Record Reviews 

From a Compound Eye

Robert Pollard

(Merge Records)

Indie elder ditches the drunks,

finds focus.

I think it's a safe bet that Guided By Voices mastermind Robert Pollard will never put out a genuinely poor record. Not even from the confines of a nursing home -- and he will be putting out records from the confines of a nursing home, we might as well come to grips with that inevitability. Though the consistent fire the band flaunted from 1992's Propeller through 1996's Under the Bushes, Under the Stars may never return, each subsequent Pollard release has boasted worthy gems.

Like all Pollard records not under the Guided By Voices rubric, From a Compound Eye is half GBV-worthy and half material Pollard felt he couldn't pursue with the band, and the latter always falls into two categories: noisy experimentation or understated, percussion-less pieces of moody introspection. Both are here, bringing all three defined sides of Pollard together on one album. If there is a weakness, it is that, in comparison with his other post-2000 output, From a Compound Eye lacks anything with the immediacy of "Back to the Lake" (from 2002's Universal Truths and Cycles). Instead, this is a slightly adult-contemporary Pollard: more catchy rock ("Dancing Girls and Dancing Men," "I'm a Widow," and the fists-in-the-air feel-good "Kick Me and Cancel"), less flailing pop abandon; more mid-fidelity atmosphere ("A Flowering Orphan," "Other Dogs Remain"), less single-take toss-offs. You feel as if he were compelled to cover all of his songwriting bases and only a 70-minute, 26-song album (his first double-disc) could allow it. This makes for the most focused thing Pollard's done in years, a subtle spread of styles he couldn't fool with while leading a band of drunks, which is what GBV ended up being: guys fun to party with who also managed to make for a subpar backing band. Now that Pollard is free from the drag of that relationship, he's given fans and novices something rare and generous: the sound of a fresh start. -- Andrew Earles

Grade: B+

Security Screenings

Prefuse 73

(Warp Records)

Be advised: Whenever you hear a vocal sample on Security Screenings, Scott Herren's new album as Prefuse 73, just hit . Those moments usually derail an otherwise fine album, making it alternately defensive ("Illiterate Interlude") or annoying ("The Letter 'P'"). Fortunately, such moments are typically confined to between-song interstitials, which prove about as useful as skits on a hip-hop album. But when Herren sticks to creating aggregate beats from snippets of random cacophony -- as on "Creating Cyclical Headaches," a collaboration with Kieran Hebden of Four Tet -- Security Screenings bolsters his reputation as one of the finest hip-hop instrumentalists this side of DJ Shadow. ("With Dirt and Two Texts," "Weight Watching") -- Stephen Deusner

Grade: B+

Audition

P.O.S.

(Rhymesayers)

With beats that pound rather than bang and bob, grinding noize guitars, and vocal cameos from white rockers Greg Attonito (Bouncing Souls) and Craig Finn (the Hold Steady), this isn't any kind of hip-hop a Hot 107 fan would recognize. Instead, this multicultural Minneapolis MC makes hip-hop for punk fans. Check that, young punk fans -- "hardcase kids" -- or at least oldsters who can empathize. ("De La Souls," "Safety in Speed [Heavy Metal]") -- Chris Herrington

Grade: B+

The Carter II

Lil' Wayne

(Cash Money/Universal)

Is it too late to recall my 2005 Top 10 list? Cash Money's precocious-hero-now-grown-man-cusser tossed out a sprawling, messy hip-hop gem right as 2005 came to a close. Miles away from the tidy, brainy work of Kanye West, Lil' Wayne is all unleashed mouth and attitude. The record never stops throwing delicious curves, from unsurpassable cool to dance-floor urgency to soaring Iron Maiden sample. When, toward the end, Lil' Wayne boasts "I got to bring the hood back after Katrina," you don't doubt him for a second. ("Fireman," "Best Rapper Alive," "Shooter") -- Werner Trieschmann

Grade: A

Ain't Nobody Worryin'

Anthony Hamilton

(So So Def)

This proper follow-up to 2003's Comin' From Where I'm From, the album that made retro-/ neo-soul back-up singer/hip-hop hook man Hamilton a full-fledged star, is a disappointment only by comparison: fewer irresistible choruses, fewer audacious formal gambits, fewer concrete lyrics. Compared to the rest of the contemporary soul competition, it's top-shelf, especially the mournful Raphael Saadiq-produced, Curtis Mayfield-worthy title track and very concrete "Sista Big Bones." ("Ain't Nobody Worryin'," "Sista Big Bones," "Can't Let Go") -- CH

Grade: B+

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