Given Robert Pollard's profligacy, it's only natural to greet his 26-track, 70-minute post-Guided By Voices "debut" solo album with skepticism. First off, it's not really his debut anything. Pollard has been releasing solo albums throughout his 20-year stint as GBV's frontman, and given that he was the band's only constant member, it could be argued that every Guided By Voices album was essentially a Pollard solo album. But the singer-songwriter-rocker insists that From A Compound Eye marks a new beginning, and the music bears that out. It doesn't sound substantially different from what Pollard has done beforeF.A.C.E. features the usual thick guitar riffs, gruff vocals, impressionistic lyrics, sturdy melodies, and lo-fi productionbut the record cycles through Pollard's disparate influences in songs as charged-up and fully realized as anything he's delivered in maybe a decade.
Because From A Compound Eye is so lengthy and explosive, each high-caliber song tends to dissolve into the next. The opener, "Gold," is a clear highlight, with its snatches of harmonica and piano filling in the gaps in a freeform ballad structure. On the opposite end of the accessibility scale, "Dancing Girls And Dancing Men" serves up a bouncy hook and simple lyric, like power-pop with the polish removed. The album's standouts either dabble in odd instrumentation (like the banks of synths on "Flowering Orphan" and the jaw-harp and tin drum on "The Right Thing") or go deeper into homage than Pollard has gone before (like the Badfinger-indebted "I Surround You Naked" and the overtly R.E.M.-y "Light Show"). The disc is eclectic and overflowing, in the tradition of deck-clearing double LPs like the Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime and The Beatles' White Album. And like those records, From A Compound Eye espouses no clear theme, save for the boundless possibilities of rock 'n' roll.