Town of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery of Robert Pollard

The word “prolific” is woefully inadequate to effectively convey the sheer volume of words set by music by the former fourth-grade teacher, former front man of Guided by Voices, and current solo artist Robert Pollard. With more than 1,000 songs registered with BMI and more records than one can reliably track, he’s the sort to put together four-disc, 100-song retrospectives of previously unreleased material alone. (One music reporter suggested the man seriously consider the carbon footprint involved in pressing all that vinyl.) Not content to merely sing the songs in his head, Pollard has illustrated them as well, plastering the results over decades’ worth of CDs, LPs, seven-inches, and flyers, now collected in one volume. Most pop songs, asserts Rick Moody in the introduction, are the “musical equivalent of a franchise restaurant with multiple health violations.” But in Pollard, Moody hears “a collage-oriented fragmentation of constituent elements: longing, failure, desire, protest, alcoholism, unions, cars, sexuality, loneliness, acne, despair, and/or the good feeling one has when one is about to dance.” And the collage-like feel of Pollard’s “recombinant pop gems” exactly matches the actual collages in this book: fragments torn from ’60s advertisements, girlie mags, superheroes, and space age and sci-fi movies. The titles, happily, are as playful in their verbal juxtapositions: “Ladies and Their Instruments,” “Eight Bars of Meaningless Matilda” “The Floating Babies in Space Program” “Depicting the Wise Man as a Comet.” Any Pollard fan will recognize this as a worthy dispatch from his beloved, singular artistic universe.