The endless productivity of Robert Pollard continues apace with Please Be Honest, designated a Guided By Voices album even though Pollard played every last sound on it. The 15 speedy songs on here give us the latest insights into this remarkably creativity, via a variety of nicely textured tunes. Out on Guided By Voices Inc.
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The worst piece of music ever recorded, ‘Please Be Honest’ maliciously detracts from the Ricked Wicky project fans of Robert Pollard have so keenly kept their ears peeled for. Essentially a Pollard solo record in need of a PR campaign that can say something other than “this is his new album!”, it comes after a second break-up of the band that lasted less time than it took you to forget about #Piggate; it features zero appearances from any and all GbV lineups, with Tobin Sprout having lost all interest, Kevin Fennel on history’s cruellest gardening leave and Greg Demos finally coming to terms with the fact he’s actually a cartoon character. Pollard plays all the instruments; he does not play them well. Sometimes he just records himself in the kitchen. ‘Please Be Honest' is an excuse for you to look at Pollard’s very typical art collage featuring a man’s back.
There used to be a time when Pollard was an enigmatic ringleader attached to an inventive and energetic contract band — without any of those people, his record sounds muted, the lo-fi a diluted mixture instead of a charming secret. His songs are choppy and thoughtless, meandering through wordless bridges and non-choruses as if he’d never actually liked the Beatles, R.E.M. and the melodies that first hooked him. The cruellest thing is how, ever so minutely, you can hear the GbV shamble pop vying its way in before being destroyed; at least solo he has the decency to sound wayward and piddling — here he takes songs that could’ve once existed and seems to break them in two. “The Caterpillar Workforce” takes a charming lil’ choo choo train sample and interrupts it with some way too full-on guitar strums and that horrible imitation baritone Pollard likes to pull out. The short “Sad Baby Eyes” sounds like an asshole playing piano at precisely 3.37 in the morning (you, in your failed attempts to sleep, angrily checked the time on your phone), while “Hotel X” takes a charming, GbV-lite acoustic riff and then scours it in bleach-irritant synth and horrible chunky chords. It goes from gorgeous to repellent so fucking fast.
Of course, I was expecting this record to suck, but I wasn’t expecting that Pollard would be putting his best material of the year into his solo name and the worst of it into the GbV name. His voice is a warbled mess, his melodies, if they exist, soon become disfigured, and at times it sounds like he barely wants to be in the GbV lineup himself — songs go stretches without any belief in them at all. I have to stop writing now, though, ‘cause Phil thinks I’m being mean: “don’t laugh at him”, he says, “he spent five minutes creating this”. A moment of silence for those fallen five minutes.
7/10 Pete T 26th April 2016
Hmmm, while I don't think this is by any stretch, GBV's, or indeed Robert Pollard's, best work, I do think the previous reviews are a tad harsh.
I played this for the first time about 10 days ago. At that point I was disappointed, given that the most recent Pollard LP Of Course You Are, was a festival of tunes and melodies. I really though at that point that I wouldn't play it again. But I persevered. Of course you have to sometimes with GBV. I'm about 15 listens in now, and the magic of the greatest parts of the album is starting to come through to me. Agreed, that are several parts of it, Bob farting in the moonlight, that anyone would be embarrassed to release. But Bob is Bob, and he will release "songs" like that, as is his wont. But, now I really think this LP holds up, if not with GBV's best work, then certainly with their very good stuff.
To me it has the feel of the first reformation LP, Let's Go Eat The Factory, mixed with one of the early, very lo fi efforts, like Propeller, or Tonics and Twisted Chasers. Which can't be a bad thing. One listen does not do it justice. But I remember my first play of Alien Lanes too, which I thought was awful, and now it's possibly my favourite of theirs.
Definitely worth a listen; but not just one. New to GBV? Don't start here....
1/10 spensorss 25th April 2016
A total bummer, Please be Honest is perhaps the most honest artistic statement Pollard has made in a while. That statement? "I can release anything. And be paid, too. Bwahahah."
Look, I don't think his career is over by any means. As long as he can hire some kid to play the instruments, he will stumble upon a tune until his drinking kills him. Unfortunately, this is the nadir. I say this as a longtime Pollard apologist. This record is zero fun. There are teenagers in the Ukraine who deserve to have a record pressed, but the universe allows Bob to shrug off album after album without censor...
This made me sad.
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