Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices had a packed 2020, dropping three full lengths over the course of the year. There’s Surrender Your Poppy Field, Mirrored Aztec, and Styles We Paid For which was released in December. And yet it doesn’t surprise anyone that Pollard is releasing an EP in January from a brand new side project called Cub Scout Bowling Pins. Entitled Heaven Beats Iowa, this six-track consists of sub-three minute songs that feel quite similar in structure to Guided By Voices’ material. One can expect Pollard’s songwriting inevitably shine through, with his decades-long expertise in writing melodies with an effortless flow. What’s new in this record however is its focus on old-school lo-fi rock, seemingly stripped out from the 60’s era with a scrappy garage aesthetic that hearkens back to the genre’s explosive roots.
“Hobson’s Beef” exemplifies lo-fi grit with sharp riffs and banging drums. The song’s chord progression moves to an urgent pace, and is perfectly woven to a satisfying end. It’s these clever manipulations that give Pollard’s songs a feeling of completeness despite their short runtime. “Gear Balloon Mousetrap” is another great example, with a wacky premise and stylings that hails to the beginnings of psych rock. The guitar lines swirl across a wide berth of clashing riffs, before easing themselves out to a satisfying end.
“Moon Camera” is one of the more laid-back tracks here. It’s groovy, hazy and drowned out by a thick layer of fuzz. “School School” has a springy pop-punk energy to it that fades away just as quickly as it ramps up. “Funeral Cake Museum” is the quintessential swaggering rock track with mountains of glimmering distortion. The EP ends with the title track — a song that feels like a tribute to the 60’s era – with nods to Dead and Company, Beatles and Bowie all wrapped up in a wonderful rock and roll tune.
“Heaven Beats Iowa” is short and sweet, with the expertise of a veteran behind it and a strong core sound. Pollard proves yet again that he’s a master of songwriting in many forms.