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The Neal Pollack Invasion

Never Mind The Pollacks
The Telegraph Company

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I first met Neal Pollack in a small, out-of-the-way Chicago rock bar, after spending an afternoon cowboy-boot shopping and drinking dollar beers with a three-fingered Mexican factory worker. Pollack was nervous, as that night was to be his debut as a rock singer; he showed none of the cocky bravado that's made him not just the greatest, but the most famous American man of letters alive today. This was before his brief affair with J. Lo (and even briefer one with Ben Affleck), and long before his arrest -- drunk and naked in Arianna Huffington's hotel closet -- cemented Pollack's status as Keith Moon's debaucherous rock heir.

But from that very first moment that I heard Pollack chant, "Dildos, dildos / juggling dildos" onstage in Chicago, one thing was very, very clear: Neal Pollack can't sing. Over the course of that fateful set, however, another thing became even clearer: It really doesn't fucking matter. On the rock album to accompany his new novel, Never Mind The Pollacks, the poet can't sing in the same way Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer or those guys from The Turtles couldn't sing: He can't-sing with the kind of passion and cathartic desperation that turns a good rock song into a great rock song.

Take "Do The Ostrich," Pollack's '60s-punk update of the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music classic "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground." On it, with Nuggets-style backing from the Invasion -- including alt-folk faves Jim Roll and Neil Cleary, plus Austin musician-about-town Dakota Smith -- Pollack barks his desire to "Put your head in the sand / shake your tail in the air." To become, in other words, that which is unseeing and unseen, to escape the daily drear of this world, to implode the meaning of American life in a flurry of feather and fluff. Or "Memories of Times Square," in which he evocatively channels Lou Reed to describe the legendary dildo-juggling dwarf of Times Square, Stuart.

A lot of channeling goes on with The Neal Pollack Invasion: The Ramones ("Coney Island"), Springsteen ("Jenny In The Car, 1972"), Velvet Underground ("Vein"), The Who and Kinks ("I'm a Seeker"). But it's when Pollack gets down to the business of being Pollack that the true genius comes out. Here, the best example is the subtle and sublime "I Wipe My Ass On Your Novel," a deconstruction of literature as a whole, through the eyes (or "eye") of Neal Pollack.

In Never Mind's liner notes, Pollack writes, "No one, including me, really thought that a rock album to accompany a novel would be any good."(Remember Nabokov's How Old's Yer Girl?, or P.G. Wodehouse's Live at the Whisky-A-Go-Go?) But The Invasion has done what no one else has done before: proved Neal Pollack wrong.

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