Honey Locust Honky Tonk is a compact wonder and so varied, tuneful, graceful, magnificent and ebullient that one will be forgiven for thinking that Robert Pollard has saved his best for his own album. Slicker in some ways than recent Guided By Voices efforts, though not without its own down-home charm, its 17 songs whiz by in 34 minutes, stridently showcasing Pollard’s songwriting mastery with some of the best tunes he’s ever penned.
The longest, the semi-stately album closer “Airs,” clocks in at just over three and a half minutes, but most are in the two- or two-and-half-minute range typical of Pollard’s attenuating genius. “I’m not afraid to be immature, to make a fool of myself,” he recently offered as a reason why he’s been able to continue writing music at such a high level for so long. “I’m not afraid to look insane.” The only thing crazy about a song like “It Disappears in the Least Likely Hands (We May Never Not Know)” is its slightly loopy title. The song itself, a chugging Heroes-era Bowie anthem whose entire lyrics are contained in the title, is a marvel of both concision and affect, featuring the full force and range of Pollard’s voice, which has never sounded better.
For any other guy whose reunited band just finished putting out four full albums and an EP in 18 months, the release of yet still again another solo album might seem excessive, to say the least, but Honey Locust Honky Tonk sees Pollard in top songwriting form. For example, the four-song run that begins with “Suit Minus the Middle” and concludes with “She Hides in Black” not only includes object lessons in Pollard’s life-long obsession with what he calls the “four Ps: pop, punk, psych and prog,” but longtime fans will also be rewarded with a reference to a beloved character from early solo effort Kid Marine.
In truth, Pollard never holds anything back, and always seems uncannily able to pull any number of music tricks from his magic sleeve. He’s done it again, folks. Honey Locust Honky Tonk is as sweet and as sharp as anything Pollard and friends has ever produced. Bite it and see.
#1 He Requested Things
#2 Circus Green Machine
#3 Strange And Pretty Day
#4 Suit Minus The Middle
#5 Drawing A Picture
#6 Who Buries The Undertaker
#7 She Hides In Black
#8 Her Eyes Play Tricks On The Camera
#9 Find A Word
#10 I Have To Drink
#11 Flash Gordon Style
#12 Igloo Hearts
#13 Shielding Whatever Needs You
#14 I Killed A Man Who Looks Like You
#15 Real Fun Is No One's Monopoly
#16 It Disappears In The Least Likely Hands (We May Never Not Know)