Tag Archives: Robert Pollard

Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices

3 Oct

CloserYouAre

In 2017, Robert Pollard, an indie rock legend from Dayton, Ohio, hit a milestone few musicians could ever dream of reaching: He released his 100th album. After more than three decades of manically recording at a light-speed pace, Pollard has created a discography so expansive that even he cannot remember everything he has written. Although he has flirted with mainstream success, he is followed by an obsessive fan base that rabidly consumes everything he releases. In Closer You Are, the first official biography written about Pollard, Matthew Cutter does an incredible job documenting a working class kid’s upbringing in the Rust Belt who would go on to have one of the most prolific and strangest careers in all of rock music.

I discovered Robert Pollard’s music as a DJ on my college radio station in the small upstate town of Geneseo, NY. The first time I found a CD of the album Bee Thousand by his band Guided by Voices in our station’s archive, I was mesmerized by the poorly recorded but insanely catchy batch of tunes with names like “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “Kicker of Elves.” They were equally weird and familiar at the same time. I had never heard anything else like it.

Hoboken residents can stream or download songs from several of Guided by Voices albums from Freegal or those who prefer CDs can request their albums including Please be HonestLet’s Go Eat the Factory, and a Best Of.

Cutter does a great job describing Pollard’s creative process. Many of his song titles and lyrics come from nicknames he created for his students while he was an elementary school teacher in Dayton. He was obsessed with certain expressions and the sound of words, as seen in some of his most famous songs like “14 Cheerleader Coldfront” and “The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory.” He would often wake up and write several songs while drinking his morning coffee and a dozen more before dinner. A dash of mania, a hyper-competitive personality, and a classic Midwestern work ethic made it possible.

The other great joy of reading Pollard’s biography is experiencing the sheer determination he had to become a successful musician. His wife, parents, and the local music scene in Dayton all hated his early attempts at performing and encouraged him constantly to quit. Pollard didn’t even experience any level of fame until he was in his late 30s and had left a 14-year career as an elementary school teacher. By constantly firing his band mates and having the occasional fistfight, Pollard finally was able to put together his “classic” lineup for a band that would become loved by college rock nerds like myself throughout the county. Cutter’s book is an entertaining read for both fans and people who are just curious about the creative process of an artist with a genius level of output.

Written by
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

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