Robert Pollard was writing suitcases full of songs before he had an audience, and he’ll likely keep on churning them out even after the last hardcore Guided By Voices fan finally falls over from exhaustion. But while Pollard’s legendary prolificacy continues to amaze, his ability to group enough of his good songs into consistently strong records has diminished since GBV’s 2004 breakup. Lord Of The Birdcage isn’t a full return to Pollard’s ’90s prime—the peak for GBV and Pollard solo records like Not In My Airforce and Waved Out—but it’s one of his rare late-period albums that can be enjoyed without ready access to the skip button.
Though not radically different from Pollard’s usual fare—the songs are rooted in the usual “four P’s” of pop, punk, prog, and psych—Lord Of The Birdcage at its best is graceful and comely, particularly “In A Circle,” a blessedly unadorned melody that’s nearly matched by the lovely “Dunce Codex.” Both songs are the kinds of throwback janglers that Pollard once turned out with regularity, and now stand out like glistening beacons amid his recent work. (There’s plenty of extemporaneous weirdness here as well, including the obligatory—and brilliantly titled— Genesis tribute “You Can’t Challenge Forward Progress.”) Lord Of The Birdcage probably won’t be this year’s “new” Robert Pollard record for long, but it might very well be the one worth remembering.