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A vision: Bob Pollard sitting on a cooler placed onstage in front of a microphone, his eyes hollowed out in a beer drunk, and he atop his throne digging deeper into whatever hole he’s been trying to get out of for the better part of thirty years; spewing out strong melodies in his slight Liverpool-via-Dayton affectation, the waters of the Mersey and the Miami Rivers coursing through his veins; resolution beaming from his throat like defiant cries from underneath the mantle of prolificity.
Even in moments of glib articulation, he is coughing up sweet turns of melody and phrase, sickly poignant abstractions, and pointed observations. He shifts to stand but doesn’t move further than is required to open the cooler he perches upon to reach for another beer. He then breaks into another song, perhaps stands to kick, perhaps lowers his head, setting himself to a task.
The man is a workhorse, and it’s safe to say that in his prolific songwriting, he has achieved a level of consistency in his output that should make lesser song factories weep (cough, Ryan Adams). There is something honorable in his output, the work of a man seeking something he has yet to find, like he’s digging through words to find a kernel of truth and hasn’t been satisfied with what he’s unearthed so far. So he keeps digging.
It also conjures something more productive, much like the work of David Foster Wallace: that of a man who can build with ease because he knows the craft better than most, and has busied himself with erecting something monumental with his work, something labyrinthine and lasting. Longtime Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard knows this in his very core and therefore knows that if he is sitting on a batch of instrumentals in need of some lyricsmithing, he needs only to send the batch to Bob to be gussied up, and today’s featured track, “Paradise Is Not So Bad,” is one such song borne of that arrangement.
“Paradise Is Not So Bad” can be chalked up (simply, given the amount of work these guys have their names attached to) as another song that shows off the individual strengths of both men. Gillard’s guitar work is cut straight from the classic rock tapestry, a jabbing concoction of start/stop power chords that erupt in bursts throughout the song set atop a solid line strummed on an acoustic, which grounds the song and allows for Pollard’s melodies to grab at your pop sensibilities and drag them along for the ride.
Gillard recorded this piece as and instrumental, and whereas it’s easy to see why the song may not have been able to hold its own in that regard, Pollard’s (seemingly) effortless lyrical additions elevate the endeavor, adding another stone to The Castle That Bob Built or removing another shovelful of dirt from The Hole That Bob Dug, depending on your predilections towards such matters. The song is the lead track from Lifeguards’ new record, Waving At The Astronauts, released on February 15th by the Ernest Jenning Record Co.