With perennial collaborator Tobin Sprout, Robert Pollard presents his second full-length effort as Airport 5. Life Starts Here is the 18th overall installment in the Fading Captain series, a body of work that includes the busy Guided by Voices singer's nonstop solo flights and side projects. Recorded in separate studios hundreds of miles apart (Sprout laid down all of the instrumental tracks in Leland, Mississippi, then mailed them to Dayton, Ohio, for Pollard to arrange and sing lyrics over), the album recalls the lo-fi, primitive rock aesthetic that Guided by Voices explored in the mid-'90s on albums like Bee Thousand, only now using better recording equipment for a cleaner sound. Smatterings of cheap organ, static, and white noise accent tunes more than construct them. Replacing a muffled basement kit and jangly, aggressive guitars are skeletal beats from a drum machine buried beneath warm, acoustic strumming.
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Soothing and simple, "However Young They Are" is a full-throated plea for honesty in leadership that displays the album's more uplifting side. "We're in the Business" skewers the pretensions of indie rock by asserting that playing it is just another day on the slave barge. Aeronautically themed numbers question ground security ("Natives Approach Our Plane") and simulate mock holding patterns: At one point, Pollard announces from the cockpit that he's "circling Fort Recovery for landing instructions" ("Yellow Wife No. 5"). The album takes its name from the soft chanting refrain of "Wrong Drama Addiction," the album's most experimental cut, which features Pollard in stunning triplicate, backing himself vocally with two separate call-and-response phrasings. It's as cryptic as anything you'd expect from a man on a steady beer diet who's spent years scribbling in notebooks. But with the huge and engaging voice that Drunk Bob has, he could shout randomly from phone books and still make it sound cool.