Ricked Wicky: I Sell The Circus (Fire Records)

Ultra-prolific former Guided By Voices' leader Robert Pollard maintains the quality on new project

Released Jan 9th, 2015 via Fire / By Erick Mertz
Ricked Wicky: I Sell The Circus (Fire Records) Bob Pollard fandom is a volume proposition, in the terms of songs and in terms of personae. The latest (and final?) Guided By Voices crash and burn break-up story has caused Ohio’s favorite son neither to stop nor slow down. Late 2014 saw a highly regarded solo project release, as well as a new Circus Devils album.

Now Pollard offers us his Ricked Wicky persona and with it, a new album entitled I Sell The Circus a fifteen-track assemblage of his signature garage-tinged stadium rock. Unlike a strong portion of his latter-day work, ...Circus does not come across like an assortment of half-baked tidbits in which he tries to cram as many inspirations into two-minutes, thirty seconds as possible. Instead, the album feels like a coherent collection of raw, fist-pumping rock, showing a curious array of familiar influences from The Cars to Big Star to the Who. In press running up to the release, Pollard referred to this as a “sophisticated arena rock band” and I am increasingly inclined to agree with his assessment.

Clean is not an adjective one normally associates with this vintage of Pollard’s recordings, but ...Circus shows a little more polish than his fans are accustomed to. Strong songwriting shines throughout, from the intricacies of “Well Suited” to the heavy stomping, “Zoo Pie” clone, “Death Metal Kid”. There are some definite gems that would stand up among his careers greatest works, the blue-collar anthem “Intellectual Types” “Miles Of Concentration” and “Uranus Files” chief among them. We’re used to Pollard’s lyrical tropes and this album, oddly, seems to veer off, showing similar dexterity but a new collection of obsessions.

The sun may have set on Pollard as a true pioneer. With his flag planted firmly in the indie rock landscape, this new phase may be his chance to keep fans happy. A string of records as strong as I Sell The Circus will achieve that very end.