Robert Pollard Normal Happiness

With his official post-Guided-By-Voices-break-up debut, From a Compound Eye, coming out only nine months ago, the masterful popsmith Pollard is seemingly trying to strike again while the interest is still hot. Well, semi-warm. Eye was a bloated affair with as many tracks and styles as Pollard could imagine and, thus, was lobbied with the usual "if this was shorter, it’d be better” criticisms. Normal Happiness answers those complaints by paring things down to a modest (for Pollard) 16 tracks and a consistent sonic style. So, considering Pollard’s savant pop-writing skills this should be a home run. Right? Um, not quite. The album seems to drift by with some interesting moments, but as an overall effort it seems bland. Some songs sparkle with the verve of yore, like the bouncy "Rhoda Rhoda,” the patient "Top of My Game” and "Pegasus Glue Factory,” which crunches its guitars heavily and gives some hope for the future. If you’ve never heard of Pollard or GBV you might love this album, but for those who live in anticipation of greatness from this man, the instructions are simple: keep waiting. (Merge)