Guided By Robert Pollard
Guided By Voices
TVT Press Kit


Guided by Voices

Isolation Drills

Here's the main worry: that Robert Ellsworth "Bob" Pollard, Jr.--for about fifteen years now, the leader/lead singer/songwriter of Dayton Ohio-based Guided By Voices--having delivered the most personal, intense, smart, sad, and powerful record of his long and lustrous career, will be accused of having "matured." Sure, Isolation Drills is some kind of milestone: a non-streamlined but nevertheless Big-Rock-sounding bruiser, fitted with strings and organs and piano where appropriate, stripped raw & practically bleeding in most other places (please remove nice sweaters and/or other easily stainable garments before listening), motored/anchored by a genuine touring unit for the first time in GBV history (extended touring, anyway--these guys were on the road together for like a year). But it's no more mature than those guys down the hall from you who just started a band last month, some of whom don't even shave yet.

Put it down to the preservative qualities of long-time beer immersion, or the isolating effects of living in Dayton, or maybe the lingering memory of his fifteen years teaching fourth grade. / Whatever the cause, Pollard's instincts re: songwriting remain wonderfully basic and un-self-conscious. Childlike, you'd almost say, even. Like the sandbox musings of a genius kid. (Is it a coincidence that maybe the worst album of the band's career is called Sandbox? No!) How else to explain the uncensored outpouring of Pollard's musical soul over the span of years--nicely documented by this year's staggering limited edition Suitcase box? The problem with much of this output for the general listening public (assuming such a thing even exists) has always been the bugbear of lo-fidelity, a bugbear wrestled manfully to the ground with the help of former Cars guy Ric Ocasek on last year's Do The Collapse, which brought Guided By Voices to a whole new level of semi-celebrity. Famous People were sometimes spotted at GBV shows in New York and Los Angeles. Pollard even put a fence around his house.

Isolation Drills is a whole other deal, though. You'll see this right off the bat, with the song titles: "Privately," "Run Wild," "Fine To See You," "Unspirited." What? No "Delicious Squid Paint Set"? No "Blazing Moon Kids"? The lyrics, too, often have recognizable ways and means, which is not to say that you'll "get" these songs any more than you've "gotten" Guided By - Voices in the past. But you should, unless you're dense. Are you dense?

Don't think, either, that because the lyrics make more "sense" this time you ought to try asking what the songs are about, in specific terms. After all, they're about what Guided By Voices songs have always been about: love and loss (think back to "Exit Flagger", or "Drinkers Peace", or even "She Wants To Know" from the long-lost Forever Since Breakfast EP) and every kind of thwarted escape. "The songs deal more with people and relationships than ever before," says. Bob. "Which has 'to do just with what's been going on in my life. I've been in a more serious mood, so this is a much more serious record than usual." He also reckons Isolation Drills the "prettiest" GBV album in some time, at least since 1996's Under The Bushes Under The Stars, l which was a very pretty record. (Not just the cover, either, which was also pretty. Right.)

Words can only take you so far, anyway, as demonstrated on "How's My Drinking?", one of the most profoundly depressing songs ever written. As the last line of the song, "I won't change," fades into the guitar-scarred murk, Pollard launches into a melancholy wordless plaint that fights for space with the swell of some kind of organ (courtesy Elliott Smith, noted Gloomy Gus), and eventually loses or gives up. The "church bells" of "How's My Drinking?" then collide with the unnamed subject of "The Brides Have Hit Glass," near the end of Side 2 (Bob insists on organizing his album sequences into sides, as if everyone still bought vinyl and the energy crisis were in full swing) where Pollard makes a pretty obviously vain attempt to "hang on to my shrinking paradise," before letting go again on "Fine To See You," (another one of the most profoundly depressing songs ever written) where he makes the brilliantly ambiguous claim that "there's nowhere to go but up," accompanied by plangent piano tinkling courtesy one Tobin Sprout, legendary ex-Guided By Voices member and photo-realist painter.

Okay, now let's talk about guitar sounds. Chief GBV axe man Doug Gillard needs no boostering from us: he's widely esteemed as one of the best in the "biz," and proves that in spades on Isolation Drills by expanding the textural palette he first introduced on Do The Collapse--largely trading in the solo pyrotechnics of that album for a broader range of tonal colors. On "Twilight Campfighter," among others, he shows us a little Honeyman-Scott-era Pretenders, and elsewhere flirts with Wire-esqe voicings and even some vintage New Wave chorused jangle. Buttressed by Nate Farley's sturdy rhythm playing, Jim MacPherson's adroit, muscular sticksmanship (sadly: his perfonnance on Isolation Drills represents his GBV swansong; happily: his replacement, Jon McCann from Canadian band The American Flag, has already proven himself a tubmaster of equal skill, and is to boot a handsome devil), and Tim Tobias' surprisingly elastic, almost Entwistle-quality bass work, Guided By Voices has literally never sounded better--thanks in no small part to the unobtrusive recording tactics of producer Rob Schnapf (previously noted for his work with Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith, Beck, etc.).

"The performances were better this time around because we were able to drink," claims Pollard, who remembers with some chagrin the dry-by-mandate Ocasek sessions. He might as well add, but won't because he's too damn humble by half, that his singing on Isolation Drills is the best he's ever committed to tape, and that "Glad Girls" and "Chasing Heather Crazy" are maybe the catchiest songs he's ever written.

But whatever. That's not his job, that's our job, and there, we've gone and done it. Now go do yours and listen to the record.


contact Jason Consoli at TVT Records for more info, 212.979.6410,