Although it may be a bit of a stretch to compare Pollard’s work (as writer Rick Moody does in Town of Mirrors’ intro) to Marcel Duchamp and Giorgio de Chirico, he does profess an admiration for the Surrealism of Salvador Dalí and especially that of the ’70s British design collective Hipgnosis (who did album covers for Pink Floyd, ELO, and many others).
“I like to create depth in a collage. You do that by [using] lighting and shading, and using larger and smaller images.” As for his medium, “I just use a glue stick. I’ve never been concerned about how neat I am.” That, he says, “includes music. I don’t care about mistakes. I don’t care about hiss and noise. In fact, I like that. It gives it charm.”
Indeed, if he has a yen for remixing and recontextualizing images, he approaches his music with a similar sense of adventure. “We used to do things like use the same drum track twice: ‘Take that drum track out and let’s make another song out of it.’ I combine stuff all the time; I’ve done things that some people think are sacrilege, like when I took the Phantom Tollbooth vocals off and redid them. [His notorious in-studio mash-up used instrumental tracks from that ’80s post-punk band.] People were like, ‘You can’t do that! And I’m like, ‘Well, I did it!’ ”
Brown Submarine’s 14 tracks — short, sharp shocks of Pollard’s stock in trade (“quirky pop songs,” he calls ’em, aptly) — find his Camel-cured, Dayton-via-Liverpool-accented voice in fine fettle. They’re abetted by the nuanced and muscular playing from Slusarenko and Moen. On stage, those two will be augmented by guitarist Tommy Keene and bassist Jason Narducy. But this tour almost didn’t happen. After having to cancel Northampton and Boston shows last spring because of a leg injury, Pollard had announced he was finished with touring.
“Yeah, I say that, man. And I’m probably gonna continue to say it until it becomes true. But I’ve been itching to do it. I’ve assembled a band of guys who like to have fun, who like to drink. I wanna do it again. I know I’m 50, and I’m probably gonna regret it once I get into it, but it sounds like fun, the fall is a good time to tour, and I haven’t had a new band in a while.”
Just don’t expect to hear “Gold Star for Robot Boy” or “Game of Pricks” this time around. “We’re doing nothing that I’ve ever performed live before. Even though we are doing some Guided by Voices songs, it’s all more obscure stuff.”
Since breaking up GbV four years ago, Pollard has been busier and more productive than ever. Which is saying something. Brown Submarine has been out barely a month, and Boston Spaceships have already recorded their second album, The Planets Are Blasted, and Pollard says he has “all the demos to give to Chris Slusarenko for the third one. Our thing is to do three albums a year, like the Beatles did.”
Yes, he admits, sometimes “I wanna slow down. But I can’t, because as soon as I try to, I’m bored. So it’s just better to not. To not even think about it.”