would be wearing a bit thin, but they're not.
Even if you've never heard Pollard's songs there's often a sense of having "been here before" when you hear them, but it's never easy to say why. Sometimes it's the songwriting, sometimes it's the instrumentation, sometimes it's the production (which varies wildly), but Pollard's barrel must be a deep one because there's no sound of the bottom being scraped. Musically this album covers familiar GBV territory from punky power pop to hippie psychedelia, all of which sounds like it was recorded in a different era - the mix on many tracks recalls the sound of the Kinks or Small Faces, especially when Pollard sings in his faux cockney voice (which I find a bit toe-curling). But all the same, the songs stand up for themselves - strong on melody and chords rather than riffs, and rather deftly utilising the skills of his small and trusted band.
There are a few songs which don't quite reach the standards of the best, but there's always a decent idea or two and nothing ever goes on too long. There are 16 tracks to choose from, and my only real criticism of the album as a whole is that the production values don't always match the songs. Exploding Anthills is a great track and recorded adequately but doesn't get the extra bit of retro polish it needs. Still, that's part of Pollard's lo-fi ethos, and as long as the songs are good then we're more than halfway there.
23rd Oct 2009 - Tumblr4
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