Ricked Wicky - I Sell The Circus - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ricked Wicky - I Sell The Circus

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2015-02-02

The problem with Guided By Voices has always been there’s just too much damn great stuff out there. Robert Pollard, a self-styled one man Brill Building song-factory, churning out the hits for an FM station not on anyone’s radio dial. As impulsively prolific as Robert Pollard is, it’s hard to keep up with him. Sometimes I wish he’d suck just to give us all a break.  

Unfortunately, with his latest solo release there’s no chance of that happening. I Sell the Circus is his most consistent, strongest and infectious solo album to date, topping even the recent GBV 'reunion' projects. For some reason, this one stands out from the rest of the bric-a-brac. 

A lot of the credit goes to the crack team of players he’s assembled, not to mention the vintage analog gear they’re playing on. This is pure unabashed stadium rock - Pollard-style. To be played at maximum volume.

Is this technically a Robert Pollard album or the first Ricked Wickey album? Who knows? Least of all the mercurial Pollard himself, probably. According to the maestro, Ricked Wickey is first name he made up for a non-existent band in his teens.

The minute 'Well Suited' kicks in, none of those questions matter. The point is to sell the circus and circus he sells. His sense of satire is in full force with 'Death Metal Kid', thematically bringing Gold Star For Robot Boy' to mind (Bee Thousand).

Elsewhere, it seems Pollard hasn’t quite forgotten his former day job as a school teacher. He gives extra credit for 'Miles of Concentration'. 'Uranus Files' can go for any politician or asshole in your life.

As always, the lyric sheets are fraught with allegory, wordplay, arcane references and, above all else, heart. Like Syd Barrett and Robyn Hitchcock, Pollard’s songs make sense on a subconscious level. As surreal, whimsical or absurd as he gets, it all somehow makes complete sense. 'Cow Headed Moon' is everything Pollard does best, part lullaby, part tortured anthem, one where she “dreams of the world and cries then slides from my arms”.

Echoing 'Even Today and Tomorrow', the instrumental 'Tomorrow' has some gorgeous flamenco flourishes, sitting pretty in a driving album fraught with killer Beatles-meets-Kinks hooks and soaring, athemic melodies. 'Mobility' could serve as the title track, Pollard playing the part of flim-flam man extraordinaire with all the sneering panache of a carnival barker. The game may be rigged but what a show it is.

And who can resist a tune called 'Piss Face'? However, the best is saved for last. 'Rotten Back Boards' and 'A Real Stab' are both welcome additions to Pollard’s seemingly endless catacomb of classics.

Some might say Pollard’s been writing the same song for decades but if that’s case, it’s never grown old or stale for this fan. And I am a discerning one. I usually download a song here and there from his yearly crop.

While one’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure, this is Pollard’s tightest and most focused record in some time. If he’s been playing a musical game of darts all these years, Circus hits the bull’s eye. We’re not even a month into 2015 and I nominate this for one of the year’s best. And chances are it won’t be the only Pollard release this year. I dare you to top it, Bob.

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"self-styled one man Brill Building song-factory" - that's brilliant!

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