Lifeguards: Waving at the Astronauts
Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard of Guided By Voices are LIFEGUARDS. The two first worked together outside of the GBV realm on the 1999 fan-classic Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Dept, which included "Do Something Real" the anthemic theme to Steven Soderbergh's film Full Frontal. Their debut release as Lifeguards, Mist King Urth, emerged in 2002 on Pollard's own Fading Captain Series label to fervent fan approval. In 2010 Pollard and Gillard reconvened for the first time since the end of GBV in 2004 to create the astounding follow up: Waving at the Astronauts. Gillard wrote and recorded 10 complex and beautiful instrumentals at home then sent the finished compositions off to Pollard who graced the tracks with some of the most unforgettable melodies and strangely poetic lyrics of his career. In May 2010, Pollard recorded his vocals with Gillard and Travis Harrison at Serious Business Music in NYC where drums and overdubs were added and the record was mixed.
From the ragged and triumphant rock masterpiece "Paradise Is Not So Bad," to the chugging "Sexless Auto" and the off-kilter ramble of "What Am I," this is the latest gem from a songwriting team whose limits are larger than any arena you might try and squeeze them into.
""...and once again they haven’t let us down, just fine fine songs, crafted tunes, clever lines, lots of depth... just classic, timeless North American alternative pop rock with that extra little bit of Guided depth to it... Lifeguards are making impressive easy-on-the-ears North American alt... pop rock, good."
-about "Paradise Is Not So Bad" -> "Great tune from Waving at the Astronauts, the forthcoming third record from the Robert Pollard-Doug Gillard collaboration Lifeguards. Love how Bob announces the chorus, then it starts off sounding like nothing much but turns into that old Pollard magic."
"Gillard’s guitars are sharp, and bite where you want ‘em to bite and kick when you want ‘em to kick. Pollard, meanwhile, nestles his nebulous words comfortably within Gillard’s framework, adding complimentary vocal melodies which are both obvious and slightly skewed, in that lovable Uncle Bob way. It makes one wonder how good Lifeguards could be if both Gillard and Pollard worked on these tracks in the same place at the same time."
I Rock Cleveland
"Waving at the Astronauts (Serious Business Records), is probably the best thing that Pollard and Gillard have put out since the heyday of GBV!"
"“Paradise Is Not So Bad,” is a typical Pollard homage to the ’60′s, but Gillard’s instrumentation is complex enough to separate this track from so many other Pollard tracks. It sounds like he enjoys singing again, treating “Paradise” as more than a required act of unloading his creative vaults. It is nice to see that Pollard is still willing to lean on others, too, because even the guy with the strongest tolerance needs a hand every now and then."
"“Paradise Is Not so Bad” combines acoustic and electric guitars with a lively drum beat and Pollards’ engaging lyrics."
Surviving the Golden Age
-“Paradise Is Not so Bad”="tight tune that has all the hallmarks of a timeless classic rock anthem:
-""Lifeguards is Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard and they are great. This is the first Pollard / Gillard collaboration since GBV called it quits in 2004, and together...they are magic. I got a sneak preview of this album last week, and it's definitely a must have..."
-"Here's the first song from the release "Paradise is Not So Bad". It's got a lot of fresh sparkling guitar lines from Gillard and a cool, somewhat off-the-cuff vocal from Pollard."
On "Paradise Is Not So Bad" --> ""...bursting with the kind of ingenious guitar work—including monstrous chords and piercing, high-pitched stabs—GBV fans have come to expect from Gillard. Pollard, of course, ain’t so bad himself."
""Lifeguards is Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard and they are great. This is the first Pollard / Gillard collaboration since GBV called it quits in 2004, and together...they are magic. I got a sneak preview of this album last week, and it's definitely a must have..."
""a power-pop gem by the name of ‘Paradise Is Not So Bad’...Guided by Voices fans obviously should check this out – it’s also giving me a 80′s Pete Townshend vibe. And I love me some 80′s Pete Townshend."
""Uncle Bob hits Gillard’s compositions to all fields with power, knocking (Doing The)Math,You’re Gonna Need A Mountain, andThey Called Him So Much right out of the ballpark."
-the ASh Gray Proclamation
"This track feels straight out of the 90s. Grab it now!"
-4 STARS-"...Pollard has made the strongest album he's released since he retired GBV in 2004. Gillard and Pollard both contributed to the songwriting on Waving At The Astronauts, and while there are plenty of Pollard's usual melodic tricks here and his lyrics are clever but oblique in his usual manner, the tunes are also shot through with a wiry energy and an adventurous but hard-rocking attack that makes the most of their shared obsession with 1970s rock. And with Gillard's guitar work giving this music a firm backbone and a bold sense of drama, Pollard's steps up his game as a singer -- he's sometimes sounded more precise than he does here, but it's been quite some time since he's felt like a for-real rock & roll singer as he clearly does on this material. There are moments where Pollard and Gillard's fascination with the textures of prog rock allows these songs to meander more than they should, but far more often this music sounds intelligent but passionate and muscular, and Waving At The Astronauts is that rarity, a rock & roll album that's mature, adventurous and exciting at the same time. It's clear Pollard and Gillard bring out the best in one another, and if they have any sense at all, they won't wait another eight years before starting work on Lifeguards Album No. 3."
"...it always sounds and feels catchy enough that you want to loop Waving at the Astronauts for another listen.
The first half of the album is consistent in its quality, but it’s the second where the group really hits its stride. “Sexless Auto” is a piece of dirty post-punk that any garage band could rightfully envy. “Trip the Web” is insanely catchy and danceable, with a standout guitar part that sounds like blues flirting with Southern rock. The spidery riff on “Keep It In Orbit” makes the track sound as otherworldly as the title indicates. Throw in the clattering, frenetic closer, “What Am I,” and you have yet another quirky classic from some of Ohio’s finest."
-Short and Sweet NYC
"Lifeguards is the duo of former Guided By Voices bandmates Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard. For many of you, that’s all you need to know before you rush to the record store. But fear not – Waving at the Astronauts offers plenty for those of us who don’t worship at the Pollard tootsies. Gillard provides the music, which is essentially a streamlined mix of power pop, new wave and arena rock – not far removed from what Pollard does on his own, though less fussy and better crafted. Pollard provides his usual elliptical lyrics and distinctive vocals, which are neither better nor worse than what he does in every other project he has a digit in. None of this is anything new for either of these guys, of course, but “Trip the Web,” “(Doing the) Math” and “Paradise is Not So Bad” feel sharper and more focused than usual, with a palpable energy and hooks practically exploding out of the grooves. Best of all is the strange, moody “What Am I?,” an off-kilter anthem that moves from enigmatic muttering to assertive frenzy with a verisimilitude that’s seems random, but, given Gillard’s discipline, most assuredly isn’t. Tight and tuneful, Waving at the Astronauts is one of Pollard’s best efforts in a while."
- The Big Takeover
-"Waving At The Astronauts may be the best and most internally consistent CD's worth of songs that Robert Pollard has highkicked to since 1997's Mag Earwhig! More riff-o-centric than psychedelic thanks to Doug Gillard's crunchy, ass-shaking chord progressions and rhythm guitar, the CD is a joy to listen to from start to finish. Especially once you learn to enjoy lines like, "You're gonna need a gris-gris made from the teeth of lions," instead of wringing your kleenex over what it all means."