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Standard Gargoyle Decisions Double-LP (2007)

13 Feb

Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions were recorded simultaneously and released on the same day. Even though they are twins, these two albums have a very strange dichotomy for  me. Coast to Coast is one of my favorites, while Standard Gargoyle sits near the bottom of the pile. I don’t think this speaks of a difference in quality, but rather of a wide divergence in style.

The drastic split between the two was actually a matter of design. Faced with a strong batch of 33 songs, Pollard considered placing them all together as a double-LP. However, he ultimately decided to separate them by the two distinct styles that most of the songs here naturally hew to: Beatles-esque pop or bizarre psychedelic hard rock. Coast to Coast is friendly, bright, and hook-filled, while Standard Gargoyle is thorny, evil and convoluted.

Here’s the double-LP tracklist. Once again, I have guessed where the side breaks would have been. Also note that “Accusations” would have been cut from the CD version, for space reasons.

Standard Gargoyle Decisions [Original Double-LP Version]
1. Our Gaze
2. Pill Gone Girl
3. Psycho-Inertia
4. Rud Fins
5. Hero Blows The Revolution
6. Exactly What Words Mean
7. Current Desperation (Angels Speak Of Nothing)
8. Dumb Lady

9. Penumbra
10. Slow Hamilton
11. Looks Is What You Have
12. I In The World
13. Butcher Man
14. Life Of A Wife
15. Customer’s Throat
16. Don’t Trust Anybody
17. Nicely Now

18. Spider Eyes
19. I Clap For Strangers
20. Shadow Port
21. Here Comes Garcia
22. The Island Lobby
23. Motion Sickness Ghosts
24. Miles Under The Skin
25. Youth Leagues

26. The Killers
27. Lay Me Down
28. Folded Claws
29. Feel Not Crushed
30. Accusations
31. Come Here Beautiful
32. When We Were Slaves
33. Count Us In

The dual aesthetics here make for a more schizophrenic listen than another scrapped double-LP, 2009’s Elephant Jokes round 1. The Elephant Jokes material was much more consistent in tone, without a striking contrast between the pop and the experimental stuff. Here, the juxtaposition between two styles provides the tension that powers this long album. Of course, since these songs were all recorded at the same time by the same people, there is a certain consistency between them as well (and, of course, there are more than just two styles here).

With the Coast to Coast tracks providing sweetness, Standard Gargoyle songs go down a lot easier. I love hearing them in this context.  “Our Gaze” leading into “Pill Gone Girl” is a nice opening pair. “The Killers” on side four instead of the album opener is a big improvement — it’s a good song, but it was already used as the opening track on Psycho & the Birds’ All That is Holy, and I prefer that lo-fi take on the tune. “I Clap for Strangers,” a sleeper-hit on Coast to Coast, stands out better sandwiched between the pummeling “Spider Eyes” and the darkly chugging “Shadow Port.”

After color-coding the double-LP’s tracklist, it became apparent that the first half is skewed toward Coast to Coast (blue) while the second half is mostly SGD (red). So with the halves already pulling apart a bit, separating them wasn’t a major operation at all.

Want one?
Merge has a bundle of both albums!
Coast to Coast Carpet of Love (digital)
Standard Gargoyle Decisions (digital)

Elephant Jokes Round One (2009)

7 Jan

Elephant Jokes was a landmark album for Pollard (at least for me) because it marked the return to albums with 20+ songs, like in the good ol’ days. Amazingly, the first draft of Elephant Jokes was 10 songs stronger, clocking it at a whopping 32! Although the released version is a surprisingly lean 46 minute single LP, I’m guessing the 32-track version would probably have been considered a double, at 65 minutes.

Here’s what the first draft looked like. I took the liberty of splitting it up evenly into four sides of eight songs each, although that is just a guess on my part.

Elephant Jokes (Round One)

Side A
1. Night Ears
2. Things Have Changed (Down in Mexico City)
3. Tired of Knocking
4. Dropping the Bomb
5. Spectrum Factory
6. Candy Machine
7. Johnny Optimist
8. I Felt Revolved

Side B
9. Symbols and Heads
10. Tattered Lily
11. Parts of Your World
12. Perverted Eyelash
13. Stiff Me
14. I’ll Come (And When It Does It’s Mine)
15. Compound X
16. Pigeon Tripping

Side C
17. Jimmy
18. Epic Heads
19. Newly Selected Dirt Spots
20. Desiring
21. Accident Hero
22. Blind Rifles (Cochise)
23. The Annex
24. Out of the House

Side D
25. Hippsville (Where the Frisbees Fly Forever)
26. 100 Colors
27. Blown Out Man
28. Cosmic Yellow Children
29. When a Man Walks Away
30. (All You Need) To Know
31. Naked Believer (I Am)
32. Architectural Nightmare Man

Wow, what a monster. If not a double-album, this group of songs could easily have been formed into two records (similar to 2007’s Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions, two albums that were originally considered for one 33-track double LP). Instead, Pollard cut 10 tracks and released the triumphant Elephant Jokes LP that we all know and love. All the outtakes ended up on Suitcase 3.

In any format, Elephant Jokes is a crazy album. The double version just seems like MORE crazy. Even the most sedate, traditional songs have a streak of unpredictability in them. Only a couple songs are mellow. Most careen wildly into memorable hooks as if by accident and then move on to find more. Some songs, like “Jimmy,” “Dropping the Bomb” and “Accident Hero” recall Alien Lanes-style nuggets remarkably well, while other tracks conjure pop songs out of noisy, angular riffs and bizarre imagery (“Hey, perverted eyelash / Come to cyclops”). At least one song, “The Annex,” is destined to become a Halloween classic on par with “The Monster Mash.” Then there’s the killer live-anthem that never was, “Johnny Optimist,” and the gently plodding, almost Airport 5-ish “(All You Need) To Know,” which definitely ranks in my top 10 Pollard solo songs ever.

Elephant Jokes Round One just feels just like what it is — an expanded version of the regular album. The new sequence does not yield many surprises or noticeable differences in tone. Unlike the Coast to Coast/Standard Gargoyle pair, or the more diverse From a Compound Eye, all this material is on exactly the same page — there are no duel aesthetics or split personalities to play off each other, really. It’s just… Elephant Jokes.  There’s an undeniable chemistry between these tracks, but there’s no tension, which is why I think I prefer the single LP version, with its impeccable flow and more manageable length. However, it pairs very nicely with this handy little companion EP (my sequence, although I think it’s basically the order in which they appear on Suitcase 3).

 Elephant Jokes Outtakes EP

  1. Tired of Knocking
  2. Dropping the Bomb
  3. The Annex
  4. Candy Machine
  5. I’ll Come (And When It Does It’s Mine)
  6. Cochise
  7. 100 Colors
  8. Night Ears
  9. Naked Believer (I Am)
  10. Out of the House

It’s the Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet to Elephant Jokes’ Universal Truths and Cycles. It’s the Hold on Hope EP to its Do the Collapse. Only difference is that it’s not an official release. Oh well. It’s fun hearing these songs together as a little Elephant Jokes appendix, and many of these songs are pretty great. The awkwardly titled “I’ll Come (And When It Does It’s Mine)” is a joyful jangle-pop track that reminds me of early, early GBV, when they were still in their R.E.M. worship phase. “100 Colors” is another cool melodic pop number (and a free mp3 courtesy of RobertPollard.net), and “Naked Believer (I Am)” is a stunning 40 seconds of mush-mouthed melodic serendipity that goes really well with the hard-rocking “Out of the House” as a closer.

Hey, I want this:
Elephant Jokes CD/LP | Digital
Suitcase 3