Some things about Bob Pollard never change: His songs are still short… most under two and a half minutes, his lyrics joyfully random and his crazy voice is still slightly off key.
That being said, the greatness of some of his Guided By Voices albums like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand and some of his solo works like From a Compound Eye, isn’t as apparent, or maybe not even there, in his new offering Normal Happiness.
Normal Happiness has none of the lo-fi fuzzies that are traditional trademarks of his sound. It’s cleaner, more to the point. More impactful, though with slightly less punch. I don’t want to say it… and I’m fighting it…. but I think Bob is getting old. This album has a lot of great songs. Great because they are structurally strong and impactful and musically interesting – but not because you want to pump your fist for Bob Pollard and his mighty anthems. Normal Happiness is a different animal all together, but then somehow very similar to everything he’s ever done.
Bob is like a prophet, a sage. Sometimes he makes us want to get his face tattooed on our bicep. Sometimes he amazes us with his endurance in touring and prolific album writing. Sometimes he shocks us by the amount of beer he can drink in a single show and still be stomping around like a 20 year old on a mission. But one thing Bob never does is disappoint.
This album is not a Guided By Voices album and it’s not your typical Robert Pollard album. It’s essentially a pop album. A pop album with razor-edged lyricism and a more sincere direction. It takes a few listens if you’re an old school Pollard fan, but I like Normal Happiness…. And that doesn’t surprise me one bit at all.
– Shrie Bradford