Personnel: Robert Pollard (vocals, guitar); Todd Tobias (guitar, keyboards); Kevin March (drums).
Recording information: Waterloo Sound, Breckshire, Ohio.
Now that we're once again living in a post-Guided by Voices era, after Robert Pollard unceremoniously pulled the plug on his fabled indie rock band in September 2014, Pollard's solo albums are no longer side projects but his flagship items, and 2015's Faulty Superheroes suggests he's started taking his work just a bit more seriously. Faulty Superheroes doesn't diverge much at all from the standard template of a Robert Pollard album -- lots of hooky pop tunes with a rock & roll core and an arty bent, fused to playfully surreal lyrics that suggest a Midwestern spin on prog rock -- but it's not sloppy or tossed off as some of his solo albums have been, and with Kevin March behind the drums, the songs sound tough and precise at the same time (and precision has long been a rare commodity in Pollard's solo work). Faulty Superheroes also has the full-bodied sound of 1997 to 2004 era Guided by Voices (aka the Doug Gillard years), just rowdy enough to sound like bar-based rock but performed with a commitment to quality, and if this doesn't match the full-on rock excellence of Isolation Drills or Earthquake Glue, it at least sounds like that's what Pollard had in mind. If Faulty Superheroes falls short of the mark, it's for a typical reason, a lack of grade-A songs; at only 12 songs, this isn't crammed full of fragments of potential winners alongside similarly incomplete also-rans, but the fact that Pollard clearly worked these tunes out in full before hitting the studio doesn't mean "Perikeet Vista," "Mozart's Throne," and "Take Me to Yolita" don't sound like excuses for Pollardian song titles rather than full-functional rock songs. Still, Faulty Superheroes sounds like Pollard and his cohorts were aiming to make a solid rock & roll record rather than killing a few days in the studio, and that certainly makes the difference, especially if you're a fan of the man's endless well of melodic invention. ~ Mark Deming