Monday, February 28, 2011

Album of the Week: Mist King Urth

Robert Pollard has been known to cite the "four Ps" - pop, punk, psych, prog - as the primary building blocks for his prodigious musical omniverse. Lifeguards, his coalition with former Guided By Voices bandmate Doug Gillard, explicitly emphasizes Pollard's prog predilections. I use "prog" here more to denote structural ambition than to reference the synth-based, conceptual long form works associated with the term.

While it's certainly not In the Court of the Crimson King or Wish You Were Here, Lifeguards' 2003 Mist King Urth (available, by the way, for a generous $5 over at Pollard's store or $9 as a digital download) does attempt to stretch beyond Pollard's reputation as the master of the concise pop song. Several tracks exceed three minutes and the album closer (Red Whips & Miracles) is a sprawling, cinematic piece that twists and turns through several change-ups before resting on a wailing guitar dirge that would make Mick Ronson a little envious.

Prog tropes and '70s flourishes - synth riffs, instrumental digressions, nature imagery, bombastic vocals, dissonant punctuation to minor-key melodies - are used sparingly, but Mist King Urth does manage to showcase yet another portal of Pollard's fevered aural imagination.

I dusted of Mist King Urth this past week in order to anticipate the release of Lifeguard's second album, Waving At The Astronauts. I have yet to dig deep enough into the work but, so far, it hews a lot closer to Pollard's output in GBV or Boston Spaceships than Mist King Urth does. Still, I dare you to listen to the first single, Paradise Is Not So Bad, and not be a little infected.

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