Super Adventure Club - Straight from the Dick (****)
On their previous album, Super Adventure Club recommended avoiding zombies; now, alas, they’ve become one, with Straight from the Dick arriving posthumously following the trio’s decision to separate earlier in the year. But like a late reel hand grab from the grave, their third album delivers one final (and wholly enjoyable) shock to the system, ensuring that, should the hiatus prove definite, their twisted noise will be sorely missed.
Opener Hablo Espanol establishes the record’s manic tone, with contorted riffs and barked lines about incendiary breeks establishing SAC’s canny combo of daft lyrics, intricate guitar work and unpredictable rhythms. Few bands embrace their silly side to such a delirious degree; fewer still retain the glint of danger that makes highlights like Dog with Two Dicks so invigorating, making SAC’s demise unfortunate indeed. But there’s enough mirth and mayhem here to feed all relevant appetites, ensuring they bow out on a suitably adventurous high.
Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen (****)
Even by his own effusive standards, 2013 has been a busy year for Robert Pollard. Incredibly, Blazing Gentlemen is the Ohioan’s sixth full-length since April (for those keeping a tally, that’s one Guided by Voices album, two from Circus Devils, one as Teenage Guitar, and now two under his own name), yet there’s more to admire here than sheer prolificacy.
In fact, Blazing Gentlemen is notably consistent and crisp, with the economical pop of Storm Center Level Seven, the stuttering guitars of Lips of Joy and the tempo-switching strut of My Museum Needs an Elevator all helping make it one of the most satisfying entries in his solo discography thus far. The only significant criticism is one of context: as his output proliferates, keeping up becomes a challenge only the most devotional can commit to, likely robbing Blazing Gentlemen of the attention it deserves. In all other respects, however, chalk this one up as a hit.
There Will Be Fireworks - The Dark, Dark Bright (****)
Considering how intimately familiar There Will Be Fireworks are with the power of grand crescendos and bristling upsurges, the near silence that followed 2009's self-titled debut has been something of an uncharacteristic anti-climax: almost five years with nowt but a stopgap EP to keep hopes alive that they’d make good on their early promise. The Dark, Dark Bright belatedly achieves just that.
Even before a note is played, the archaic syntax in the title of opener And Our Hearts Did Beat indicates they haven’t lost their high-drama impulses – a suspicion confirmed upon pressing play and receiving a poetic sample, gently strummed acoustic guitar, Nicky McManus’s impassioned vocals and a closing flurry of orchestral noise. If Our Hearts… indicates continuing strengths, River is the first of several to showcase new ones, its maelstrom of fiery howls and icy guitars setting a benchmark intensity for all that follows. Their occasional reversion to tried-and-tested formulas notwithstanding, this is a well-crafted return from a band once feared fizzled out but now burning brighter than ever.