REVIEW: Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard – Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (1999)



 Welcome to an April Fools Day switcheroo!! Mike and I have told each other what to listen to for today’s post.  Fun times!! Initially, we were even gonna try to write in each others’ styles, and really try to fool you guys. But, as you’ll see from the album choices, it might have been a nigh on impossible task!

For Mike, I chose Robert Pollard & Doug Gillard’s ‘Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department,’ largely because Mike awesomely found it and bought it for me in Ottawa, but I already had it, so I said he should rock it himself! But it’s awesome that he’ll get to hear a bit of the MAJESTY of Bob Pollard! I can’t wait to read what he says about it…

And for me, Mike has chosen Deep Purple’s In Rock (for which I thank him profusely). And here is where I really worried about trying to write like Mike for a post. That man KNOWS his Deep Purple, and there’s no way I could bring perspective to an album he’s heard for years and probably has coded directly into his DNA by now. It just wouldn’t work. You’d all know it wasn’t Mike!

Anyway, we hope you enjoy this April Fools site switcheroo! Let’s get in there and GIVE ‘ER!!




Scan_20160325 (3)ROBERT POLLARD with DOUG GILLARD – Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (1999 Luna)

Guided By Voices have always eluded me.  Aaron says they’re brilliant but not for everybody.  This Robert Pollard “duo” album with Doug Gillard looks really interesting.  Let’s see if I’m everybody or not!

“Frequent Weaver Who Burns” is instantly likeable.  The lo-fi but genuine recording sounds right out of 1969, and the song recalls some of the best hippie rock bands from that era.  I hear a hint of 54-40’s “I Go Blind” in the guitar, but this is far more ambitious, as it descends into dance music madness.  “Soul Train College Policeman” (how the hell do they come up with these titles?) is different and indescribable, but “Pop Zeus” is brilliant.  Simple guitar melodies weave together with layers of rhythm guitars creating a power-pop rock track without embellishment.

Most of these songs are short bursts of ideas; in and out and no nonsense.  The longest track at 4:20 is “Slick as Snails”, a slow and enticing exercise in mixing sweet notes with sour notes and making a delectable concoction regardless.  Regal guitar chords keep the ship from running aground.  Power pop returns on “Do Something Real”, a simple guitar riff melded with an unorthodox melody.  In fact the album in general is built from these ingredients.  The guitars retain catchy rhythms, often classic sounding in nature.  Meanwhile the vocals are not constrained to sing anything simple or straightforward.  The lo-fi tape hiss and nature of the recordings do not detract; they enhance.  “Life is Beautiful” sounds as if recorded in the can.  Mix in a smidgen of psychedelia.  There is also a contrasting bombast on the album, a power just bursting at the seams.  Drama is often the companion of the arrangements, “Port Authority” being a fine example of this.  The short tunes meld influences varied far and wide.  Aaron hears the Who, and it’s there, and I think I even picked up on some Ace Frehley in the ring of the guitars.

Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department comes highly recommended for the musically fearless.

4.5/5 stars




  1. Robert Pollard FTW! Good on ya for giving them a go, Dude! And a 4.5/5 rocks. You nailed it on a lot of your descriptions. I love these guys unreservedly, been collecting them for years. Happy to have introduced you to their prowess.

    If you like this one, there’s a whole world of stuff out there to be discovered. Collecting them isn’t just a slippery slope, though. It’s the mother of all slip ‘n slides. And it’s all friggin’ worth it.

    Long live Rockathon!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t like Guided By Voices all that much, but you honestly can’t beat a wee blast of their catchy off the map tunes.

    Haven’t heard this but it sounds like a goody.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. You might like a compilation called Human Amusements At Hourly rates: The Best Of Guided By Voices. Everything you might know and like, all in one CD!

          Me, I wanna get ’em all. The LPs are the gold standard, I’d love to have those, but for now CDs have been what I get. I love ’em! :)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yup. Bee Thousand, I think Alien Lanes… Maybe Isolation Drills saw reish too? The one I was hoping to find was King Shit And The Golden Boys. I have it on CD but… Anyway, there may have been others.

          Real dribs and drabs though, and no real order to any of it. Just like their career! :)

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha no bowing! Unless it’s in the direction of the mighty Pollard and crew!! :)

        I second that recommend though, J. UTAC is a great one. I have it on CD and (thanks heaps to James!) on LP too!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Added to the list, Bruce. I have (somewhere) Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Isolation Drills. Some good stuff on there, but … y’know. Maybe this Universal Truths and Cycles will turn me around also …

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I thank you Geoff! The Rush quote was a LAST minute addition before we posted. Aaron dug it and we thought it would be funny to put it on top of both posts! But I like the pictures best. He’s a hunk.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Why is the LP in the picture so small, I don’t understand …

    Seriously though, there’s no way I’m ever going to listen to a single note of anything GBV related, I know exactly what a band like that could do to my collecting urges!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha at least I didn’t cut your hand off and make you decide to jump off an antenna thingy into a huge tunnel to be improbably saved by your friends in their spaceship rather than joining me in the awesomeness… :)

          Liked by 2 people

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s