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Isolation Drills

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Album Review

Guided by Voices fans who embraced them as the saviors of lo-fi pop after discovering such four-track-in-a-basement masterpieces as Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes had better learn to live with the fact those days are gone for good — the high-gloss production of 1999's Do the Collapse made it clear that GBV topkick Robert Pollard wanted his band to compete in rock's big leagues, and Isolation Drills only confirms that notion, sounding even more polished and precise than its precursor. However, if you loved GBV for their songs rather than their sometimes-charming sloppiness, then you'll be glad to hear that Pollard and Company have never used professionalism to better advantage than they do here. While Ric Ocasek's production on Do the Collapse was sympathetic, he clearly favored the pop side of the band's personality at the expense of their muscle (most clearly evidenced by the pseudo-new wave keyboard patches). But with Rob Schnapf behind the controls, Isolation Drills sounds like the real rock album GBV have always wanted to make; Pollard's hooky-but-rollicking melodies pay audible tribute to his great love for mid-'70s rock throughout, while Doug Gillard and Nate Farley's guitars finally crunch as much as they chime, making the band's rock moves as credible as their pop gestures ("Glad Girls" and "Chasing Heather Crazy" even finding them managing both at the same time, to superb effect). And Guided by Voices has never made an album this consistently strong from start to finish; with the possible exception of "Frostman" (which appears to have been processed to sound like it was recorded on four track), every song here matters, with Pollard's vocals at the top of their form (it helps that most of his lyrics actually make sense for a change — sounds like Bob's been having relationship problems again) and the band sounds tight, forceful, and emphatic throughout. God knows if the indie rock audience will ever forgive him for such obvious craft, but the side of Pollard's personality that thought touring with Cheap Trick was a great idea finally gets the album he's been waiting for with Isolation Drills.

Customer Reviews

Great GBV record

This is one one the best rock record of all time in my opinion. Very cleaned up production so older fans may not care for it to much. This album rocked my world for a couple of years straight. Every single song is amazing.

No. 4 on my list of 25 Favorite Rock Albums of the 2000s

The kings of lo-fi go full-throttle hi-fi, giving the stupendous pop more power than ever before.

Not a typical GBV record

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the lo-fi aesthetic that populates most GBV records. What I love about this record more than any other GBV outing is the fact that this one just goes for it, turns up the amps and just has a great time. If you can listen to “Glad Girls” without rocking out (even just a little), you might want to check your pulse.

Biography

Formed: 1985 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Inspired equally by jangle pop and arty post-punk, Guided by Voices created a series of trebly, hissy indie rock records filled with infectiously brief pop songs that fell somewhere between the British Invasion and prog rock. After recording six self-released albums between 1986 and 1992, the Dayton, Ohio-based band attracted a handful of fans within the American indie rock underground. With the 1994 release of Bee Thousand, the group became an unexpected alternative rock sensation, winning positive...
Full Bio