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Turn to Red

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Album Review

Robert Pollard enjoys writing songs. He likes to record songs. Pollard can't help but write and record songs. These truths are well known to fans and zine readers alike, but what is rarely discussed, and seemingly unlikely for a man who doesn't need any help with songwriting, is his desire to collaborate. Turn to Red, his first team-up with former GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko, is one such work that deserves attention beyond the standard knee-jerk response: "What, he put out another album?" As is the norm for this sort of undertaking, Slusarenko wrote most of the music and sent the tapes to Pollard, who then recorded his vocals. Much of the material wouldn't be out of place on a number of different Pollard endeavors, which is astonishing when you consider that Slusarenko hadn't contributed much in this area previously (just a credit for his part in "The Spanish Hammer" from Pollard's Motel of Fools). Many tracks exhibit the creepiness and strange noises found in the music of Circus Devils, the one project that has permeated Pollard's writing in general — which Slusarenko is keenly aware of. He does it so well that "The Public Dance," an excellent, brooding prog rock number, is left as an instrumental. "Fairly Blacking Out" resembles mid-period GBV (and imagine Michael Rother of Neu! playing guitar), while "Insane/Cool It," with its heavy riffing and weird, psychedelic post-punk section, would easily fit on a Pollard solo CD. Naturally, Pollard's catchy melodies and poetic lyrics play a major role in this project's sound and success, providing reminders of his other work. His use of lo-fi recording techniques bring parallels to one specific record, the aforementioned Motel of Fools, which also found him experimenting with media samples, recorded chatter, and the latent possibilities present in his own voice. Chris Slusarenko knows exactly what to do on Turn to Red, guiding Robert Pollard through a musical journey of his own past, present, and future, while Pollard continues to test his abilities and grow as a songwriter. This is something he is rarely given credit for, but here's one example of where he most certainly should.

Turn to Red, The Takeovers
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