Boston Spaceships - Greatest Hits

by Daryl Worthington Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-10-08

The Boston Spaceships were formed in 2008 by Robert Pollard and Chris Slusarenko of Guided By Voices, and John Moen of the Decemberists. Up until 2011, when the band released their final (double) album, Let It Beard, their music was only released on Pollards own label 'Guided By Vices Inc'. The upshot of this is that their distribution outside of the US was poor to non-existent, meaning the only way for British fans to hear their output was via import. Thankfully, Fire Records have released this, a greatest hits of the band, in the UK.

Over the course of the band's studio albums, they progressed from a lo-fi pop punk sound into something a little bit more strange and diverse, a little more psychedelic maybe, but definitely distinct from their earlier material. This is reflected in the tracks chosen for this compilation. On the one hand, there's 'Canned Food Demon', a two minute song built on franticly strummed electric guitar and pounding drums. It has a standard quiet-verse-loud-catchy-chorus structure, reminiscent of early REM. On the other hand, there's 'German Field of Shadow'. Beginning with a heavy stoner rock riff, augmented with stabs of brass, it avoids any standard song structure, instead progressing through various changes in tempo and beat. The song comes across like Yes, but more lo-fi, and without the over-indulgence.

It's impossible to talk about this album, of course, without some mention of Pollard's past role as the song writer in Guided By Voices. Boston Spaceships, despite their diverse sound, have maintained one crucial element of Pollard's other work, namely his ability to write wonderful pop songs. None of the songs on this album go over the four-and-a-half minutes mark. As ever, his writing and arrangements are concise.

'Make A Record for Lo Life' has one of the most instantly catchy melodies on the album. Built on distorted guitar chords, there is a space rock break down in the middle of the song, but it lasts just a few seconds. Despite the broader palette of influences, no idea is allowed to outstay its welcome. This also reflects the sheer prolificacy and consistency of Pollard. Whatever project he is involved in, he always has a steady stream of songs at the ready.

The main thing that makes Boston Spaceships stand out from other Pollard projects is their surrealism. Pollard has regularly mentioned in interviews his fondness for British bands of the 60s and 70s, and this is reflected heavily in the music of Boston Spaceship. Indeed, on occasion he even seems to sing in an English accent. 'Tabby and Lucy' is a strange narrative about two people, with psychedelic imagery in the lyrics: "Tabby went down into the vortex/ Lucy was lost in the mix.". Everything about the song, from the verses and choruses to the breakdown at the end, sounds like Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, without loosing Pollard's own idiosyncrasy.

Greatest Hits is a good introduction to the music of Boston Spaceships, capturing some great, unusual pop songs. Of course, being a compilation, it lacks the flow of a studio album, but it is a pleasant and interesting listen.

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