Blazing Gentlemen is the last Robert Pollard record. That will be released in 2013. Aural evidence of a rock mage reinvigorated by the fact, according to the man himself, that he’s “finally figured out how to write a song after 55 years.”
Which may come as a surprise even to casual fans of Pollard’s thousands-strong catalog, and fair enough, Bob’s certainly hip to the irony, but it’s no joke. While he’s explored pretty much every highway, toll road and dark alley of songcraft in his long career, including spontaneous “drum contests” where every member of Guided By Voices would be given the opportunity to come up with a drumbeat, over which he would then improvise a spontaneous melody based on semi-random lyrics from his ever-present notebook (for example), he’s never before applied one consistent approach over the course of even one record. The new technique is considerably more disciplined: he first collects — in the (figuratively) selfsame notebook — phrases and titles, bits of overheard conversation, snatches of misheard movie dialogue, thus providing an assortment of lines all of which he considers strong enough to serve as potential song titles. He then assembles these song titles into lyrics, which because each line is strong enough to stand on its own, contain neither bloat nor the least misstep. When he’s happy with the lyrics, he writes a melody for each lyric. He then sits down with the guitar and figures out chords that fit the melodies.