Wednesday, May 01, 2019

AN OBSESSION


I am in OCD overdrive lately, mostly over worrying about how I am going to make it through the next school year (likely my last year of full-time work) in one piece both physically and mentally.  When I get like this over extended periods of time, I self-medicate, and not necessarily with drugs and alcohol…  I find collecting compact discs and vinyl records to be more helpful.  I have an extensive collection, and I love to wallow around in it. 

 

The big thing now is an obsession with Robert Pollard, both with his music and his art.  The problem with that?  He is so prolific in his various guises, including solo artist, front man for Guided by Voices, or with his side projects (such as Circus Devils, Boston Spaceships, and Ricked Wicky) that it is difficult to keep up with his output.  On the other hand, I love a good challenge.

 

Pollard apparently does little other than write poetry, write music, record music, and do his collage art.  I am not sure how many albums he releases per year, but I am going to guess it may be eight or ten?  In addition to that, he releases seven-inch 45 rpm singles from nearly every album.  If there are about 20 items a year to collect, that can run into some money.  So far?  I have about a dozen LPs, about 100 CDs, and roughly 25 45’s.  All of the Pollard-related music on CDs is in one area on one shelf of the collection, which sits inside a large cupboard…  and inside the cupboard door there is a checklist.  Heh!  As I add more of the items from the list to my collection, I revise the list, reprint it, and put up the revision.  I have it down to a science.   

 

As of now, I still have 13 LPs, five CDs, 36 7” 45 rpm records, and three other singles that are available on either CD or 7” 45 to be acquired…  and several of the remaining items on my list were made in such limited quantities that they are now true collector’s items, costing between $100 and $200 each.  The “Blue Balls Lincoln” vinyl EP by Cash Rivers and the Sinners?  That will cost you about $150.  “Suitcase 3”, a collection of demos thrown together into an out-of-print four-CD set?  Try about $150.  Time to start saving some money.    

 

And that is just the music.  What about the art?  Pollard does fascinating collages, mostly produced from found materials in the form of pictures from old magazines, sometimes put together on paper, sometimes on old book covers.  The resulting works have a rather ethereal and often hallucinogenic quality.  The works are collected in a series of quality paperback books in his “Eat” series.  "Eat" is an inexpensive way to collect his artwork, as the books cost $10 to $15 each, and I believe the latest one released was number 15 in the series.  He also sells his artwork online, and it is priced anywhere from $100 to $1500 and up per original item.  Time to save some more money, if the ultimate goal is to have an original piece of Bob’s collage art.  And that’s an ultimate goal of mine.   

 

Pollard is basically a modern-day Renaissance man.  He comes from a regular American background, was a star athlete in high school and college, and worked as a grade-school teacher until his musical career started taking off.  He got it going a bit later than most rockers; now in his early sixties, he has not slowed down for a moment.  When I use Google to find out “How many songs has Robert Pollard written”, Wikipedia says the number is over 2,000.  You are not likely to find him placed prominently under “most prolific songwriters” though, because he is part of the “alternative” or “indie rock” scene, and always has been. 

 

Many people know who Robert Pollard is, but he just is not everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, if his music was to randomly happen on the radio, many people would change the station.  Sometimes the playing is off key, or his vocals do not quite sound smooth, soothing or pitch friendly.  He uses psychedelic poetic imagery that contains bluster, testosterone, sentiment, cocksureness, sadness, joy, and all sorts of word combinations that are there just for the sound of the words, with any apparent meaning apparently being damned.  His lyrics tend not to be ones that people will easily remember well enough to sing along with, unless they are truly rabid fans (like me). 

 

To some, Guided By Voices, Inc. might seem like a cottage industry for Robert Pollard’s vanity projects.  Why have I become obsessive about collecting his stuff?  Mainly because he is one of my favorite artists of all time when it comes to both lyrics/music and visual art, he is still alive, and his stuff is all still out there and collectable.  I know Bob consumes a lot of alcohol; anyone familiar with his work and who has seen him perform knows it.  I do not know about how much has been consumed in the way of drugs, although some of his imagery is fine psychedelia. 

 

Who knows how long he will continue to live, be vibrant, produce consumable items, and keep not giving a fuck?  I do not know the answer to that, but for an obsessive-compulsive collector such as myself, the whole of Robert Pollard, his world, and his resulting work represents a real dream come true.  I hope he can “keep it in motion” for a long, long time. 

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