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Poor Substitute

By: Ricked Wicky
Appears on: Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair

Not to go off on a tirade, but if you’ve read one critic’s review of any Robert Pollard musical project, you’ve pretty much read them all. Here’s a drinking game for you: gather a bunch of these reviews, start reading through them, and down a shot any time you come across the word “prolific.” How many do you think you’ll get through before you can no longer stand?

Now let’s talk about Ricked Wicky. Short-lived, yes, but plentiful! Three full-length albums in just one year! And those weren’t even the only albums Pollard released that year! 2015 was an exciting time to be a fan (as are most years), and with Nick Mitchell on guitar, Kevin March on drums, and Todd Tobias on bass, you can’t really blame Pollard for wanting to squeeze all that he could out of this project.

The subject of today’s post is “Poor Substitute” from the Ricked Wicky album Swimmer To A Liquid Armchair. When Pollard reformed Guided By Voices in 2016 to tour in support of Please Be Honest, this song secured a spot on the set list and remained there even when Mitchell left the band and Doug Gillard replaced him as lead guitarist. It’s a pretty easy song to play on guitar, and makes good use of the “floating chord shapes” technique, as we’ll discuss in just a bit. First, let’s take a look at the chords.

Chords used:

Poor Substitute chords

Figure 1 shows the main riff, which is played as the intro and appears a few more times throughout the song. You’ll play through this twice during the intro and then go into the first verse.

Figure 1: Main riff (00:00)

Poor Substitute main riff

Here’s the chord progression played during the verses. Remember to refer to the chord diagrams above for the Am7 voicing. It’s a floating chord shape: you just take the open A major chord voicing and move it up to the third fret.

Figure 2: Verse (00:07)

Poor Substitute verse

The chorus (Figure 3) shows another example of a floating chord shape, with the open position D chord shape being moved up to the fourth fret, making it a Dm7.

Figure 3: Chorus (00:24)

Poor Substitute chorus

After the chorus, the song returns to the main riff (Figure 1), with Pollard singing a verse over it this time. Then repeat Figure 2 twice for the next part of verse 2. Following that verse is Figure 4, which I’m calling a bridge. It features the floating chord shape of D going to Dm7 again, then to a Cmaj7. After that, you’ll play the Figure 1 riff again over the lyrics, “for what I want and what you get.”

Figure 4: Bridge (01:07)

Poor Substitute bridge

A guitar solo comes next, over the verse chords from Figure 2. You’ll play through it once as it’s shown in Figure 2, then repeat with a change: the progression will go G – Am7 – Cmaj7 – D on the repeat. Let that D chord ring out and then play the outro in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Outro (01:40)

Poor Substitute outro