For a certified indie rock icon, Robert Pollard is easy to take for granted. But that’s not really our fault, is it? After all, the guy just doesn’t go away. That’s a blessing for fans of Pollard’s bites of lo-fi gutter poetry, but while he spoils his followers with endless musical riches, that often makes it hard to fully absorb the greatness of his records. Admit it: You were reaching for your PBR to wash down 2013’s Honey Locust Honky Tonk when you found yourself having to catch up with Blazing Gentlemen, and that doesn’t even take into account the six records he methodically cranked out in two years with the reunited Guided by Voices.
I Sell the Circus, recorded as Ricked Wicky, is the latest record to march heel to toe in the endless procession of reliably solid Pollard records. Don’t be fooled by his new moniker. This is a classic Pollard joint. It’s got his flair for mystifying song titles (“Cow Headed Moon”, “Rotten Backboards”, “A Real Stab”). It’s colored with his unadulterated love for ’60s rock and roll, from the Who flourishes that define “Well Suited” to the proggier inclinations of “Intellectual Types”. And, of course, there are crunchier chestnuts cut straight from the classic GBV mold, wrapped in compact, three-minute packages (“Frenzy of Blame”). Ricked Wicky is Bob Pollard. Bob Pollard is Ricked Wicky.
There’s an unmistakable feeling of sameness that runs through I Sell the Circus, which isn’t to say that it sounds tired — anything but. More than 30 years later, Pollard is still expanding his well-honed musical empire one shaggy, unfettered record at a time. It’s hard to say how many of these songs will hang with you in the long run, or even if you’ll remember this record two or three years from now. But I Sell the Circus is bound to hold over fans with a few high kicks — until the inevitable follow-up comes out three months from now.
Essential Tracks: “Well Suited”, “Intellectual Types”, and “Frenzy of Blame”