Robert Pollard: Normal Happiness

Robert Pollard: Normal Happiness

B+

Robert Pollard

Album: Normal Happiness
Label: Merge

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If Robert Pollard's early-2006 album From A Compound Eye was supposed to represent his tightening grip on a ridiculously prolific solo career—a move toward favoring quality over quantity, in other words—then what should we make of his late-2006 album Normal Happiness? Especially since, in its own way, it's just as good as From A Compound Eye? While the early record was a massive compendium of what Pollard had learned about rock, Normal Happens is a collection of short, breezy power-pop songs with a lo-fi edge. It's easy to listen to, easy to like.

Pollard remains the poster boy for that chronic DIY adjective, "uneven." For every sharp guitar-pop gem like the pretty "Boxing About" and the ebullient "Get A Faceful," Normal Happiness offers songs like the abbreviated "Whispering Whip" and "Gasoline Ragtime," where the music falls apart quicker than Pollard can slap it together. If the album has a signature song, it's "Tomorrow Will Not Be Another Day," which follows the form of a '70s AM rock song, but bears lines of distress—not unlike the way old album covers feature the faded outline of the record within.

Then again, this is the feeling Pollard is going for. He'd probably be happier if he never had to release an album, but could just travel around from flea market to flea market, slipping them into the two-for-a-dollar pile. He's spent the last 20 years trying to cut gems and quickly bury them, which only happens if he works fast and produces a lot of dirt. A more patient Pollard might've compiled the best songs from From A Compound Eye and Normal Happiness, and created one of the best albums of 2006. But since he can't work that way, it's more likely that the songs would never have existed at all.

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