Robert Pollard

By: Anthony Miller
October 31, 2014


Call him the Hyperlyrical Man. ROBERT POLLARD (born 1957) is to songwriting as Thomas Edison is to patented inventions, Isaac Asimov to published books, Paul Erdős to math papers, David Foster Wallace to endnotes. His songs number in the thousands. As the ultraprolific songwriter and lead singer of Guided By Voices (1983–2004; reunited with original lineup 2010–14), this former fourth-grade teacher from Dayton, Ohio summons surreal fusillades that are electrifying, ludicrous, abstruse, hummable, unknowable, and generally over in about two minutes. These succinct tunes work perfectly, as one Pollard song puts it, “to trigger a synapse/And free us from our traps.” Pollard plunders the sonic kingdoms of the British Invasion, psychedelia, postpunk, prog, and power pop. His love of assemblage extends beyond the musical. His collages, collected in his 2008 book Town of Mirrors, adorn his records’ covers. GBV’s 4-CD Suitcase compilations credit each track to a different invented band. Along with GBV and solo albums, Pollard’s other projects include Circus Devils, Boston Spaceships, and, recently, Ricked Wicky. There are so many potential Pollardian portals: Vampire on Titus, Alien Lanes, Not In My Airforce, From a Compound Eye, Isolation Drills. 1994’s Bee Thousand remains GBV’s landmark recording, a defining album of the decade. The 36-and-a-half-minute, 20-song, lo-fi odyssey features the emphatic “I Am A Scientist,” the plaintive “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory,” the sinuous “Hot Freaks,” the effervescent “Echos Myron,” and the enigmatic yet infectious minute-long folktale “Kicker of Elves.” Pollard occupies the stage with a Roger Daltrey-like swagger or like a star pitcher taking the mound (the singer having pitched a no-hitter at Wright State University in 1978). For anyone who has archived song titles or lyrics in a notebook for their fantasy recording session, Pollard is a boundless fount of inspiration.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Neal Stephenson, Helmut Newton, Michael Collins.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954–1963).


HiLo Heroes, Music, Pop Music